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The Bryan Museum’s Mardi Gras Exhibit

King Costume at Bryan Museum Mardi Gras Exhibit
A Tribute to the Fashion and Creativity of Local Galveston Krewes
Through March 27
“Life is a party. Dress like it.”

– Audrey Hepburn

This Mardi Gras season, the Bryan Museum pays special tribute to Galveston’s storied celebrations with a new exhibit, Pageantry and Revelry. Rather than assemble a sweeping display of general history and origins, the Bryan takes a more introspective approach, crafting an exhibit that centers wholly on the local Galveston community.

Categorized by Krewe, the display uses fashion as its primary storytelling device and features custom costumes made for and/or by each local organization for past Mardi Gras balls and parades. Nothing is more personal or individually expressive than fashion, thus the emerging theme from this particular collection is a lovely representation of the care, artistry, time, and affection locals put into this celebratory season.

The exhibit is introduced with a brief history of public Mardi Gras celebrations in Galveston which began in the late 1860s and continued relatively uninterrupted until The Great Depression when they were significantly scaled back. They halted completely in 1941 with the United States’ entrance into World War II and were not resumed until 1984 by Galveston benefactor George P. Mitchell (1919-2013).

Lesser known, however, is that fact that despite 44 years without one parade or public coronation, private celebrations never ceased. Lavish winter parties continued in private homes and even schools, and some Krewes continued to hold coronation balls during that time albeit intermittently. For this reason, the relaunching of the public parades and festival was eagerly embraced by the city and its residents.

This is also why the Bryan Museum’s exhibit is quite moving—both for locals who revel in the annual revelry and for visitors whose perception of Galveston Mardi Gras is often limited to the larger aspects like the parades and concerts. It reveals the intricacy and creativity that go into the smaller, community-led celebrations, in effect widening the lens on the importance of the festival to Galveston as far more than a tourist draw.

The costumes on display range from pirate garb to dresses and ten-foot-long coronation capes that boast sophisticated designs and beadwork, with the earliest example dating back to 1938. Only a handful of them are pictured here, so visit the Bryan Museum before March 27 to witness the historic Pageantry and Revelry of Galveston Mardi Gras.

The Bryan Museum
1315 21st Street

Open Daily 10am-5pm
Open Thursdays until 7pm
Adults, $14
Seniors (65+), $12
Military, $12
Students, $10
Children Ages 6-12, $5
Children under 6, Free

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