The Sue & Frank Mayborn Natural Science and Cultural History Museum Complex at Baylor University opened in 2004. However, the varied components of the museum began long ago.
As far back as the 1850's, Baylor University professors began collecting teaching materials to help students understand biology, physics, chemistry, and geology. Baylor’s original campus in Independence (Washington County) served as a hub of education in frontier Texas until the school moved to Waco in 1886. This early period saw the need for a storehouse of knowledge and physical objects from which to learn.
In the late 1880s, whenever John Kern Strecker wasn’t gathering bird eggs, snails, and reptiles, he was probably busy writing papers and articles for Popular Science News or the Texas Academy of Science publications. He served as University Librarian and curator of the Baylor University Museum, a large collection of specimens and artifacts gathered in and around McLennan County, from 1903 to 1933. In honor of the long-time curator, the museum was renamed the Strecker Museum in 1940. The natural history collection was incorporated into the new Mayborn Museum Complex. The foundation laid by numerous museum directors from 1893 to the present helped connect the past to the future. The museum continues to honor their contributions through an exhibit called "Strecker’s Cabinets of Curiosities."
In 1962, when Ollie Mae Moen advised the Waco City Council PTA of the need for a place where the children of Waco could come to find excitement for learning, it was a new concept; just a year later, the Youth Cultural Center opened as “a place to look, think, and learn." Under Mrs. Moen’s care, the center moved and expanded seven times in 20 years so as to accommodate the increasing number of children who visited. In 1994, the name was changed to the Ollie Mae Moen Discovery Center in her honor. In the Harry and Anna Jeanes Discovery Center wing, the centerpiece of the Mayborn Museum Complex, Mrs. Moen is remembered for her commitment to playing and learning.
Gov. Bill Daniel, his wife Vara, and their children donated the Historic Village to the University in 1985, following numerous other generous donations to the University. The Daniels held many charity events at their Plantation Ranch. The Governor Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village was rededicated in May of 2012 after a two-year revitalization. The Historic Village enhances the museum’s natural history exhibits, allowing a new generation of visitors to experience life in rural Texas in the 1890s.