The Witte Museum announced Wednesday that the museum has entered into a partnership with the Rock Art Foundation that gives the Witte administrative and logistical stewardship over the foundation and the White Shaman Preserve in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. The new agreement allows the Witte to exhibit rock art paintings, organize trips to the preserve, coordinate fundraising efforts, and manage the foundation’s staff.

Established in 1991, the Rock Art Foundation promotes the conservation and study of Native American rock art in the Southwest Texas region. It conserves rock art painted thousands of years ago and educates the public on its history and significance through tours and research opportunities.

In a press conference, Witte President and CEO Marise McDermott said that the partnership is a perfect fit for the museum.

“One of the most important aspects of the Witte Museum is to celebrate the people of thousands of years ago,” she said.

She added that the Museum tries to celebrate the first people of the land that would eventually become Texas as we know it today, and that the rock paintings under the care of the Rock Art Foundation were created by Native Americans 4,000-5,000 years ago.

Greg Williams, CEO of the Rock Art Foundation, said that the partnership with the Witte isn’t a new one, as the museum has exhibited thousands of artifacts from the foundation’s site in the past.

“The Witte and the Rock Art Foundation have been walking together for many years,” Williams said. “We have shared goals. We have deep friendships. And this seems to be the natural thing to do.”

Williams added that the partnership was the best case scenario in keeping the Rock Art Foundation active and growing, as the Witte’s pool of established visitors would help expand the audience of those seeking to know more about Native American art.

After signing the agreement, McDermott told the Rivard Report what potential visitors will have to do to gain access to the site.

“The Witte Museum will be the steward of the White Shaman Preserve,” she said. “Researchers and visitors who want to go will go through the Witte to have access to it. And we welcome that. Our goal is preservation and access.”

Williams told the Rivard Report that the Witte Museum will carry forward the same obejctives the Rock Art Foundation founded its operations on.

“The Witte Museum has the same goals and commitments that we do, and they can honor that for our future,” he said. “This is the most perfect alignment that I could have ever imagined.”

After the press conference, McDermott and other staff members gave a press tour of the exhibit hall that several rock paintings will be installed in when the “New Witte” opens in March 2017. The museum will feature a permanent exhibition titled “People of the Pecos,” which includes three galleries and associated labs: the Kittie West Nelson Ferguson People of the Pecos Gallery, the Patty and Robert Hayes Habitation diorama, the George Williams Fate Bell Shelter, the Nancy Smith Hurd Rock Art Lab, the Capital Group Companies Outdoor Lab, and the Lifeways Lab, will all teach museum goers ancient ways of living.

Harry Shafer, the Witte’s curator of archaeology, summed up what the new exhibits will mean for the new partnership.

“What I love about this is that there’s going to be so much information here,” Shafer said. “Then, with the Rock Art Foundation, people can actually go to these sites. That was the missing element.”

 Top Image: Witte Museum President and CEO Marise McDermott and CEO of The Rock Art Foundation Greg Williams discuss plans to take over the preservation efforts in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands. Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.