While the battle over the future of Alamo Plaza rages in discussions between the City, state of Texas, historians, and conservationists, the Battle for Texas: The Experience exhibition at the Shops at Rivercenter is nearing completion with the addition of 250 Texas Revolution artifacts to the space.
The artifact collection will open to the public Thursday, April 14 – just in time for Fiesta, said David Weiss, the attraction’s producer of creative development. The full exhibit’s official grand opening will be on Friday, April 29.
Battle for Texas, a creation of BASE Entertainment from Houston and the Gold Group from Boston, will connect visitors intellectually, physically, and emotionally with the participants of the Battle of the Alamo, Weiss said. The 11 galleries of historic objects on display will be an immersive experience into the Alamo legend, allowing visitors to learn more about Texas history, and the battles within the Texas Revolution.
“You can see history at the Alamo,” Weiss said during a media preview of key artifacts on Thursday. “Here, you can experience it.”
Although the walls and floor of the exhibition space were finished, workers were still arranging the plethora of artifacts, which were carefully curated for the exhibit, and drawn from about a dozen collectors, Weiss said.
Some of the featured items include a replica of the “Come and Take It” cannon from the Battle of Gonzales, a Comanche hunting bow and war lance, Sam Houston’s boots, spurs, and saddle blankets, and Santa Anna’s pistol and spyglass. A flag from 1824 that was used on privateer ships in the provisional government is also on display.
“Visitors can choose to join the revolution,” he added.
Other items, including two original doors from the Alamo, are still being unwrapped, Weiss said.
Deep within the basement of the former Joske’s, the exhibit will start with the wild frontier and the Anglo immigration.
In the adjacent room, visitors will learn about the Mexican Army, in an effort to bring the whole Alamo saga full circle, Weiss said.
“We want to tell both sides of the story,” he said.
The following area in the exhibit will feature Antonio López de Santa Anna’s tent, giving attendees the opportunity to “meet” the notorious war general who led the Mexican troops into battle at the Alamo, and view some of his personal military effects.
“We have his sword and scabbard, uniform, and other military items,” Weiss said.
The ensuing hall will give a view from the Alamo walls, with San Fernando Cathedral rising in the distance.
“The tower there is where the bugler played El Degüello,” Weiss said. “It symbolized no quarter would be given to the Alamo defenders.”
The Texan artillery’s response to Santa Anna’s “No Quarter” flag – an 18-pound cannon ball – will be on display in the following chamber. After that, visitors finally enter the battle.
“We made it very personal,” Weiss said. “The battle is on either side of you; the soldiers are right outside the walls.”
The Alamo motif greets visitors of the next chamber.
“This is after the battle,” Weiss explained. “We put the names of the Alamo defenders into context.”
The exhibit concludes with a short film projected onto 12 screens that “will show the start of the state of Texas,” Weiss said, that is both entertaining but also historically accurate.
In April, 180 years ago, the decisive battle for Texas Independence was fought. Fiesta is in essence a celebration of the defeat of this hemisphere’s worst dictator. Revelers wanting a historical perspective would do well to visit the 22,000 square-foot permanent exhibition of “Battle for Texas: The Experience.”
Visit their website for hours and ticket information.
*Top image: “Battle for Texas: The Experience,” a permanent attraction in the Shops at Rivercenter that will feature many of the world’s most important Alamo artifacts and heart-racing multimedia reenactments of the 13-day battle. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.