One-of-a-kind museum: Displays salute Border Patrol agents, history

by Aaron Bracamontes \ El Paso Times
Posted: 01/17/2011 12:00:00 AM MST

Most El Pasoans have never heard of the National Border Patrol Museum in Northeast El Paso, but it is one of the only places in the country dedicated to telling the agency's story.

Many people have driven past the lone building at the northeast base of Trans Mountain Road unaware that inside is, as the museum describes itself, "one of El Paso's best-kept secrets."

But Museum Administrator Brenda Tisdale said that once people visit, they are impressed by the history on display. The agency started in the early 1900s.

"This is the only (Border Patrol) museum in the entire United States," Tisdale said. "We are a privately owned nonprofit organization. We were built with donations and stay open with donations and memberships."

The museum was founded in 1978 by the Fraternal Order of Retired Border Patrol Officers. It originally was located in the basement of the Cortez Building in Downtown El Paso. It moved to its current location in 1994.

"We only have three founding members left alive," Tisdale said. "So what we try to do here every day is keep their dream alive."

Exhibits include confiscated contraband and vehicles, historic displays and older Border Patrol units, including a plane, helicopter, boat and snowmobile. Some items, such as a display of a Border Patrol agent and a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, remind visitors that there is a northern border, too.

Admission and parking are free at the museum at 4315 Trans Mountain. It is open Tuesday through

Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"On a yearly average, we will have guests from 74 countries, all 50 states and hundreds of cities," Tisdale said. "So our people come from all over the world."

But even with all those visitors, it seems that El Paso residents are not aware of the museum.

"I didn't even know it was here until I started working," museum employee Shanda Nabb said. "Unless you have some sort of connection to it or you are a museum guru, you aren't too keen to it."

However, Nabb and co-worker Amber Rudd said they appreciate the historic value more just by working there.
"It's fun. It's not easy, but it's fun," Amber Rudd said. "The new exhibit I put up is my favorite. It's the bike patrol exhibit. It was also my first big one to put up."

Tisdale said that though many of the museum's visitors are tourists, school groups and donors, the patrons also frequently include current and former agents.

"Each item in here represents a big part of Border Patrol history," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, these men and women are heroes."

That is why one of the most popular rooms is a tribute to those who died in service.

"Rarely a day goes by that a person doesn't come here for some quiet time and maybe some tears," Tisdale said. "There is an incredible family feeling in the Border Patrol."

Even though Tisdale said there are not many slow days, she would still like to see more local residents visit the museum.

"We love to see new visitors," she said. "We really enjoy the company."

Information: or call 759-6060.