Museum of the Gulf Coast experiences monumental year; major plans follow $1 million donation

Published 12:20 am Thursday, December 28, 2023

This month’s surprise donation of $1 million from Motiva to the Port Arthur Historical Society is just the beginning of things to come for the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

The funds will be spread over the next five years to help renovate the existing building into a dual purpose space, chronicling the history of the polymers and composites industry and also serving as an event facility.

This first, major donation opens the door for other donations to help fund the estimated $3.8 million project. The hope is to create an exhibit so young people may see and understand polymers are a big deal, said Tom Neal, director of the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

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The Museum features an exhibit highlighting Port Arthur native Andy Green, who created a hardening of polymers that led to composite chassis for racing cars to building materials and more.

Neal said he hopes the exhibit inspires more inventors along the way.

The Museum hosted three inductions this year into various Halls of Fame: Sports, Charean Williams and Johnny Fuller; music, Rockin Sidney Simien and Slim Harpo; and Notable People, Mary Kay Place.

These and other events show where there is the need for additional space. Neal said the new wing is designed so the exhibit is capable of being moved, then moved back into place.

“It will be built like a black box, so it can be moved around to create a show without worrying about wall color, and the lighting can be adjusted. It can be dressed up for whatever event you are having,” Neal said.

Officials hope this allows for more musicians to come out and play at gatherings.

2023 has been an active year for the Historical Society, and the Museum secured a record high visitation total of 16,788 people signing the guest register or receiving outreach programming, Neal said.

Since the Museum’s opening in 1994 there have been 360,050 visitors.