Monday, October 04, 2010

Collecting strangeness at the Alamo

They have a lot of weird things at the Alamo, but don't go thinking they'll accept just whatever you feel like donating. Even if they already have a bunch of cringe-worthy dolls.
A coconut from the Battle of San Juan Hill. A Bavarian candy jar. An Apollo 15 moon flag.

Those are things at the Alamo you might never see. The Texas shrine, which began celebrating the 175th anniversary of the war for Texas independence Saturday, has accumulated everything from the precious to the bizarre among its roughly 1,500 artifacts.

Most are listed, with an estimated value, in an inventory with the state comptroller's office. There's “David Crockett's wallet,” $400; “Santa Anna's cot and chest,” $500.

The collection also includes dolls dressed as Crockett and Jim Bowie that “probably were wonderful in the 1960s, but now look kind of creepy,” said Bruce Winders, Alamo historian and curator.


But for decades, collectors, families and veterans of every conflict from the Civil War to War World War I have wanted items kept for posterity at the Alamo, even if they had no historical link to the site.

“People were giving things to the Alamo even before the D[aughters of the] R[epublic of] T[exas] came” in 1905, Winders said.

That's one reason he can't explain why there's a two-handed Chinese fighting sword at the Alamo.


The Alamo collection is good hands today, Winders said. The Alamo, which charges no admission, hired a designer and museum specialists, and ordered display cases from Germany, in 2005 to create a “professional and modern look” in the Long Barrack, he said. Winders hopes to add similar displays in the chapel and sales museum.

“We still have a way to go, but most people who come back to the Alamo comment on the progress they notice, not the problems,” he said.

For now, space at the Alamo is as valuable as some of its relics.

“We no longer accept two-handed Chinese fighting swords,” Winders said.

(from Scott Huddleston of the Express-News)

In other words, keep your artifacts. There's no room at the mission.

Lisa Krantz/Express-News

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