The Museum of the Gulf Coast is located on Procter Street in Port Arthur. It chronicles the history and achievements of the Texas/Louisiana Gulf Coast Region from Houston to New Orleans. The outstanding facility boasts 39,000 square feet of display space over two floors and a classroom on a third floor. The Museum of the Gulf Coast is without a doubt the best museum in Southeast Texas attracting visitors from 15-20 foreign countries and 33-40 states monthly.
Upon arrival you are directed to the orientation theater for a short film that covers the highlights of the museum and really adds to the experience. On the first floor the museum hosts exhibits on prehistoric man, Paleo Indians, Cabaza de vaca, Attakapus Indians, first Europeans to the area, Civil War, and the petroleum industry.
Visitors can see prehistoric fossils, trace the impacts of Native Americans and Europeans on the area, or catch a glimpse of what life was like during the Civil War on the Gulf Coast. You may even see a 1928 Ford and a real canon or two. History comes alive inside the Museum of the Gulf Coast and the exhibits transport you back in time.
Also located on the first floor was the temporary exhibit, Betting, Booze, and Brothels. This interesting exhibit features crime and vice in the Gulf Coast region from Prohibition to the James Commission in the 1960’s. It was inspired by the book of the same name authored by Wanda A. Landry & Laura C. O’Toole. It deals with the rich history of illegal gambling, bootlegging, prostitution, as well as government corruption.There are many original artifacts from the era on display in the exhibit. This, although a temporary exhibit was a highlight for us. I would highly recommend visiting this summer while the Betting, Booze, & Brothels exhibit is open.
The second floor of the Museum of the Gulf Coast houses the Robert Rauschenberg Gallery, The Snell Gallery & Parlor, The Music Hall of Fame, The Sports Hall of Fame, and The Notable People Hall of Fame.
The Music Hall of Fame was my personal favorite part of the museum. There are over 70 internationally acclaimed musical artists representing all genres of music. The talent that originated in the Gulf Coast area is simply unbelievable. Some of the most notable local music legends include; Janis Joplin, George Jones, Tracy Byrd, Mark Chestnut, The Boogie Kings, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, B.J. Thomas, Wayne Toups, Johnny Winter, and ZZ Top.
The highlight of the Janis Joplin exhibit is a life-size replica of her famous psychedelic Porsche. The reproduction was painted by the same artist that painted the original. There is also a Janis sculpture depicting her many faces.
The Sports Hall of Fame is no less impressive and still it is hard to believe that so many world-famous athletes hail from the Gulf Coast. There are more than 60 athletes featured and they represent almost every sport known to man. A few of the stars include; Jimmy Johnson, Bum Phillips, Babe Didrickson Zaharias, and Bubba Busceme.
The Notable People Hall of Fame includes exhibits for 35 local people who gained national and or international fame for excellence in their field. The notable people include individuals from professions such as politicians, actors, inventors, soldiers, filmmakers, and more. Lucian Adams and Jack Brooks are just a couple of names in the Notable People Hall of Fame.
The Robert Rauschenberg Gallery os also located on the second floor. Robert Rauschenberg was born in Port Arthur in 1925 and went on to become one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Robert won the National Medal of Arts in 1993 and was awarded the Leonardo da Vinci World Award of Arts in 1995.
The Snell Gallery & Parlor features unique antique glassware, crystal, and furniture. It is an impressive collection and the parlor is like a time capsule.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast truly offers something for every member of the family to enjoy. It is administered by the Port Arthur Historical Society in partnership with the city of Port Arthur. Director, Tom Neal, is a wealth of information and always willing to share his knowledge, especially with the many school groups that visit the museum. The museum is a wonderful place to share with our children what people who came from their same hometowns have accomplished.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast has a gift shop offering typical museum gift shop items, and one not so typical. Here you can actually purchase a brick from the childhood home of Janis Joplin along with a certificate of authenticity. You can also become a Museum Member starting at $10 for students and $50 for families. Regular admission is $6 for adults and $3 for children 4-18. Children 3 and under are free.
The Museum of the Gulf Coast is located at 700 Procter Street in Port Arthur. Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 9am – 5pm. You should allow at least two to three hours to see everything the museum has to offer. Visit them on the web at http://www.museumofthegulfcoast.org. You can also get more information on the museum and other Port Arthur attractions at the Port Arthur Convention & Visitor’s Bureau at http://www.visitportarthurtx.com
Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana are filled with countless unique attractions that many of us have never visited or often forget about. In the next couple of weeks, we will cover several local attractions that make our area special. These are both family friendly and budget friendly.