HEMPHILL — A museum that opened two years ago to remember space shuttle Columbia and its passengers is still going strong.
The space shuttle was bound for Kennedy Space Center in Florida at the time.
Displays showcases photos and other memorabilia such as a right contact lens holder and military patches.
Nearby are displays for Jules “Buzz” Mier Jr. and Charles Krenek — two searchers who died during recovery efforts.
Across the room is an encased astronaut pressure suit, also known as a “pumpkin suit,” and in the back is a Digital Learning Center, where students can gain knowledge about science-related subjects. According to a museum handout, 3-D NASA films are shown to the public and student groups.
“A lot of people go away with the respect for what these astronauts did (and) their dedication — all but one was in the military — … and what the community did during the recovery,” museum curator Michelle Brown said as she walked through the facility last month.
Ms. Brown said the museum started with the Sabine County Columbia Memorial Committee, which was established during the Columbia recovery.
With the help of Al Smith, who donated the money for the construction, NASA and others, they were able to accomplish the goal and get it going, she said.
In the future, Ms. Brown said the museum will be a floating exhibit with the Smithsonian, meaning it will rotate Smithsonian exhibits.
She said the museum is waiting on funds for added security and generators that are needed for that endeavor.
“It'll be one of a kind,” Ms. Brown said, adding that the next big cultural area is Houston or New Orleans.
“We just want to get that funding so we can actually get this to be a floating exhibit … be able to work with the Smithsonian and rotate.”
In the meantime, pieces are constantly coming to the museum, Ms. Brown said.
But she said discretion is sometimes necessary when deciding whether something is appropriate to display.
She said any personal items go to family members, and they can choose to let the museum exhibit them or not.
Ms. Brown said the museum also wants to add on and get simulators for children.
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children.
For more information about the museum, visit www.patriciahuffmansmithcolumbiamuseum.org.