Houston Museum of Culture
Report: Does Houston Need Another Museum?
Report, Part 1 Introduction

Houston ranks high as a city that is favorable for business. But Houston ranks poorly in studies and surveys regarding tourism, education and quality of life.

In a series of surveys of 60,000 people conducted by Travelandleisure.com and CNN Headline News, Houston does not rank in the top 25 in most categories, including: Museums, Intelligence, People, Architecture, Restaurants, Shopping and Vacation Destination. The polls reveal or confirm Houston's lack of reference in much of the nation's imagination. Austin, Dallas and San Antonio appear in most of these polls, as do other cities with many similarities to Houston.

Houston fails to rank high in many other quality-of-life categories, such as Livable Cities, and subjects that indicate opportunities for greater cross-cultural experience, such as Intercontinental Travel. The city fails to seize or recognize many of its best opportunities. Conversely, the city recently ranked third in a Forbes poll for Most Stressful City, just behind Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

However, Houston ranked Number 7 by Travelandleisure.com and CNN for Culture. Nationally, people may have some basic knowledge about Houston, outside their thoughts about its freeways, industries and weather. Regardless of how those who were surveyed define "culture" (diversity, traditional interests, elite arts, etc.), many aspects of culture are Houston's greatest strength. Culture is Houston's most positive modern legacy. History, diversity, food traditions, international ties, and extensive impact on the lifeways of people across the nation are all part of Houston's cultural landscape.

Museums and cultural destinations, as well as understanding of an area, yield many economic, education and quality-of-life benefits. As a great cultural resource, a museum can improve knowledge and perception of a city and region, and increase local appreciation and participation, as well as national and international visitation.

With the increase in nationally recognized museums, visitors to the museums increase exponentially; visitors attend not just for the numbers of museums, but for the city or nation's legacy and interpretation through the museums.

For Houston, there will be strength in numbers; increasing quality museums, especially establishing an outstanding museum to define and build on Houston's identity, will increase attraction to Houston and increase attendance for all area museums and cultural resources, as well as entertainment attractions, shops, hotels, and restaurants.

In areas where outsiders may lack knowledge of Houston and the region, or where Houston is perceived to be deficient in cultural, educational and quality-of-life resources, Houston Museum of Culture will fill the void. It will provide tremendous benefits for all Houstonians and their schools, organizations, and businesses.

Download here: www.hmoc.org/report/AnotherMuseum.pdf

UPDATE: Specific cases and examples

Houston has faced many disappointments in its efforts to attract international events and exhibits, largely due to a lack of institutions that truly define the city for the greater public. Most recently, "Space City" was unable to secure one of four retiring space shuttles. The city that trained astronauts, officed engineers, housed test laboratories, controlled missions in space, and the city first called on from the moon, was not considered the most appropriate place to exhibit one of the four shuttles. In fact, the fourth largest city in the United States is not just "Space City"; it is the proving grounds for all forms of transportation and exploration in the country, from pre-colonial, indigenous tradeways on the bayous, to the foot steps of the first Spaniards and Africans to cross the continent. It is the city that built an in-land port, the city with the historic moniker, "where seventeen railroads meet the sea", and the city that grew from a regional hub and crossroads on the first coast to coast highway to an international, metropolitan center today.

To the self-appointed historians of Houston events and aficionados of its experiences, there is little question that it provides a unique legacy for the nation and the world; it should compete easily for the types of institutions that affirm the historical and cultural contributions of the city. Yet it doesn't. Many decision makers know little of the city's past or its legacy beyond its financial success.

Houston should be the site of one to two existing national parks and monuments, with at least two more on the horizon, yet it is still about a decade away from achieving a simple heritage area along Buffalo Bayou. Other major institutions have bypassed Houston. Most notably, the George Bush Presidential Library, which could have served more than 150,000 students in the immediate area.

As international committees examine U.S. cities to review bids and develop plans for sports events and world's fairs, they are looking for sites that make lasting impressions and enrich the experience of visitors through cultural opportunities.

It is not only Houston's history that matters. And it is not only the reasons people come here - work, entrepreneurial opportunities, climate and favorable religious and social freedoms - that make Houston what it is. It is the creativity, diversity and vast traditions that have culminated here today, and what tomorrow may bring to our ways of life around the globe that make Houston an often cited "city to watch" and better understand in the future. In these areas, Houston compares well to cities like New York and San Francisco, but may present poorly for the outsider.

Houston has an extreme amount of catching up to do in the way it defines and presents itself. Numerous populations are scrambling to build institutions to preserve knowledge of their past identities and heritage, while there is a much bigger picture of integration and connectedness emerging. The drive to preserve so many endangered identities is both an important subject for numerous quality of life reasons and a barometer of a cultural metamorphosis taking place. Many traditional cultural influences have been surpassed by broader global influences - expanding media, social networks and new technologies.

Changes that are occurring on a global scale are most apparent in a city like Houston. The transformation of American life that has occurred in the past few decades can be well interpreted in Houston. There are unlimited opportunities to produce leading knowledge and educational tools based on the rapid changes and realignment of influences in our ways of life, from financial systems to tensions over political and religious ideologies, and there is tremendous imperative to do so.

The Houston Museum of Culture will be a world leader in studying and presenting vast cultural interests, as well as the quality of life they provide for the city and its visitors.

Request more information by sending an email to mark@houstonculture.org.

Additional Reports Houston Museum of Culture Prospectus and Plan of Action

Download here: www.hmoc.org/plan.pdf

Houston Museum of Culture Overview and Information for Founders

Download here: www.hmoc.org/report/HMOC_overview_form.pdf

Also see Vision for Houston.

Join the Effort Be a Volunteer

People with every imaginable ability are needed, from media and marketing to Internet and computer skills. To register as a volunteer, go to www.visionforhouston.org/volunteer.html.

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