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Economy, Education, and Equity
The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines heritage tourism as “traveling to experience the places, artifacts, and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present. It includes visitation to cultural, historic, and natural resources.”
Heritage tourism will always be important in Texas for many different reasons. The state’s long and rich history provides a dense landscape for historic experiences of all different kinds: galleries, historic homes, and historic trails. Here are the three E’s of heritage tourism and why they matter.
Heritage tourism is incredibly important to Texas’ economic landscape. In 2017, the Texas Historic Commission (THC) reported that “this travel comprises about 10 percent of all tourism in the Lone Star State—more than $7 billion last year, supporting over 54,000 jobs.”
An economic impact report from the THC on their Heritage Trails program reports “In 2019, direct travel spending in the Independence Trail Region accounted for roughly $29 billion of the overall $82.9 billion spent by visitors to the state.” In the Forrest Trail region, direct travel spending accounted for $3.5 billion of the total $82.9 billion spent by visitors. Southeast Texas sits between these two regions of Heritage Trails, benefiting from the income of both regions.
This tourism spending leads to the creation of more jobs and an increase in state and local taxes generated. These taxes, such as the hotel occupancy tax, are often used as grants to help fund more preservation. This all supports a thriving economy in Texas.
Check out the Texas Historical Commission’s report on heritage tourism from 2017 here.
While even regular travel is beneficial for education, heritage tourism takes it a step further. It allows children to get out from behind their desks to experience history firsthand, making learning experiences more memorable.
In 1993, The National Park Service reported, “historic house museums and historic sites have shown a concerted effort to strengthen interpretive programs to give visitors a more complete and accurate story. House museums are finding creative ways to tell their story to learners of every age.” This is still true today for sites of heritage tourism. Many of these sites are appropriate for a wide age range of learners, from children to adults. These sites also focus on providing tangible context for history, allowing visitors to gain a broader understanding of historic events.
Heritage tourism sites also emphasize the role of community in their interpretations, allowing learners to gain a broader understanding of how the community is connected to their sites and helping learners connect the past to the present.
Learning about how other people lived helps make our world a more equitable place. Historic travel can not only transport you to a different time, but allows you to walk in the footsteps of people from vastly different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities.
Heritage tourism can help facilitate new understandings and perspectives, using the past to inform the present.
The Beaumont Heritage Society was established over 50 years ago. Within 10 years, the organization boasted over 800 members! Members who saw the importance of historic preservation for the future of historic education – a mission that began with the John Jay French Museum. Today, a challenging year has seen Beaumont Heritage Society’s membership base dwindle to below 160 members. This creates additional challenges for an organization who relies on annual fees to help out with expensive preservation projects, educational outreach, and things like keeping the AC running in the historic home.
As a reminder of what annual dues do for us, here are 5 reasons your membership counts to BHS:
1. Money from membership dues feed directly into the 1845 John Jay French Museum, one of Beaumont’s oldest educational resources.
The John Jay French Museum is currently undergoing a major preservation project to address moisture issues in the upstairs room as a result of both damaging hurricanes and humidity. The organization uses grants and membership fees to help offset the costs of major projects.
2. Membership dues help offset the cost of school tours and educational outreach programs.
Every year, the museum reaches hundreds of kids through school tours and educational outreach programs like Camp Lookinback. The cost for public school districts to bring kids through the museum is just $1 per student and is set low to remain accessible to all students! This wouldn’t be possible without our members and annual dues to help offset the cost. Your memberships keep the museum affordable, getting kids out from behind their desk and stepping into history.
3. Your membership helps us put on events like Heritage Happy Hours and the Pumpkin Walk.
Events like Heritage Happy Hours and the Pumpkin Walk wouldn’t happen without membership dues. Dues help offset the cost of materials for things like children’s craft supplies at the Pumpkin Walk and Christmas Candlelight Tour! The funds from annual dues help us put on the events AND the events help us raise even more money as fundraisers and membership drives!
4. Memberships help us raise awareness for our organization and mission.
You help introduce other people to our mission. Telling friends and family about us and interacting with us online helps our visibility. Those friends and family are more likely to become members and there is no better method of communication and recommendation than word of mouth.
5. Your membership ensures that Beaumont’s heritage is not forgotten.
Your membership doesn’t just help us in the present day. Just like the members in the early days, it helps preserve future historical education and ensures that our heritage is not forgotten. Without membership, our organization and the John Jay French Museum would not survive.
If you’d like to join for any or all of these reasons, you can do so here.
Beaumont Heritage Society has had a busy first quarter of the year with efforts in preservation, events, and conferences!
January saw exciting things as Executive Director Alicia McKibbin, Executive Assistant Chevelle Thomas, and Assistant Director Shelby Dryden attended the Real Places 2020 conference in Austin to learn about state-of-the-art preservation techniques. They spent three days in class learning about new developments in caring for historic buildings and best practices in history-based nonprofit organizations.
After Tropical Storm Imelda, Heritage Society staff began noticing a build up of moisture at the John Jay French Museum and began searching for a cause. Moisture and humidity are an enemy to the preservation of old homes and the historic artifacts inside them. Living in Southeast Texas, removing moisture entirely is not an option, but managing the amount of moisture is.
In February, BHS staff took a trip to visit the Galveston Historical Foundation to meet with staff about preservation techniques to prevent the spread of moisture in the John Jay French Museum. This meeting led to new discoveries about possible sources of the moisture. BHS staff is working hard at finding solutions to safeguard the historic structure from further damage, especially with the threat of torrential downpours from hurricanes and tropical storms. Stay tuned.
Latest Event News
Heritage Happy Hour at the Tyrrell Historical Library was a huge success drawing 127 in attendance. Attendees were treated to a tour of the recently restored library, built in 1903. Fry Daze food truck was out, serving guests quesadillas and tacos as they enjoyed beer showcased by Giglio Distributing Co. The Heritage Happy Hour was met with tons of support and saw Beaumont Heritage Society gain nine new memberships! Memberships are a primary source of financial support for BHS. All proceeds from memberships go directly to the care and maintenance of the John Jay French Museum.
Make sure to check back with Beaumont Heritage Society for announcements on news, updates, and upcoming events like the Lawn Party!
We have been hard at work hosting our two annual Halloween events!
Beaumont Heritage Society held the Pumpkin Walk and Haunted Halloween Tour at the John Jay French Museum on Saturday, October 24th from 6-9p.m. with over 350 in attendance. Children and adults were thrilled to vote on the 60 pumpkins decorating the grounds!
Guests also enjoyed a special “spooky” tour of the 1845 John Jay French house where actors Mike Rodgers, Jeri Sullivan, McKenna Bradford, and Ed Seymour portrayed members of the French family, delivering monologues about the family’s travel and time spent in Texas. Caroline Badon portrayed Nancy French on a haunted hayride of the historic grounds, where guests viewed a replica tannery, blacksmith shop, and the French family cemetery. Hay riders also encountered grounds “ghosts” portrayed by Brad Franks, Brandon Franks, and Sarah Vickery!
Beaumont Heritage Society’s Haunted Halloween Heritage Happy Hour took place October 24th, 2019 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Chambers House Museum. Guests enjoyed craft beer from Giglio Distributing who showcased a selection from Buffalo Bayou Brewing Co. on the beautiful Chambers House lawn.
Inside the Chambers House, actors Emily Buesing, Jessica Paskell, Patrick Anderson, and Lynette Bloyd portrayed our dearly departed Florence, Ruth, Homer, and Edith respectively. Under special lighting, the actors delivered short monologues about their character’s lives in the home to 75 guests.
Beaumont Heritage Society is passionate about creating events centered around fun and education. Beaumont Heritage Society would like to extend a thank you to all of the volunteers who made these events possible. Please watch for these annual events in 2020 – you won’t want to miss them!
Beaumont Heritage Society once again hosted our annual Camp Lookinback at the John Jay French Museum! Every year, Camp Lookinback aims to educate kids about the French family through activities and practices that the French family might have used. From July 9th-12th and July 16th-19th, the kids stepped into the past one day at a time! By the end of each week, the kids were immersed into what life was like for the French family.
On the first day, Stable-Spirit taught the kids about horse care with horses on property. They were taught about horses throughout history, horse care, and also learned how to lead a horse before getting to do it themselves! This was definitely a fan favorite of the kids! They also learned about cattle branding from Deputy Don Metts with Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office along with a special roping demonstration.
Day two had the kids learning about what Christmas would have been like for the French family! They made wreaths and “buckskin” ornaments just like the French family might have made their own Christmas decorations! They also tried their hand at gift making by making yarn dolls! Kids were so excited about their yarn dolls that they all asked to bring them home early!
Day three was made possible by the Big Thicket Park Rangers. They captured the kids’ attention with their Skins and Skulls program, and also taught them all about the Food Web and how it would have been important to the French family! Cooking on an open flame with Elizabeth Schreck had the attendees enjoying pancakes cooked outside on a cast iron skillet!
The last day culminated with a tour the oldest fully restored home in Beaumont, the John Jay French Museum. Mary Nash and Becky Tabor with The Golden Triangle Quilt Guild taught the kids about how quilting was done, which turned out harder than they expected. Carol Weishampel was on hand to talk about leather! The kids practiced stamping leather and learned more about John Jay French’s leather practices.
Camp was chock full of fun, games, AND history. We had the best two weeks with our Camp Lookinback kiddos, and we can’t wait to do it again next year!
The John Jay French Museum has a “rowdy” addition in the form of its new mascot, Rowdee Raccoon! Rowdee can be found on our new grounds tour signage, made possible by the financial support of Susan Conn McCurry and The Crawford Foundation. The signage, placed at all of the outbuildings and the family cemetery, allows guests to enjoy the historic grounds while reading about the French family and the historic use of the facilities on property explained with the help of historian and French decendant, Judith Linsley. Rowdee Raccoon was brought to life by artist Aggie Bollman and illustrator Chase Dryden. Beaumont Heritage Society is grateful to all those involved in making Rowdee Raccoon and our educational signage possible! Make plans to come take a look!
A Collection of Work in Charcoal
Currently on display, enjoy a collection of charcoal artwork by Florence Chambers. Many of Florence’s works hang in the Chambers House Museum, but we are exhibiting pieces from her portfolio that have never been seen by the public. Florence chose a broad range of subject matter in her work, including florals, still-life and anatomy. This natural talent was honed by art classes taken while attending Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX. Throughout her life, Florence continued to take personal enjoyment creating works of art.
This exhibit will run through Saturday, Sept. 10th. Tour hours are Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 3 pm and Saturdays 10 am – 2 pm. Admission is $5 per person.
A Collection of Family Handwork
The talented Chambers ladies created a myriad of handwork to adorn their life. Excellent seamstresses, they were also quite talented in crochet, embroidery, quilting, tatting and other handcrafts. The display includes dresses along with the original patterns, exquisite tatted and crocheted trims and doilies and hand stitched quilts. Found as part of the Chambers collection, these pieces are fine examples from the period.
Exhibit runs through Saturday, Sept. 24th. Tour hours are Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 3 pm and Saturdays 10 am – 2 pm. Admission is $5 per person.
The Chambers House presents “Linens and Lace”, an exhibit of late 19th through mid-20th century textiles from the Chambers Collection. From beautiful tablecloths, to handmade doilies, and fashionable accessories, each item is a piece of art.
“Linens and Lace” will be on exhibit:
February 16 through April 30.
Tour hours are: Tuesday – Friday 10 am – 3 pm
and Saturday 10 am – 2 pm.
Please call 409-832-4010 to reserve for groups of 10 or more.