La Belle shipwreck moves to its final spot at Bullock museum

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The new prize exhibit at the Bullock Texas State History Museum is now in its final resting place.

Museum curators on Thursday carefully moved the reconstructed hull to its permanent display spot. Crews started assembling the pieces of the 1686 French shipwreck in October at the museum.

The hull will be the foundation for an interactive exhibit.

“You’ll have a deck of glass that visitors car walk on. You’ll be able to look down and see some of the cargo that was found on the ship,” said Museum Director Victoria Ramirez. “And then we’ll have soaring cases of artifacts — weapons, everyday items, rosaries, everything that was found on the ship.”

The wreckage was found in 1995 and recovered from Matagorda Bay. Salvage experts then installed a cofferdam so water could be pumped out and the ship recovered. Texas A&M scientists preserved the pieces so it could one day be reassembled at the Austin museum.

The 54-foot-long ship sunk during a storm in Matagorda Bay as part of the explorer La Salle’s doomed expedition to early Texas.

“The wrecking of the ship doomed La Salle’s effort to establish a French stronghold in Texas,” said Jim Bruseth, a guest curator. “But it opened the door for Spain to start sending people up to occupy Texas, to keep the French out. So it goes to show in history, how often a small event, the sinking of a ship, can change history, and we have that ship.”

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