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Center for History and Culture names three faculty Fellows

The Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast has named three faculty members as 2018-2019 Fellows.

Newly appointed fellows are: Richard Gachot, associate professor of art; Mahmoud Salimi, assistant professor of communication; and Miguel Chavez, assistant professor of history.

Their one-year fellowships represent the highest honor of distinction, said Mary Scheer, chair of the history department and director of the Center for History and Culture. Fellows are expected to produce high quality outcomes – such as publications, lectures, or creative activities – that address important problems or enhance the historical and cultural understanding of the region, Scheer said.

Each Fellow will present a public lecture, exhibition or performance in the spring of 2019.

Using visualization as an essential tool in the understanding of cultural heritage, Gachot knows how 3D computer modeling of historic sites, from prehistory to the present, serves both to document the past and provide a new means of interpreting history. Today’s virtual reality software and hardware allows the viewer to be directly immersed in the context of history for the first time, he said. The visual reconstruction of material culture provides a rich alternative to the traditional medium of text-based history, educating a new generation of students. Gachot’s research project will recreate the lost architecture of downtown Beaumont illustrating key phases in the city’s historic development.

“Beaumont was exceptional in the richness of its architectural past, made possible by a series of unique economic circumstances,” he said. “The bricks and mortar of architecture and urbanism rendered in a virtual 3D world will provide a new understanding of culture in Southeast Texas.”

Through interviews and research, Salimi will produce a documentary film titled “Boom Days” exploring the 1901 discovery of oil near Beaumont and how it put the city on the map. The film will highlight the economic, social, and cultural impact of the historical event. Salimi’s film will examine how the discovery by Pattillo Higgins changed the economy in the city and the life of its citizens. Tracing the event through the individual oil investigators, to the formation of the Gladys City Oil Company, and beyond, the film will portray the pioneers of the industry and the key players who influenced and changed America’s economy and made history.

Chavez’s “Beaumont Latina/o Oral History Project” will collaborate with community leaders, civic organizations, and other groups that focus on preserving the past as key cultural and historical resources as it seeks to support the creation, preservation, and transmission of knowledge and understanding on the people, history, culture, institutions, and environment of Southeast Texas by documenting and enhancing rich diverse history of thriving Latina/o communities in Beaumont, Texas.

The interdisciplinary, multi-cultural center promotes the creation, preservation and transmission of knowledge—broadly conceived—about the region of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast, said Scheer.

“The Center strives to be the historical and cultural hub that tells the story of the area through public engagement,” said Scheer, who holds a Ph.D. from Texas Christian University. “The Center will produce high quality publications, creative exhibits and cultural performances, sponsor lectures and symposia, develop innovative curriculum, and support faculty and students in research focused on topics of regional interest.”

The geographic reach of the Center is broadly conceived, crossing county and state boundaries.  It includes the 29 counties of Southeast Texas that are a part of the coastal area of the Gulf of Mexico and most of the Texas portion of the Intracoastal Waterways, as well as the pine forests of the Big Thicket.  The Upper Gulf Coast includes the coastal regions of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.