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The Celina Area Heritage Museum

Article by Julie Spessard

Photography by Celina Area Heritage Association & Museum

Originally published in Celina Lifestyle

The Celina Area Heritage Association Visitor’s Center and Museum is not just another place along West Pecan Street, it truly is a deep vault of all things Celina and the keys to the history of what makes our community what it is today. The vision for the local museum began about twenty-five years ago, when friends discussed the unique history of Celina and the people who called Celina home. Beloved and long time community members, including Jane Huddleston, Bob McKnight and Jane Williard had many conversations stressing the importance of preserving these stories so the special history would not disappear. Their little plan started to come to fruition when the Celina newspaper stopped publishing in the building located just off the square. This group saw an amazing opportunity to use that space as a hub to house it all. When they finally bought the building, and all of the contents inside, reconstruction began to meet the needs of what the association wanted to showcase. Through the years the association and museum has been the recipient of many generous donations and acquisitions of unique pieces. Jane Willard shared, “Once word got out about what we were doing, things just started to land in our laps.” 

Fast forward to late March 2023, when a phone call came in to relay the news that water was running out the front door of this passion project. This is exactly what happened to members of the Board of the Celina Area Heritage Association Visitor’s Center and Museum. This flood was an inconvenience but also a heart break to those who have spent time sharing the story of the Celina area, but perspective is everything! Instead of viewing this as debilitating, the board took this as an opportunity to reimagine and restructure the gift they provide to the community and surrounding areas. “This flood was not good. It could have been traumatic, but it allowed us to do some things we may not have been able to do,” Jane Huddleston commented. Once the flood was cleaned up, the artifacts, furniture and fixtures were removed, and remediation then began. It was clear this would not be a quick thirty day turn around to start again. Bob McKnight explained, “We could examine what the situation was and ask how do we improve given this opportunity?” The temporary closure allowed for improvements to be made that may have only been talked or dreamt about. The Board took this as a gift of time to gather ideas for improvement and refined vision. You could say they have had the opportunity to put their heads together and come out of the other side with a better museum for our community. 

Just as the museum has received numerous donations, both in artifacts and financial gifts, through the years, they are extremely blessed with amazing human capital. The Celina Area Heritage Association Visitor’s Center and Museum has an incredible board made up of gifted individuals, including businessmen and women, long time residents and newer residents alike, those who have worked within the city for a long time and others who bring new perspectives and ideas. Prior to the flood, the board was enhanced with some newer members who brought great ideas. “Everyone has a special talent they contribute,” Huddleston said. Each member, while different, shares a common goal: to ensure the history of Celina continues to be shared and celebrated. 

In talking with those involved in the organization, you learn each member is just as selfless as the next, fast to shine the spotlight on the talents of someone else. You also quickly realize each person brings a very unique skill set which is showcased as the museum begins the reopening process. Rachel Baty, owner of Annie Jack, and Susan Gray have overseen the renovation of the space while collaborating with the board. Bob noted the improvements are not only to the building, but also to the exhibits. The layout has changed, and there will be a new brightness within the space, but the history remains. Favorites will still be showcased including vast collections of military memorabilia and “Celina Then and Now,” but there are also new feature pieces to be revealed upon the museum’s reopening. The boxes of artifacts arrived at the freshly updated building at the end of October and members are excitedly opening them and placing the historical items in their new home. The grand reopening is on the horizon, it takes a lot of work to start again. Fran Mask is overseeing the reopening event which will be held hopefully before the end of November.

“Everything is a joint effort. We have a great board, a great relationship with the city, the college and Celina schools,” Huddleston reflected. Again, another example of the selflessness of those involved. Everyone is so quick to sing the praises of everyone else. Another opportunity that took the efforts of the board and other volunteers is providing an opportunity to allow history to come alive for all Celina Middle School students. Last year, the museum hosted students from Moore Middle School and the goal is for this unique experience to continue in this updated space. “It is so important to take history out of a book, off the page and make history real,” said Willard. Providing the opportunity for students to learn about the roots of the community and make connections to how this place had a role in many of the things they read about is a lesson that will make a great impact. 

“We welcome input,” Bob mentioned. He explained that it is so important for our community to know they too are a part of the history of Celina. “If you move here and stay here any amount of time, you are part of the history.” He encouraged residents who have been here a while and new residents alike to come out to see the many treasures in the collections. Willard expanded upon this sharing, “The museum is a place a new community member could visit, come in, talk and learn about this new place where they have moved.” How fortunate are we to have passionate historians sharing what they know and have learned themselves. 

Celina is a place with a very unique feeling, and it is partly attributed to where and how it began and who has lived in this place. The Celina Area Heritage Association Visitor’s Center and Museum will make sure we all have the opportunity to see the journey this town has been on and provide a glimpse into where we are headed. Stay tuned to their website,, and their Facebook page for more information, special exhibits, and of course the announcement of the details for the grand reopening.

Celina Area Heritage Museum, 211 W Pecan St, Celina

Deeply Rooted: The Celina Area Heritage Museum is the first in a series outlining the history, trailblazers, families, and past of Celina, Texas.  Written by Julie Spessard, these articles will introduce local history to our newest residents while sharing stories of our past with our long-timers.