East Texas Leads List for Vatican Valuables

East Texas may become the host to a priceless collection of art dating back to 700 B.C. The 150 pieces of Etruscan artifacts will be shown at only one location in the world, before being shipped back to the Vatican. They have never been seen by the general public before. Which ever museum wins the bid to display the jewelry and pottery will gain international attention, and an expected increase in tourism.

Reverend Malcolm Neyland is the Executive Director of the Vatican Exhibits for the Americas. He's in Tyler trying to decide where the Vatican's next exhibit should be.

Representatives from both Tyler and Longview spent Monday showing off the Tyler Museum of Art. And Neyland was apparently impressed enough with the building's security, design, and management to make up his mind. "I'm very optimistic at this time that it will be in East Texas, within the region of East Texas. You probably want to hone me in more. But right now, I will say that East Texas is the area that I will strongly recommend."

Neyland has already brought a similar exhibit to Texas Tech in Lubbock. 31 Medieval Frescoes captured the imaginations and dollars of West Texans. Tyler Mayor Joey Seeber hopes to repeat that success here.

"Lubbock has had over 65 thousand visitors in two months to the Vatican exhibit there. My understanding is they have 150 thousand reservations. So, I don't know how our exhibit would compare. But, it would mean a lot of people coming to East Texas to see the art that we have from the Vatican."

One of the buildings that could benefit most from the Etruscan art exhibit is the new terminal building for the Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. City leaders hope that the art exhibit would bring in more tourists, and maybe even another airline.

"The only comparison we have is what's going on in Lubbock," said Seeber. "And, apparently about 36% of people coming to Lubbock to see the Frescoes are coming from out of state. That would be a tremendous impact on our region."

At this point it looks like the exhibits would likely be shared between Tyler and Longview. As would the international prestige of a once in a life time look at life from a long time ago.

All of the artifacts were discovered on an archaeological dig outside of Rome during the 1970's.