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Lamar State College - Port Arthur History of the Museum of the Gulf Coast

The Museum of the Gulf Coast


The Museum of the Gulf Coast had its beginning in 1964 when the State of Texas chartered the old Port Arthur Museum. Encouragement for a museum had begun even earlier, when during WWII, Sears, Roebuck & Co. sponsored a contest encouraging that such facilities be established to perpetuate the history of the area as a patriotic gesture.

Once chartered under the auspices of the Federated Women's Club, a museum of sorts was opened in the old Adams building in downtown Port Arthur.

In 1970, the Port Arthur Historical Society was formed, dedicated to restoring a historic turn-of-the-century residence on Lakeshore Drive. The museum languished in the immediate downtown area in the Merchant's National Bank until 1980, when it was relocated to a wing of the Gate's Memorial Library on the campus of Lamar University Port Arthur.

In 1987, the society hired a consultant who recommended that the scope of the museum be enlarged to encompass the current parameters. The board adopted this plan, and in 1989, hired an exhibit design firm from Austin to lay out an interpretive format based on the consultant's expanded concept of a Gulf Coast museum. A year later, the society acquired the present structure for a modest sum and paid for an adaptation of the design plan by Exhibit Specialties.

Major renovation of the building was necessary, so demolition began immediately. Between 1991 and 1994, demolition and renovation work continued, culminating in a contract with Southwest Museum Services in 1993 to design and help install the contemplated exhibits.

Special display areas were incorporated into the mezzanine floor. After completion of the construction phase, the museum opened its doors on July 2, 1994.

With the exception of a major plumbing leak that shut the building down for six weeks in the summer of 1996 and brief closures due to Hurricanes Rita and Ike, the museum has been open seven days a week, except for major holidays.

The museum currently has a staff of five employees including a director, curator, education coordinator, secretary and custodian. Part-time student assistants from Lamar State College-Port Arthur and a multitude of volunteers also help operate the museum.

Since its opening, the museum has successfully provided an entertaining and educational experience for its visitors, which include residents and visitors to Southeast Texas. With innovative permanent and temporary exhibits as well as programs and presentations, the institution continues to preserve and display the rich heritage of this diverse community.

The museum has been averaging about 14,000 visitors per year with about 250,000 visitors to date.

With an increasing emphasis on educational outreach, the museum hosts more than 5,000 children every year through free school tours. In addition, 3,500 children and families participate in the Museum’s dynamic calendar of youth and family programs. The Museum also hosts a variety of public programs such as lectures, workshops, performances, which are enjoyed by young and old alike.

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