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Bringing history to life

An exclusive first look at the plans for Houston's new $40 million cultural center and its Epcot link

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BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
The Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage will trace Houston's history from the first peoples to the achievements of the modern era. Courtesy of BRC Imagination Arts
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
Exhibition design company BRC met with Nau Center board members Monday to discuss early ideas for the new museum. Courtesy of BRC Imagination Arts
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
An interactive theater space will give viewers an fully-immersive museum experience. Courtesy of BRC Imagination Arts
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
BRC will unravel the Bayou City's complicated past not only for tourists , but for the city's ever-diversifying population as well. Courtesy of BRC Imagination Arts
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
While a building site site has been selected next to Minute Maid Park, an official ground-breaking date has not been set. Courtesy of BRC Imagination Arts
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage
BRC Imagination Arts, Nau Center for Texas Heritage

Long on swamps and short on cowboys, southeast Texas is a bit of a square peg when it comes to Lone Star State history.

But thanks to businessman John Nau and the forthcoming Nau Center for Texas Cultural Heritage — an innovative education facility and visitors center that will be located near Discovery Green Park — the unique story of the Houston area is getting the proper historical treatment it deserves.

" Houston has this great story that's never been told," BRC senior writer Rich Procter says.

During a special Monday luncheon at the George R. Brown Convention Center, CultureMap joined the Nau Center's newly-formed board of directors for an exclusive look at how acclaimed exhibit designers BRC Imagination Arts plan to unravel the Bayou City's complicated past not only for tourists and conventioneers, but for the city's ever-diversifying population as well.

Nau started the presentation with a reminder to the board that BRC doesn't dabble in a traditional artifacts-driven museum model of yore. Instead, the company — whose first projects were launched at Disney's Epcot Center in the early 1980s — concentrates on a fully-immersive experience than might incorporate anything from an interactive theater show to a hologram of Abraham Lincoln.

While BRC representatives only hinted at their technological plans for the Houston center (mentioning something about "cloud curating"), the company already has spent several months coordinating with local historians and educators to develop a rough outline for the city's historical narrative.

"People come here to seize opportunity and get big things done, but they do it in a way that empowers the next generation of achievers." 

"Houston has this great story that's never been told," BRC senior writer Rich Procter says.

"People come here to seize opportunity and get big things done, but they do it in a way that empowers the next generation of achievers. We want young people to walk out the Center understanding that they live in a place where all of these extraordinary things have been done through the years. That's the real story."

The museum will be divided into two main exhibition halls, the first of which traces the story of Houston from the region's first native peoples and the Allen Brothers to Spindletop and the Civil Rights era. The second exhibit section focuses on major Houston achievements like the ship channel and NASA. A large theater space also is planned for the new building, which will be designed by Bailey Architects.

According to Nau, a ground-breaking date for the museum will be set once 50 to 60 percent of the $40-million fundraising goal is met.

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