When I got up this morning, it was grey, overcast, and a little rainy. It figures that the weather was crappola since I had the day off. Instead of gluing myself to the computer for the day, I decided to take a trip to Port Arthur, TX.
I didn’t have very high expectations for this museum located in a not very large city. It’s not in a very appealing section of town, and is surrounded by vacant decaying buildings in what appears to be an area whose hay days have passed. As it turned out, I was in for a pleasant surprise!
The most striking feature of this museum is the huge mural on one wall that is about 150’ long. It depicts the history of the upper gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana from Jurassic times to the beginning of the first oil boom at the beginning of the last century. Each of the five sections is supported by further exhibits in front of the mural and behind you. What made it more enjoyable for me was that I recognized the places where these events took place. It made a history lesson more personal.
I knew about ranching and rice farming in the area from encountering cattle drives and waterbirds in the flooded fields, but these exhibits kind of tied it all together for me.
Next up was the Notable People Gallery. All of the people displayed were born or grew up in the area. I certainly didn’t recognize all of them, but I did remember Karen Silkwood.
Then it was up to the second floor. One of my favorite things there was the Bender Shell Collection. I don’t spend much time along beaches like some bloggers do, but I always like looking for shells. This collection was spectacular.
Another room contained the Upper Gulf Coast Sports Hall of Fame. Not being much interested in sports, I kind of blew through this exhibit, and really only recognized two of the people. The first was Babe Didrickson, but I have plans to visit a museum dedicated to her in Beaumont before I leave. The other was Bum Phillips. I recognized the name, but that’s about it. I did find out how he got the name Bum. Seems his little sister couldn’t pronounce the word ‘brother’, and it came out bumbler. Eventually it was shortened to Bum, and the name stuck.
As I exited the sports area, one of the volunteers approached me and asked if I’d like to see the crystal. I tried to tell her that I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she was a bit hard of hearing, so she just said, “Wait here, and I’ll be back in ten minutes with a key.” When she returned, she opened a door to the Snell Gallery, and cautioned me not to touch anything or lean over the velvet ropes. I promised I wouldn’t, and entered. I wondered if she thought I might be a bull in a China shop or something… Fancy furniture, and vases, and plates, and such. It was nice, but it was about as interesting to me as a quilting shop would be.
What I thought was my last room for the day was the Upper Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame. The bottom right panel in this collage lists all the famous musicians from this area. You can see that there are a lot of them. Once again, I didn’t recognize too many, but who hasn’t heard of Janis Joplin? I couldn’t get the Juke Box to work, and neither could the hearing challenged volunteer, but there was a wonderful five or six sided exhibit in the middle of the room where you could touch the screen of various computers to hear examples of some of the featured artists singing and playing their kind of music… from jazz to Zydeco.
Perhaps I should mention that, essentially, I had the entire museum to myself today. Three other people came in briefly, but I was there for three hours. With no crowd, I could take my time to absorb what I was seeing in peace and quiet. There are also a number of other exhibits that I didn’t take pictures of. All in all, for an old farts entrance fee of only $3.00, it is really a bargain!
As I was beginning to zip up my rain jacket and prepare to leave, I was once again approached by my seemingly newly acquired volunteer friend. She said, “I’d like you to see one more exhibit. I’m not supposed to do this, but I’ll let you see the new exhibit that is opening with an official ceremony next Thursday.” Who am I to reason why?? I mumbled something she didn’t hear, and off we went.
My opinion is, this is an exhibit geared for kids that depicts sharks from A to Z! Yep, a painting in almost glow in the dark colors of every imaginable kind of shark in alphabetical order. For example, the letter ‘S’. Picture a huge black and white shark laying on top of a brilliant yellow School buS.
I thanked the lady for that added experience, but she wasn’t done with me yet. Because I had shown so much interest in the museum, she told me to pick out a free cup in my favorite color. I chose blue, and am now the happy owner of a plastic water cup with the Museum of the Gulf Coast emblazoned on the outside. I was finally allowed to
escape leave and return home in the rain before dark!
Seriously, this was one of the best local museums that I’ve ever visited. For the best (?) experience, I would suggest a visit on a rainy Sunday Super Bowl afternoon in February if at all possible…
Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later, Judy