Texas Maritime Museum has 'a good story to tell'

Johnathan Silver By Johnathan Silver

Aug. 30, 2014 at 3:19 p.m.
Updated Aug. 30, 2014 at 10:38 p.m.

Visitors can get a bird's-eye view of the water and surrounding area from the top of the Texas Maritime Museum in Rockport.

Visitors can get a bird's-eye view of the water and surrounding area from the top of the Texas Maritime Museum in Rockport.   Angeli Wright for The Victoria Advocate

ROCKPORT - Shannon DeCuir's family history drew her to the Texas Maritime Museum.

The resident of Rowlett, a city near Dallas, who is of French ancestry, has an ancestor with the surname Saucier, who was with explorer Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, during his exploration of the Mississippi River. Some of the people on that voyage eventually settled in what is now Saucier, Miss., she said.

La Salle was a famous French explorer who explored the Great Lakes region, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. His expeditions were part of King Louis XIV's plan to expand his empire through North America.

La Salle eventually landed at what is now Matagorda Bay and settled there, establishing Fort St. Louis, which ultimately fell when Native Americans killed the last of the settlers there in the late 1600s. La Salle also met his end at the hands of his own people.

"It's wonderful," DeCuir said about the museum. "I enjoy the information they have."

The history DeCuir is connected to is one of many stories of expedition, conquest, war, the origins of Texas' commerce on the coast and more that can be found at the Texas Maritime Museum in Rockport. The museum's focus is on telling the history of Texas from the maritime perspective.

Curator Phil Barnes said Texas' relationship with the coast is not a well-studied area of Texas history.

"We try to give people a sense of how important it is," he said, adding that commerce-wise, everything had to go through the coast.

The museum's aim is to offer "edu-tainment" - education and entertainment, Barnes said.

"We have a good story to tell."

The museum has four permanent exhibits. The themes are: Exploration and Settlement, Oil and Gas Exploration Image, Commercial and Sports Fishing, and Boat and Shipbuilding.

The museum uses the La Salle Odyssey and an exhibit about the maritime communities of Indianola and Galveston to tell the story of exploration and settlement.

The La Salle Odyssey story is told through seven museums in Texas, which explains La Salle's expedition from conception to falling at the hands of Native Americans and La Salle's own people. The exploration and settlement theme also focuses on how coastal communities developed more so inland.

Oil and Gas Exploration explains how crucial oil and gas has been for the economy of coastal Texas. The museum goes in depth, describing the technology used to drill for these natural resources.

The exhibit also has an interactive kiosk and scale model of the Bullwinkle Project, which is the largest offshore drilling platform in history, according to the museum. The platform was built just 15 minutes from the museum, Barnes said.

The platform is so large that the museum will fit under it.

Another theme, Commercial and Sports Fishing, shows how outboard motors, lures and tackle developed. On display is equipment that was used decades ago. For fishing enthusiasts, the Shakespeare Service Reel Model GE (1944) and SouthBend Level-wind Reel Model 750 (circa 1940s) are a few of the pieces of equipment lining the floor and walls on display at the museum.

In the Boat and Shipbuilding part of the museum, visitors will find a history of shipyards and area boat builders and how it connects to the economy of coastal communities and both World Wars.

In all the exhibits, visitors will find models, videos, paintings, grand displays and more that visually tell the story of Texas' maritime history. Presidio resident David Dotter said he liked the museum especially because it features the technological aspect of Texas maritime life.

"The engineering side of it is fascinating," he said, adding he prefers to visit museums whenever he can.

The museum opened in 1989 and was named the "official" maritime museum in the state by the Texas Legislature.



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