Phil Collins Sets Off a New Battle Over the Alamo

SAN ANTONIO—When

Phil Collins

donated his huge trove of Alamo-related artifacts to Texas seven years in the past, his solely main stipulation was that the state create a museum at the famed mission fort to show it by 2021. The state agreed, breaking floor on the house this summer season.

But Texans differ on whether or not the museum, anchored by this assortment donated by Mr. Collins, needs to be centered on celebrating the small group of leaders who performed key roles or replicate a broader, extra difficult story.

Some native activists like

George Cisneros

and

Ramon Vasquez

imagine the Alamo museum ought to extra deeply discover the contributions of Texans of Mexican descent, or Tejanos, in addition to Native Americans and Black indentured and enslaved individuals. Some politicians like Republican

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

are open to broadening the museum as long as the focus stays on the battle itself and its leaders, like

Davy Crockett.

Others are digging in in opposition to what they imagine is an incorrect rewriting of historical past.

Phil Collins, proven in 2014 when he donated his assortment to Texas, inadvertently set off a tradition struggle over whether or not the Alamo’s new museum ought to focus extra on contributions made by indigenous and Black individuals, in addition to Mexican-born Texans.



Photo:

Gary Miller/Getty Images

Years of public hearings and cloistered workshops haven’t smoothed tensions. The debate has gotten so heated lately that Alamo vacationers have needed to navigate round armed protesters with the intention to attain its iconic church.

“It’s turned into a circus,” stated

Dora Guerra,

a retired rare-book librarian who labored at the Alamo library.

The Alamo mission fort is legendary as a result of a small band of settlers and frontiersmen, together with Crockett, died there preventing a bigger Mexican military in 1836 in a bid for Texan independence. Mr. Collins’s present consists of a whole bunch of things associated to that battle, from musket balls excavated close by to paperwork signed by Crockett.

The disagreement over the Alamo displays displays arguments elsewhere as museums and historic websites round the nation grapple with their histories, rethink exhibit narratives, scrutinize donors’ fortunes and verify the range of their administration.

The Alamo itself stays a touchstone in U.S. historical past and widespread tradition. Hollywood frequently lionizes characters like Crockett, notably portrayed by

John Wayne

in 1960. Before the pandemic, Texas’s prime landmark attracted 1.6 million guests a yr.

Some need the Alamo museum to inform a model of the battle that lionizes solely a few fighters like Davy Crockett, portrayed by John Wayne the 1960 movie, ‘The Alamo.’



Photo:

Mary Evans/AF Archive/Everett Collection

“The Alamo has such a mythical status that everyone thinks they know its story, but maybe they only really know about one day, or a few moments,” stated

Brian Franklin,

affiliate director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. “The devotion is almost religious.”

Mr. Cisneros, a personal citizen, stated he joined the Alamo Citizens Advisory Committee as a result of he needs the landmark’s managers to re-examine the fort’s narrative. He stated he worries that the museum will preserve the white fighters at the middle and ignore the Tejanos who fought alongside them.

Following an Oct. 5 committee assembly, Mr. Cisneros emailed the committee to say he’s afraid the state-approved museum will probably be “an expensive palace glorifying the Alamo myth.”

Mr. Vasquez, a spokesman for the indigenous Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation attended the similar assembly the place he stated, “We’ve got to bring other stories and people to the forefront because for too many years they’ve been the afterthought.”

The nonprofit Alamo Trust stated its exhibit narrative remains to be taking form. State and metropolis funding is in place and Mr. Collins’s deadline is looming, so organizers broke floor in mid-August on a $20 million exhibition corridor and collections constructing. Afterward, it plans to construct a bigger, $140 million museum to open in 2026.

Mr. Collins is well-known amongst Texana collectors for spending a long time amassing round 430 objects together with Mexican Gen.

Santa Anna’s

orders for the battle and Alamo-era knives like the sort wielded by frontier fighter

Jim Bowie.

The rock star unearthed some artifacts himself over a decade in the past, in line with a 2012 e-book he wrote about his efforts.

Mr. Collins, at the moment on tour with Genesis, declined by way of his supervisor to remark. In his e-book, he wrote, “It might seem strange that something so American could affect someone so young thousands of miles away,” and added: “The Alamo story stuck with me, and there’s no getting away from that.”

Kate Rogers,

the belief’s new government director, stated Mr. Collins’s assortment is a catalyst to “tell a more robust story” about the Alamo. She stated the belief intends to inform a model that stretches lengthy earlier than and after the battle itself. It will even spotlight others linked to the website together with Tejanos, indigenous individuals and Franciscan friars.

Seemingly any change to the Alamo website can provoke sturdy feelings amongst Texans.

Armed militia teams like This is Texas Freedom Force helped scuttle a plan to maneuver a 56-foot-tall marble monument on the plaza. A proposed plan to encompass a few of the fort in plexiglass partitions was additionally curtailed after a number of teams pushed again, saying it was out of character for the website.

In July, Mr. Patrick, the lieutenant governor, ordered the Bullock Texas State History Museum to cancel an authors’ on-line panel to debate a new e-book, “Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth,” which examines the neglected position that slavery performed in the run-up to the battle.

Messages left with the lieutenant governor weren’t returned. At the time, he issued a assertion criticizing the e-book as “polemic posing as history.”

Chris Tomlinson,

one in all the e-book’s co-authors, stated he has since declined provides to revive the panel that includes state-approved historians. “We were told to show up or not, and they said they were going to tear apart our book no matter what we did,” Mr. Tomlinson stated of the organizers of the panel and Mr. Patrick.

The Alamo simply broke floor on a $20 million exhibition corridor and collections constructing, proven right here in a rendering, that can home Phil Collins’s Alamo-related artifacts when it opens subsequent yr.



Photo:

Gensler/GRG/Alamo Trust, Inc

Another rendering of the deliberate exhibition corridor, which will probably be used for artwork storage and conservation, in addition to touring displays after a bigger museum is completed in 2026.



Photo:

Gensler/GRG/Alamo Trust, Inc

For those that work at the website like

Ernesto Rodriguez,

the Alamo’s senior curator, the hope is that the new areas can supply a lasting detente. Standing lately in the small room that at the moment serves as the Alamo’s artwork storage vault, he stated the Alamo can show solely about 100 of the roughly 2,500 items in the general assortment.

Until a few years in the past, vacationers arriving on the website discovered few displays that would assist guests reimagine what the fort could have regarded like other than peeking into the church itself or a small constructing close by housing some souvenirs.

“People all know the saying—‘Remember the Alamo’—but our job is to tell them why,” Mr. Rodriguez stated.

The new Alamo museum will probably be anchored by Phil Collins’s assortment of round 430 objects, together with Alamo-era knives like the sort wielded by frontier fighter Jim Bowie.



Photo:

Robert Daemmrich/Corbis/Getty Images

The Alamo’s historians nonetheless say they should rent impartial provenance researchers to pore over the possession histories of Mr. Collins’s items to filter out doable forgeries or misattributions.

Patrick Gallagher,

an exhibit designer working with curators, stated they may reattribute something to the Alamo period or label items as reproductions.

Ms. Rogers, the government director, stated it intends to use a simple method to the whole Alamo story. If it requires debunking the lore that fort commander Lt. Col.

William Barret Travis

used his sword to attract a line in the sand when looking for volunteers to combat to the loss of life at the Alamo, so be it.

If the “evidence shows it didn’t happen, we’ll address how the story became part of popular culture—we’ll unpack it,” she stated.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

How do you suppose organizers ought to current the historical past of the Alamo in the new museum? Join the dialog under.

Write to Kelly Crow at kelly.crow@wsj.com

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