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More than 200 history teachers, community members, and Texas history enthusiasts attended the Texas General Land Office‘s Save Texas History Symposium Saturday, which took place at the historic Menger Hotel located at 204 Alamo Plaza, steps away from the Alamo.
Now in its seventh year, the symposium focused on the stories of the Alamo’s past, preservation efforts currently underway, and the initiative to Reimagine the Alamo through the forthcoming Alamo Master Plan.
Attendees had morning sessions and several scholarly lecture options to choose from throughout the day. Topics included: Ownership and history of the Alamo, the Alamo in American history and memory, Native labor and the San Antonio Missions, Slavery in early Texas, Early efforts to save the Alamo, and even a comparison of the Alamo and the twin towers on 9/11, which compared two important places of remembrance and walked the audience through the plans that turned rubble from the towers into significant pieces for the 9/11 landmark museum.
The symposium ended with a special panel that dealt solely with the topic of the Alamo master plan and the Alamo Endowment‘s role in reimagining the Alamo. Audience members listened intently for any new updates on the process, and the Q&A session at the end made it clear that attendees wanted answers. Many insisted on getting details about the Master Plan and asked about dates and the process underway.
“We have not put pencil to paper,” said Alamo Master Planner George Skarmeas. “My answer to ‘When will we see the master plan?’ is we need to be very patient. During the last five months, we have tried to understand the history and archaeology of the Alamo and our (historic) timeline right now is 20-feet long – it’s a very difficult puzzle.”
Skarmeas said the discovery period is still underway as Alamo master planners are taking in the first bits of information gathered by a team of historians, scholars, and archaeologists who are working to uncover up to 10,000 years of history at the site. The goal is to transform the Alamo into a location reflective of its historical and cultural significance and to do justice to UNESCO’s recent designation of the Alamo and the Spanish-colonial Missions as World Heritage Sites.
“There are probably more ideas and visions than the people in this room,” Skarmeas said. “I know there are very strong opinions because we all care deeply about this place – it’s something incredible. The Battle of the Alamo changed the geopolitical structure … it’s not just a Texas event, it’s a global event. But in the next months, and when we (release the date) of the next public meeting, we will give you updates of what we’ve found.”
“What is the budget for the master plan?” one man in the audience asked.
“We don’t know, it’s too early,” answered Alamo Endowment Executive Director Becky Dinnin, echoing Skarmeas’ remarks about “needing to understand what we’ve got” before diving into the planning stages.
Skarmeas reminded the audience that the mission layout is closely related to the city and that the planning process is made difficult by the fact that certain pieces of the Alamo are under streets or other structures. Integrity, accuracy, and authenticity are the three building blocks the master planning team is focusing on, Skarmeas added, and that the process must also be reversible in case new information about the Alamo is discovered down the road.
“How do we redefine the perimeter? What can we capture? We are working hard to figure out the answers to these questions, and the goal is to make it a transformational experience for everyone,” he said.
It’s all about authenticity, Dinnin told the Rivard Report after the panel, adding that master planning staff is still in the process of putting together historic structure reports.
“We gotta get it right, that’s critical,” Dinnin said. “With the World Heritage designation, the radar is on us, this is something of international interest. This is our chance and I don’t think this chance will come again in generations, so we are not taking that for granted and making sure we understand the layout and limitations.”
To learn more about the Alamo Master Plan, visit the Reimagine the Alamo website.
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Top image: Alamo Master Planner George Skarmeas and Alamo Endowment Executive Director Becky Dinnin tell the audience that the master plan process is still in the beginning stages. Photo by Rocío Guenther.