Costumes of the Americas Museum

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Costumes of the Americas Museum

The Costumes of the Americas is a premier museum, dedicated to the appreciation and preservation of the history and cultural heritage embodied by these costumes.

The purpose of the Costumes of the Americas Museum is to collect, catalog, preserve and exhibit authentic indigenous textiles, accessories, and folk arts of the Americas for the enjoyment and education of the public.



A fun-loving and vivacious woman,  Florence Terry Griswold found life along the Mexican border a grand  adventure. She made  friends on both sides of the border and learned to appreciate the  Mexican culture and character. She also observed the hardship and realities the Mexican Revolution inflicted upon the women and children  of Mexico. It was these life experiences and her philosphy of "Pan  Americanism" that motivated Mrs. Griswold to create the Pan American Round  Table Movement in San Antonio in 1916.  She modeled her Movement after  the Medieval Round Table, where everyone was an equal. Hence, their motto  is, "One for All and All for  One". The Pan American Round Table was proclaimed by Mrs. Griswold to be  non-political and non-sectarian, organized to help promote  friendliness and understanding among the WOMEN of the Western  Hemisphere. Before long, the Movement began to grow, and women in other  Texas cities organized their own Round Tables.  In 1922, a table was organized in Mexico City.

An honorary  member of the Mexico City Round Table, Bessie Kirkland Johnson moved to  Brownsville, Texas in the early 1930s. Much like Mrs. Griswold, Mrs.  Johnson brought with her a love for Mexico, its people and customs. She founded the 5th Table in Brownsville in 1932 - Pan  American Round Table I (PART I).

When  she moved to Brownsville, Mrs. Johnson brought  with her a collection  of authentic Mexican costumes and handicrafts. She had become one of  Mexico's leading authorities on that country's folklore and native  dress. Hence, Mrs. Johnson challenged each member of PART I to acquire a  costume from her assigned country for she saw the acquisition of  costumes from different parts of the Americas as a method of learning  more about these countries and their women. The ladies took up Mrs.  Johnson's challenge, and thus began one of the finest costume  collections in the Western Hemisphere.

In 1997, PART I was  approached by the Dean Porter Park Renovation Committee and was offered  the opportunity to occupy part of the Mitte Cultural Education Center  within Dean Porter Park. In order to protect the Table's collection, the  Pan American Round Table I Costume Corporation, a recognized tax-exempt  corporation, was formed. The Table transferred the entire collection to  the Corporation for safekeeping and for the management of the  museum. The Mitte Cultural Education Center opened its doors on May 6,  2005.

The  collection of  the Costumes of the Americas Museum has  grown over the years - the result of acquisitions and gifts from those  belonging to PART I and local Brownsville PART II members, from private  collections, from friends of the Table, and from bequests such as that  of Mrs. Johnson. It is now one of the largest collections of authentic  North, Central, and South American costumes. Complete with  petticoats, shoes, jewelry, headpieces and accessories, many of the  costumes cannot be replaced at any price!

The Costumes of the  Americas Museum is operated by Board Members  and Friends of the Museum. They have taken care of this collection for more than  70 years and will continue to help preserve the art, culture, history,  traditions, legends, folklore, and crafts of the people who make up the  Americas for many years to come.


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Dean Porter Park, 501 E Ringgold St, Brownsville, TX

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