HOUSTON—A University of Houston-Clear Lake student teamed up with the Galveston County Museum to shine the light on one of the city’s premier artifacts – the original, 19th century Fresnel lens from the island’s South Jetty Lighthouse.
UH-Clear Lake School of Education then-student Kathleen Mallory worked closely with Galveston County Museum Director Helen Mooty to develop the first of several new educational outreach packages, or traveling treasure chests, for use in area schools. The South Jetty Lighthouse Treasure Chest is a portable “traveling trunk” that includes a detailed teacher’s guide along with several necessary tools to teach fourth-grade lessons in language arts, social studies, science and mathematics. Its treasure trove includes a detailed history of the lighthouse structure and the rare lens, along with photos and images, suggested reading materials and post-lesson activities. It even includes a small flashlight, glass jar and mirror to help demonstrate lessons on refraction and reflection.
The Galveston County Museum is still recovering from damage sustained during Hurricane Ike. Although no artifacts were lost during the storm, the facility suffered extensive damage to its electrical and HVAC systems as well as the loss of its office equipment and furniture. In addition to displacing museum employees, its artifacts had to be boxed up and stored in Shearn Moody Plaza (the Railroad Building) on the Strand. The huge lens, constructed in the late 1800s in France and salvaged from the original lighthouse in 1972, remains impounded in the old facility in a specially-constructed 12-foot box which was quickly built around it to protect it from damage in the aftermath of the hurricane.
Preparations are currently underway to relocate the lens to the museum’s new location in the Galveston County Courthouse.
“There are only five people in the United States that are authorized to move such a rare artifact. We have completed taking bids, and the County is working with a conservator,” says Mooty. The relocation is expected in the coming weeks.
Eventually the museum will reopen in the old Jury Assembly Room of the courthouse, but in the meantime, Mooty wanted to get the word out to the island and mainland communities that the museum is still in business, despite its lack of exhibition space.
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