Corpus Christi’s last significant snowfall occurred on Christmas Eve in 2004. The last big one before that was in 1895. Ruth and I would have welcomed a little snow, or at least a cooler afternoon, on the day we visited Corpus Christi’s Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures and Educational Center. It was definitely a day for air-conditioning, but it wasn’t on. I assume that this was a cost cutting measure because we were the only visitors. Chester had to turn the lights on to show us around. This museum with a long name is a 4 Compass attraction that isn’t attracting many patrons and, speaking of Christmas Eve, this state museum reminded me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree.
Corpus Christi is more than 80% Caucasian, but almost 2% of the rest of its citizens are Asian. Five of the Texas State Museum of Asian Cultures and Educational Center’s board members are from Asian countries. That doesn’t explain its authentically Asian collection or the fact that this is the only Asian museum in this vast, diverse state. It’s in downtown Corpus Christi not because of its board members but because of Billie Chandler, a CC native who spent 17 years teaching and collecting in Asia. Those who visit it will see unique Korean dolls, bronze warriors, musical instruments, an emperor’s robe, etc.
This museum’s collection includes some artifacts really worth seeing, not all of them Chandler acquisitions. The first thing Chester showed us was a jade carving by a local man. Chester, by the way, moved from New York to Corpus Christi to retire but volunteered some time in this museum and ended up, at least for now, virtually running it. As a result, Chester has learned a lot about Asian culture. He told Ruth and me that jade, probably the most commonly carved stone in Asia, is among the world’s hardest minerals. On the Mohs scale a diamond is a 10 and jade is a tough 7. However, the object in his museum that Chester seemed most proud of was a gigantic, impressive 1776 Buddha. According to him its origin is unknown, but it was found in Oklahoma! Chester’s dedication to this place is extraordinary.
Chester apologized for the fact that a lot of the stuff on display wasn’t marked. He told us that he was determined to correct this himself in the near future. He also told us that the museum was closed for a year due to money problems and that it’s looking for sponsors who will help it remain opened. I told him that The Smithsonian might be interested in helping due to the quality of its collection.
Like Charlie Brown’s sad little tree that has become something of a national treasure, this eclectic little museum needs love and support.