The museum was opened to the public in 1933 by the author, historian, and printer John Marvin Hunter, and named after his popular Frontier Times magazine. The site includes:
a museum of random curiosities, gathered by Hunter
the Doane Western Art Gallery, with paintings created by the former museum owner F. B. Doane and his daughter, Peggy Calvert
Stalls of Fame, displaying photos and biographies of Banderas's hometown rodeo stars
The Texas Heroes Hall of Honor, recognizing those who, through leadership, hard work, creativity, and example, keep the pioneer spirit alive.
The displays hearken back to the time when museums were simply cabinets of curiosities, showing a weird and wonderful mix of unorganized (and often uncurated) items. Hunter never refused any gift offered for the museum's collection, feeling that if a donation was important to the donor, it should be important to the museum. This ideology resulted in eclectic and eccentric holdings (such as a shrunken head from South America, a totem pole, a two-headed calf from a local ranch, and a set of bells from a shrine in Japan). The museum refreshes its connection to the region continually by providing galley space where local artists and craftsmen can exhibit their work.
The museum building itself is a nod to the ancient past. Hunter wanted the museum to be fireproof, so much of the construction material comes from an old rock fence originally built in 1878. Inside and outside walls are also covered with fossilized brain coral from the shallow sea that once covered today’s Hill Country, petrified wood from trees that grew along the shoreline, and chunks of crystal.
The F. B. Doane Foundation, which bought the museum in 1960 after Hunter's death, added an educational component to the museum's purposes (before transferring ownership of the museum to Bandera County in 1972). The Learning Center offers a variety of customized activities and interactive tours for a range of students. (Admission rates are waived for all Bandera County students.)
The Learning Center also offers a series of eight Texas History Traveling Trunks that can be borrowed for two-weeks for classroom use. Each trunk is designed to complement the classroom curriculum and encourages students to learn Texas history through a variety of interactive activities. Each trunk contains hands-on artifacts, a Teacher Resource Guide, and books written for a variety of reading levels.