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Nau Center to bring history to life

By Bianca Montes
Sept. 24, 2013 at 4:24 a.m.
Updated Sept. 25, 2013 at 4:25 a.m.

An artist rendition of what the Nau Center for  Texas Cultural Heritage will look like in Houston. John Nau III visited Victoria on Tuesday to paint a picture of the 60,000-square-foot learning experience that will share the history of  Houston and its surrounding  27 regions, which includes  Victoria, Calhoun and DeWitt counties.

History should be told with gusto; through the blistered palms of the cattleman who ranched the lands to the blood, sweat and tears of the men who built the railroads connecting one region to the next, South Texas has a fascinating tale to tell.

Philanthropist John Nau III and CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors has the vision to tell those stories and has been building his fascination since the age of 10, when he and his family visited the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and museum in Springfield, Ill.

On Tuesday, Nau met with Victoria and local county residents to share information about the Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage in Houston, a 60,000-square-foot virtual learning experience that will share the history of Houston and its 28-county region, which includes Victoria, Calhoun and DeWitt counties.

"The Nau Center will connect the history and story of our regions to its people and places," Nau announced to the crowd of about 50 people at The PumpHouse Riverside Restaurant and Bar, promising that the center is not going to be the typical hands-off museum. "It is going to be a place that will talk about people and stories because at the end of the day, it's people who make the stories."

More importantly, Nau said the museum could be another driving source of tourism to Victoria and its surrounding counties.

A 2012 economic impact study by the Greater Houston Partnership concluded that the center will play a large role in improving the region's economy.

The center is expected to bring in $12 million in area tourism its first year, as well as support 202 jobs and boost local government revenues by almost $1 million, according to the study.

While the center, which costs about $55 million to $60 million, is still raising funds, it is no longer questioning how and when it will open. The Nau Center is expected to open in 2016, just in time for the Super Bowl.

Nau and his family donated 20 percent of the cost.

Nau said the center's gateway, a visitor center of sorts, will lead those interested in old courthouses and historic homes to the Victoria area and send revolutionary war buffs to the battlefield in Goliad.

Victoria College trustee Bland Proctor said Victoria has a lot of culture to be proud of. "We play a vital role in this region," he said. "This facility will promote that."

The museum will center on three themes: Gone to Texas, a phrase scribbled on many doors after people packed their belongings and moved south; Seize Opportunity, a display where viewers will learn from those who made an impact in the state; and Get Big Things Done, an interactive exhibit that highlights three of the state's biggest achievements, including the Johnson Space Center.

"I am excited about this dynamic vision, and already in my mind, I am anticipating the ways our various counties can participate in this vision," said event host Kay Walker, of Victoria. "You hear the stories of what made Texas great, and many of those are right here in Victoria."

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