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Journey through over 230 million years of history at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. Located in the heart of the Permian Basin, the nation’s most prolific oil producing area, this museum introduces visitors to hundreds of educational, interactive, and engaging exhibits showcasing the natural history of oil and how it is turned into the most commonly used petroproducts around. Additionally, the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum seeks to inform visitors about the dynamic history of oil production and the rugged lives of the men and women who made it possible. The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum is the largest museum in the United States dedicated to the petroleum industry and its pioneering forces, and with over 40,000-square-feet of space that offers visitors a multifaceted and interactive look into oil and the oil industry, this museum allows visitors to be part of the petroleum story and its possibilities in the future.

  • Oil Rig Exhibit Outside the Museum
  • Fluorite in the Mineral Gallery
  • Jim Hall's Racecars in the Chaparral Gallery

History and Exhibits

The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum dates back to its founding in 1975, where over 500 community leaders under the guidance of George T. Abell, one of Midland’s pioneering oilmen, came together to give the community and the greater northwest Texas area an intimate view into the people, technology, and geology behind oil production. Thus, after years of fundraising, the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum was built and immediately featured a variety of both indoor and outdoor exhibits.1 

Some of the permanent exhibits featured at this museum include an interactive display showcasing the geology and formation of the Permian Basin, the world’s largest collection of antique oil drilling equipment, colorful memorabilia, and even murals and works of art by the famed American West artist Tom Lovell. In the Chaparral Gallery, visitors can discover all seven of racing legend Jim Hall’s vehicles, while the Mineral Gallery (opened in 2012) displays over 90 fine minerals from across the globe.2 

One of the most popular exhibits in the Oil Patch exhibit, which is dedicated to the rugged men of the early oil fields who dug ditches, built oil rigs, and produced the oil and gas that revolutionized industry across the world. This 40-acre outdoor exhibit features drilling rigs from every decade as well as eight full-sized cable-tool rigs, an 119-foot 1930s steel production derrick, a rotary drilling rig, and much more.3

Outreach and Educational Programs

Families, students, and children should also consider taking part in one of the many outreach and education programs featured at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum. Family Science Night, sponsored by Chevron, invites families and younger children to come to the museum to participate in hands-on activities, which includes exciting science experiments and other creative projects.4 However, adults and students looking for a serious and profound discussion on geological, environmental, and oil-related topics can attend any of the lectures at the museum, such as the Arlen Edgar Distinguished Lecture Series or the Brown Bag Lunch and Lecture Series.5 

The museum’s reference library houses over 2,000 books available for students, researchers, and the public, and this library includes journals and periodicals covering the history of the Permian Basin as well as oil company histories, petroleum dictionaries, town and county histories, catalogs of early equipment and tools, and much more.6

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