State land office helping to bring Alamo and Texas history alive

Posted Friday, Aug. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Although the Alamo has long been the state’s No. 1 tourist attraction, it floundered for years under its old leadership and failed to reach its full potential as a major exhibition destination.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas had been the official caretakers of the Alamo for 107 years until 2011 when stewardship of the Texas shrine was transferred to the General Land Office. State investigators found that the historic site had been mismanaged.

When the GLO took over, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson promised to bring new exhibits, market the state treasure and make it financially stable.

A great promoter, Patterson wasted no time in drawing nationwide attention to the Alamo when he waged a public fight with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission in Austin to return for the first time in 177 years the “victory or death” letter written by Col. William B. Travis while the old mission was under siege. Patterson won, bringing the letter (under armed guard) back to the the Alamo for a special — and highly successful — two-week exhibition earlier this year.

This week the commissioner announced another major exhibit that will go beyond the Alamo’s focus on the Texas Revolution and its mostly Anglo defenders.

“Alamo Origins: The Birth of Spanish Texas,” which opens Friday and runs through Dec. 31, examines the origins of the Alamo and the Spanish mission system and their roles in the creation of Texas, according to a GLO press release.

“Everyone remembers the Fall of the Alamo in 1836, but we want you to learn about the Rise of the Alamo that started in 1718,” Patterson said in a statement.

“The story of where the Alamo came from — and who started it — is equally compelling and long overdue. The Texas we all know today started here, and it’s time we Texans knew it.”

The exhibit’s 16 original Spanish documents, including fragile maps, come from the GLO’s vast archival collections as well as the Alamo and the Daughters.

The GLO says the documents tell “the story of the mission’s founding, the daily lives of the Native Americans who sought protection there and the eventual secularization, or transfer of ownership, of mission property.”

A second exhibit to highlight Hispanic contributions to the Alamo and Texas is planned to open in the spring of 2014.

As Patterson says, the Alamo’s special exhibitions help to bring the state’s history to life. That was lacking until the GLO took the reins.

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