Galveston was a major gateway for immigration in the 19th century, and East Texas Oil Museum is spotlighting an 80-year span that drew hundreds of thousands of people into Texas and the United States.
Following the last round of renovations to the facility, staffers at the Kilgore College attraction put the statue of H.L. Hunt in a more prominent space, which also opened a new exhibit space in the building. “Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America Through Galveston Island” is the first traveling exhibit to occupy the room, adding a temporary boon just outside of the Boomtown diorama.
According to ETOM Director Olivia Moor, “The traveling exhibits bring new information to a community. It allows the local community to experience something without having to leave,” she said, bringing an evergreen touch to the decades-old facility: “There have been visitors who have come once a year for the last 40 years. It allows them to see something new every time they visit. I was looking for something to fill the space. I came across it and thought this was perfect.”
Most active from 1845 to 1924, the Galveston port-of-entry played an integral part in Texas history, she added, “something that isn’t very well known, but has affected many people here. They say hundreds of thousands of people came through Galveston – many people who immigrated to the U.S. who are here may have come through Galveston.”
According to a KC release, the exhibit is based on a major exhibition of the same name developed by The Bullock Texas State History Museum. It was guest-curated by Dr. Suzanne Seriff, independent museum curator and senior lecturer of anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin.
“Forgotten Gateway considers the importance of place in the immigrant experience – tracing the history of Galveston Island as it changed from a small harborage for sailing vessels, to a major cosmopolitan steamship and railroad hub, and back to a nearly abandoned immigrant station,” KC reported. “The exhibit also explores universal themes of immigration including leaving home, encountering danger, confronting discrimination and navigating bureaucracy.”
The traveling exhibit is presented in a partnership with Humanities Texas. On display through June 15 as an added bonus to visitors’ regular tickets, it will see another influx of guests next week during the 10th annual East Texas Energy Symposium Tuesday.
The May 7 event gathers oil-and-gas professionals to Kilgore College. Primarily hosted in the Devall Student Center Ballroom, each attendee receives a pass to tour the oil museum, which benefits from the symposium’s proceeds.
Tickets for the event are $50 per person, with Tellurian Production Company President John Howie opening the symposium at 10 a.m. He’ll be followed by Dr. Mukul Sharma, W.A. “Tex” Moncrief, Jr. Centennial Chair in Petroleum, Geosystems and Chemical Engineering then William A. Ambrose of the Bureau Economic Geology returns for his take on the energy. TC Technology President Mark Goloby will be this year’s keynote speaker during the included lunch.
Quite a few visitors have already dropped by just to see the traveling exhibit, Moore said.
“Some of those had not been to the museum before so they’re extremely pleased that not only did they get to see the excellent exhibit, they got to see the museum as well.”
The display includes a series of panels highlighting the immigration experience, and East Texas Oil Museum staffers went in to storage to add vintage baggage along with benches and other local touches to dress the piece.
Plans are already in the works for an exhibit to succeed Forgotten Gateways in the multipurpose space.
“We are solidifying the details on that and we’ll be announcing that probably within the next month,” Moore said, likely to go on display in mid-July.
East Texas Oil Museum Museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 1301 S. Henderson Blvd. For more information, call Moore at 903-983-8295 or log on to EastTexasOilMuseum.Kilgore.edu.