TEXARKANA MUSEUMS SYSTEM BOARD PRESIDENT VELVET HALL COOL WORKS HARD TO PRESERVE THE MUSEUM’S COLLECTIONS
by FERNANDA HERNANDEZ
The preservation of history requires a deep-rooted love and respect for a community’s past generations and knowledge of the importance of earlier ideas. As the years rip the pages from calendars and society continues to evolve, it is instrumental to recollect what life beheld at different eras. The current generations must maintain a present connection with every stage that came before them in order to learn from the past and cultivate a better future. The conservation of the history of the community is the main purpose served by the Texarkana Museums System, and an objective carried out daily by Texarkana Museums Board President, Velvet Hall Cool.
Born and raised in Texarkana, Velvet recalls her childhood years. Born an only child to a Caucasian father belonging to Texarkana’s middle class, and an African-American mother, who was part of the lower class, she saw the difference in two socioeconomic groups in Texarkana. Additionally, Velvet learned what it meant to belong to two diverse cultures inside one single community. “My parents met in the late ’60s, and against all odds got married and raised me,” she recalls.
Encouraged by her parents to be an individualist, Velvet navigated through life, educating her mind and shaping herself through her firsthand experiences and social interactions. Furthermore, she developed an understanding of the importance of learning from older generations while still forming her own ideas.
As Velvet developed through her young adult life, her extroverted nature and love for education allowed her to become involved in Gifted and Talented courses, debate, drama, UIL competitions, and she attended reputable summer programs, such as the Arkansas Governor School at Hendrix College. “That was, by far, the single most educational, social environment that shaped my life. I learned all about free thinking and critical thinking. I left there feeling very politically motivated,” she says.
After graduating from Arkansas High School, Velvet continued her education by attending Hendrix College, and later graduating from Texas A&M University- Texarkana. In her adult life, she became involved with the Texarkana Museums System, understanding the true importance of history and earlier generations. “History was one of my least favorite subjects. I am not one for rote memorization,” explains Velvet. “It’s not about memorizing facts and spitting them back out. To me, it is about learning the true concepts behind history and using history to recognize the good, bad and ugly of people, culture, and society. Hopefully taking that information and leaving this place a little bit better than we found it.”
It is with this knowledge that Velvet Cool dedicates her volunteer time to the maintenance and revitalization of Texarkana’s downtown, and the conservancy of the Museums System. “We have objects in our museum collections that are irreplaceable. These collections are a true reflection of what our city has gone through to become what it is today. All of these things do not just represent one family; they represent society as a whole,” explains Velvet. “If those things were to disintegrate, how could we ever go back and learn from past generations?”