While preparing for the 1936 Texas Centennial Celebrations, politicians and other citizens realized that Texas did not have a state museum. It was not the first time this had been noticed, however. Faculty at The University of Texas at Austin sounded the alarm in the 1910s as East Coast institutions took research collections out of Texas due to the lack of facilities in Texas. “If a Texas student or professor of Geology has need to examine a specimen of Dimetrodon, found ONLY in Texas Permian beds, he would have to visit a museum in Chicago, Michigan, or the East,” wrote Professor F.L. Whitney of The University of Texas at Austin in the 1920s.
In the early 1930s, James E. Pearce, The University of Texas at Austin Chair of Anthropology, later named the museum's first director, and A. Garland Adair, department historian for the Texas American Legion, joined forces to establish a state museum. They wanted the museum to contribute to the conservation of the historic treasures of Texas and also to the educational system of the state. With this joint effort, the Texas Memorial Museum (TMM) was born. It was, at first, a state museum, but was transferred to The University of Texas at Austin museum of natural and cultural sciences. Both because it is a museum of The University of Texas at Austin and because it receives some direct state support, it remains committed to being a museum for all of Texas.