The Martin & Frances Lehnis Railroad Museum has delighted visitors for years with its special exhibits and extensive display of railroad-themed memorabilia.
From tools to tracks to the larger-than-life steam engine parked out front, there’s always something new to see at the Railroad Museum. That now includes museum curator Crystal Stanley, who took over for Beverly Norris last week.
“I’ve only been here for a week and half,” Stanley said on Thursday, “but there’s already a lot going on here.”
Stanley is a Brown County native and a graduate of Bangs High School. After Bangs, Stanley attended Ranger College and then Tarleton State University, where she studied history. “I’ve always been interested in history,” she said. “I like the idea of educating people about it and preserving it” — a passion that will likely serve her well in her new role.
While at Tarleton, Stanley got a job at the campus library where she worked for five years while pursuing her master’s degree remotely from North Texas. Her master’s, in Library and Information Sciences, led to a role as the Director of Library Services at Ranger College, her former school.
Stanley first got involved with the Lehnis Museum while still working at Tarleton. “I wanted a little bit more museum experience,” she said. “I always thought, especially while working on my bachelor’s degree, that I would go into the museum field.”
Since she always enjoyed the Lehnis Museum, Stanley approached Norris and asked to volunteer. Before long she was working on different Lehnis Museum collections and serving on the Brown County Museum of History board.
“Beverly told me she was retiring,” Stanley said, “and I put an application in just hoping that I would be considered. There’s some big things that are about to roll out, and they really needed someone with my expertise to deal with some of the collections. It just all worked out.”
Stanley said her passion for museums and her love of research make the Railroad Museum curator job a natural fit. She’s begun her job by cataloguing the museum collection — much of which is housed off-site — and reaching out to various local organizations to get them involved with the museum.
She also wants to add sight words to the museum as cues for its youngest visitors, and add more Spanish-language material to reach a wider demographic.
“This museum reminds us of what Brownwood once was,” Stanley said. “Trains were a big part of Brownwood’s history, especially during World War II when Camp Bowie was booming. I think as a museum it’s important for us to educate the public on that history and just keep it going.
“I think the museum can bring the community together in so many ways.”