A larger-than-ever trove of artifacts from the Texas Revolution will be on display in a museum-like space on the Alamo grounds starting next year.
The two-story, 24,000-square-foot building is planned for the eastern corner of the Alamo grounds, an area currently part of the Alamo Gardens, staff parking, and an office for the Alamo Rangers security patrol.
The hall will be the first new building on the Alamo grounds since the formation of the Alamo Plan, a seven-year effort by the City of San Antonio, Texas General Land Office, and Alamo Trust to redevelop the site. The announcement comes as the City prepares to close Alamo Street in June and enter the design phase for planned upgrades to Alamo Plaza.
Alamo officials say the collections building is not intended to replace a planned museum and visitors center. Last month, City Council approved amending a lease agreement that specifies building the museum in the footprint of the Crockett and Woolworth buildings on the west side of the plaza.
Alamo Trust officials say the new collections building will include 10,000 square feet of room for exhibits, a fivefold increase from the amount currently available. Only 1% of Alamo Trust’s museum collection is currently on display, due to lack of space, according to Kristi Miller Nichols, the Alamo’s director of archaeology, collections, and historical research. The new collections building will increase that to around 20%, she said.
“I hope it really just inspires a sense of inquiry, a sense of wonder,” Nichols said of the new exhibit space.
Earlier this spring, the public got a glimpse of some of the artifacts that will be housed in the new facility when Alamo officials showed a selection of rock musician Phil Collins’ collection, which includes original battle orders from General Antonio López de Santa Anna and other objects that were put on temporary display.
”I think it’s been a while since we showcased something new,” Nichols said. “That’s probably one of the reasons the Collins preview was so well received.”
Nichols has been an archaeologist for 22 years and worked at the University of Texas at San Antonio and private engineering firm Raba Kistner before coming to the Alamo in 2018. Archaeologists rarely have the chance to see to see a brand-new building constructed to safely and display artifacts, she said.
Alamo Trust staff consulted with the Witte Museum, Texas Historical Commission, and Texas General Land Office on the best way to house and display sensitive papers and other material.
“This is going to be a state-of-the-art, built-from-the-ground-up collections storage facility for the museum objects as we get ready for the new museum,” Nichols said. “It’s very rare than an institution is able to start from the ground up.”
The new construction gives Alamo staff members the chance to use the best available equipment to care for the collection. For example, they have assured that fragile artifacts such as Santa Anna’s order won’t deteriorate when exposed to excessive light, Nichols said.
“We’re going to try to do something very creative and make sure that people have the ability to see these paper documents a lot more frequently, whether that’s through reproduction or special [display] cases,” she said.
But it’s not clear yet whether the State or private fundraisers will be able to raise the hundreds of millions of dollars needed for the planned museum that would exhibit a wider array of artifacts and tell the story of the Alamo’s history.
“We still intend to move forward with the design of the full museum, which is going to have the majority of the museum collection out on display,” Nichols said.
Alamo officials plan to break ground on the collections building this summer and open it to the public in summer or fall of 2022.