Bexar County Commissioners approved a lease agreement with Texas A&M-San Antonio Tuesday that will allow the university to house its archives alongside the Daughters of the Republic of Texas (DRT) Library in the the former Federal Reserve Bank (FRB) building, now known as the Presidio Gallery, at 126 E. Nueva St. A&M-San Antonio will also host academic and arts programming in the space.
The two-year lease will begin Sept. 1, end on July 31, 2018, and include three, one-year renewal options. The university will lease about 10,000 sq. ft. for $2,119 per month or $25,438 per year. The County will provide maintenance and operations support to the university during operating hours at no cost.
Since its establishment in 2009, A&M-San Antonio has seen growth in student enrollment and, thus, expanded its academic offerings. Once it becomes accredited as a four-year university on Aug. 22, the university will begin to offer more courses in arts and humanities and strengthen its existing programs in history, borderland studies, Texas and American history and culture, and political science. University officials said the addition of the DRT Library will lift A&M-San Antonio’s profile in these areas.
“This collection and this partnership with the City, the County, and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas is an enormous movement forward for the university and our academic programming,” said Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of A&M-San Antonio. “We are laser-focused on our students’ success and expanding our campus with a great deal of experiential learning that this collection will provide to our academic community and throughout the state.”
The Presidio Gallery facility is equipped for high-security and can house environmentally sensitive materials such as those in the extensive DRT Library collection, which features rare and historical Texas books, documents, manuscripts, maps, paintings, photographs, sheet music, and newspaper clippings.
“The Daughters have over a long, long period of time accumulated documents, artifacts, just unbelievable treasures. … Some 39,000 different documents and artifacts” will be complemented by the County’s historical documents, said Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. “The heart of the Alamo is going to be right here.”
DRT leadership was unsure where the library collection would be housed after it was removed from the Alamo grounds and relocated to a storage facility. Collaboration among the DRT, Bexar County, the university, and the City of San Antonio – who leased the Centro de Artes building to A&M-San Antonio until its recent closure – made storing and showcasing the collection in the blast-proof building a reality.
“We’re all partners in this, we’re all trying to find the right fit … something that’s good for our city, good for downtown, and I think we have a great mix of champions for our city proving that we’re all finding what’s most appropriate for the collection of the DRT at this facility,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1).
When Treviño heard that the DRT was considering moving the collection into Centro de Artes, he worked to identify more suitable options for the collection and in turn preserve the Centro de Artes’ mission “to facilitate an understanding and appreciation of Latino arts and cultures and their influences on the United States through exhibitions and related educational programming for a variety of audiences.”
“(The Presidio Gallery) is a good fit. I’m very happy that this collection remains downtown,” he said. “As a fellow Alamo Committee member we are embarking on an incredible process to reimagine the Alamo and what (that) means is that this city treasures its art, its history.”
In a few months, the DRT Library will be unpacked and moved into the gallery space for public viewing Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. The lease agreement states that the university will have exclusive access to a vault in the basement, a document processing area, the gallery, and gallery offices on the first floor, as well about 1,000 sq. ft. of shared space. Given proper notice, Bexar County will also will be able to showcase its own historical archives, such as the exhibition “Nuestra Historia, Our History: Spain in Bexar County,“ which is currently on display there through Sept. 4.
The vaults and exhibit spaces in the facility include temperature and humidity controls, intrusion alarms, surveillance cameras, as well as LED lighting in rooms and document cases, all of which are ideal for aging documents that are sensitive to light and other environmental factors.
“For 125 years, the Daughters have devoted themselves to preserving and telling the story of Texas,” said Dr. Betty J. Edwards, Daughters of the Republic of Texas president general. “The collection is a priceless treasure of our state’s early history that researchers across the world have relied upon to learn the story of Texas’ struggle for independence.
“The (Presidio Gallery’s) location in downtown San Antonio and its archive-ready condition make it an ideal home for the collection and an appealing destination for those who have an interest in researching and learning about Texas history.”
Top image: Daughters of the Republic of Texas President Dr. Betty J. Edwards (center) laughs during a tour of their new facilities. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.