La Belle

The Ship That Changed History

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On October 25, 2014, experts began reconstructing the shipwreck La Belle live at the Bullock Museum in the special exhibition, La Belle: The Ship That Changed History. Visitors watched live as experts reassembled the 600-piece timber jigsaw puzzle into the very vessel that changed history.

The story of French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, and his doomed 17th century expedition to colonize North America began with piracy and ended with murder and abandonment. Miscalculations, mistakes, and general misfortune filled out the rest of the plot. Much of that story was revealed with the 1995 discovery of the wreckage of La Belle, one of La Salle's four expedition ships, resting in the mud of Matagorda Bay. Called one of the most important shipwrecks in North America, the preserved and reconstructed hull of La Belle along with excavated artifiacts that tell the stories of building a new colony in 17th century America are on display in the Bullock Museum's first-floor Texas History Gallery. 

Shipwrecked: A multi-sensory film experience

Young Pierre Talon probably had no idea of what was to come when he and his family sailed to North America in 1684 with nearly 400 others, including families, soldiers, and entrepreneurs. He did, however, know that his family hoped to be part of a new colony near the mouth of the Mississippi River, one that would expand the French empire and thwart Spanish colonization in the area. But he could never have imagined the expedition getting lost, the wild environment of the Texas coast, or his encounters with local, native communities and subsequent capture by Spanish soldiers.

In Shipwrecked, an original multi-sensory theater experience produced by the Bullock Museum, Pierre recounts the incredible saga from the time La Belle and three other ships left France in 1684 to the ultimate demise of La Belle, the settlers, and the colony. Premiering in the Bullock Museum's Texas Spirit Theater, Shipwrecked features special effects that bring the young survivor's tale of this pivotal moment in history to misty, rumbling, and dramatic life. Appropriate for ages 6+. 26 minute runtime. 

La Belle: The Ship That Changed History is organized by the Bullock Texas State History Museum with the Texas Historical Commission, the Musée National de la Marine, and Texas A&M University. Support for the La Belle project provided by the State of Texas, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the Texas State History Museum Foundation, Bobbie Nau, John L. Nau III, and the Woody and Gayle Hunt Family Foundation.

Support for the Bullock Museum's exhibitions and education programs provided by the Texas State History Museum Foundation.