As Battle Anniversary Approaches, Alamo Opens New Exhibits With More Historical Features Coming Soon

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The Alamo opened an archeology exhibit on Wednesday, revealing 22 layers of history dating back to the site’s mission-era origins, with more features on the way later this year to engage visitors, including a new showroom scheduled for completion in December.

Alamo officials gave a tour of the two-story, $20 million exhibits and collections building, currently under construction on the northeast corner of the grounds. The first floor framework is in place and construction is starting on the second floor which will house three galleries with bilingual interpretive panels.

“The entire building is dedicated to the collector’s journey…why people collect, how they collect,” said Kate Rogers, executive director of the Alamo Trust, which runs the site under contract with the Texas General Land Office.

On Texas Independence Day, the Alamo also opened an exhibit featuring a sampling of artifacts from the Phil Collins Texana Collection. It includes one of Collins’ most prized possessions: a receipt signed by Alamo Commandant William Barret Travis for “30 head of oxen” – cattle purchased from Ignacio Perez, a member of a prominent local ranching family. . It was used to feed over 200 soldiers, volunteers, women and children during a 13-day siege that ended in early morning battle on March 6, 1836.

In his 2012 book, “The Alamo and Beyond,” the famed musician and former Genesis drummer called the receipt “a truly remarkable piece of Texas history.”

Texans and Alamo worshipers commemorating the siege will gather at 6 a.m. Sunday for the annual “Dawn at the Alamo” ceremony, a dark tradition dating back to the battle’s 150th anniversary battle in 1986. It usually includes music, the laying of wreaths, volleys of gunfire and a prayer recited in English and Spanish as a sign of goodwill between Texas and Mexico.

All 189 Texian and Tejano fighters and at least 70–150 Mexican soldiers died in the battle, although many wounded Mexicans later perished. The Alamo, the first permanent Hispanic-Native mission in San Antonio, is widely known for its historic and sometimes controversial role in the independence of Texas, followed by the establishment of an American state, the Mexican-American War and the its westward expansion.

Although much of Alamo Plaza’s ground has been disturbed over time with the construction of buildings, roads and utility lines, an unprecedented archaeological dig at the Alamo Long Barrack, the oldest surviving structure of the site dating back to the 1720s, has revealed layers of the past which visitors can view in a free exhibit. A glass-covered screen provides a glimpse of a 2-by-2-meter, 5-foot-deep excavation unit in the building, part of a 2019-20 survey.

Col. Juan Morales epaulettes from the Phil Collins Texana Collection are displayed at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, Feb. 25, 2022.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

“Up to that point, there had never been an archaeological investigation inside the Long Barrack, so it was kind of like a time capsule that we were able to open,” Kristi Miller said. Nichols, director of archeology and collections at the Alamo.

The Alamo excavations have revealed some 140,000 artifacts and levels of past occupations, including a mud mix at the bottom where construction of the mission began around 1724; deposits from the era of Hispano-indigenous missions; a flagstone floor placed during the Spanish or Mexican military occupation of the early 1800s; 1835-36 Battle-era deposits; partial paved ground from the mid-1800s, possibly left over from the U.S. military; and a circa-1888 surface from the building’s use as a grocery store and liquor store.

The archaeological exhibition is free for visitors. The other exhibit, “Phil Collins Collection Preview – Supplies for War,” costs $5 per person and runs until April 24. Besides the receipt for the cattle, it includes letters and other documents related to Travis, Stephen F. Austin, a Mexican cavalry. sword and other battle artifacts.

When the new exhibit hall opens, it will include dozens of artifacts selected from the more than 400 items Collins has donated, including an ornate display sword given to Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna. An accompanying scabbard bears the inscription: “Lo de Santa Anna, Presidente, Mexico, 1833”. The sword has a maker’s mark from Solingen, Germany, known as the “City of Blades” for its history of sword and knife production, and an engraved Mexican eagle.

“The provenance of this object is wonderful,” said Shannon Stiles, Alamo Collections Manager.

Admission to the Alamo grounds will remain free. Anticipated admission fees for the new exhibit hall, as well as a 100,000-square-foot museum and visitor center slated to open in 2026, have not been announced.

The new showroom will include three galleries upstairs and one on the ground floor. Upon entering the building, visitors will see commissioned artwork, a timeline of the site’s history, artifacts from various collections, and a 13-by-15-foot Alamo diorama donated by Collins, complete with a sound and light show . There will also be a wall of images related to the siege and battle characters. Through a link on its website, the Alamo has launched an outreach program targeting descendants of those involved in the siege and the battle to learn more about them.

A Mexican cavalry helmet from the Phil Collins Texana collection is seen at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, February 25, 2022.

A Mexican cavalry helmet from the Phil Collins Texana collection is seen at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, February 25, 2022.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

“We’re trying, for the first time, to piece together what they might have looked like,” Rogers said.

Upstairs, there will be galleries showcasing combat instruments and weapons; paper documents that tell stories about the different eras of the site; and technology allowing visitors to design their own personal “digital scrapbook” to record memories of the objects they found most interesting, she said. By then, the Alamo plans to have launched a new app for planning visits and augmented reality functionality, so visitors can use their smartphones to view the site as it appeared in pre- mission, mission and battle.

“It will allow us to dig a lot deeper into the story, and it will be right on your phone,” Rogers said.

The new building will have a rooftop terrace overlooking the Alamo Garden for special events. Perhaps most importantly, its conservation labs and workshops will allow the now ‘stuffed’ Alamo to expand its own collection of more than 2,000 artifacts as officials prepare to open the largest museum. of Alamo Plaza, Nichols said.

The trust recently announced a $5 million pledge from the Texas Cavaliers Charitable Foundation to convert Alamo Hall and the adjoining annex, a former library built in 1950, into an education center, complete with classrooms and courses and a studio for online distance learning. The Alamo, which serves about 140,000 school children each year, plans to open the center in the fall of 2023.

“We really want to help history and social studies teachers have rich, primary source-based content,” Rogers said. “It’s a big part of our mission.”

A signed 1834 copy of the

A signed 1834 copy of “The Narrative of the Life of David Crockett, of the State of Tennessee” is displayed in the Phil Collins Texana Collection at the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, February 25, 2022.

Josie Norris / San Antonio Express-News

The final touch of the project, in 2027, will be to convert the Alamo’s 1930s gift shop, built for the Texas centennial, into a special events center. Retail sales will then have moved to the new museum, which will also have a rooftop event venue.

“When all of that is said and done, we want to deliver a world-class experience for visitors. We also want to have a world-class educational experience,” Rogers said.

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