This year marks the centennial of the opening of the Houston Ship Channel. The Houston Arts Alliance Folklife and Traditional Arts Program, in partnership with the Houston Public Library, has installed a fascinating exhibit at the Julia Ideson Building that explores the rich history of the Port of Houston.
Stories of a Workforce commemorates the lives and experiences of the workers who worked for many years to construct the Ship Channel through photographs, oral history interviews and videos, archival material, and related ephemera.
The interactive elements of Stories of a Workforce are what truly make this exhibit stand apart. Visitors can explore a specially constructed ship's hull replica and interact with real elements such as a binnacle, ship wheel and bell, and a pelorus. Younger visitors will also especially enjoy trying on the hats, coats, and boots that are available. There is truly something for everyone to enjoy in this fantastic exhibit.
I particularly enjoyed the audiovisual elements and listening to the oral history interviews under the unique sound dome. Being able to hear the workers tell their stories while looking at the other visual elements provides a truly immersive experience.
A large painting by John Biggers is also prominently featured along the back wall of the exhibit. Biggers is best known for his murals depicting African American history and culture. He was commissioned in 1957 by officers of a local African American longshoreman’s union to paint the large artwork, and the painting hung on the walls of the union building in Harrisburg until the Houston Arts Alliance asked to borrow it for this exhibit. Don’t miss your chance to see this beautiful painting!
Stories of a Workforce will be on view through January 31, 2015 at the Julia Ideson Building, 500 McKinney.
Visit http://houstonlibrary.org/learn-explore/exhibits/stories-workforce for more information and details about upcoming events.
Houston Ship Channel digital archival items from the Houston Area Digital Archives
--Jeanette Sewell, Central