Fire Near San Jacinto Battlefield Causes Indefinite Closure

The San Jacinto battleground, along with the Battleship Texas museum, has been closed for an indefinite period of time following an ITC chemical fire that occurred in March of 2019. While fighting the fire, some of the fire suppressant foam along with toxic chemicals leaking from the tank flowed down into the Houston Ship Channel which lies between the battleground and the ITC chemical plant. Because of this, celebrations for the annual celebration of the Battle of San Jacinto were canceled. This is only the second time in thirty five years that the festivities have had to be canceled. This was a rather big letdown for many people as this remembrance celebration takes many months to plan. The Battle of San Jacinto was the last big battle of the Texas War for Independence which famously saw the Texan forces route the Mexican soldiers under the command of Santa Anna. Texan troops also ended up “capturing” Santa Anna’s prosthetic leg after the battle was over. At the end of the battle Santa Anna surrendered to Texan forces however this was not officially recognized by the American government. Battleship Texas is a famed battleship that sailed in both World Wars and was converted into a museum after being decommissioned.

Saving Syria: Syrian Refugee Project in Germany

Since 2013, Germany has taken in over 700,000 Syrian refugees due to the Syrian Civil War. These refugees are dispersed among Germany’s population of over 82 million people. Although this is still less than 1 percent of Germany’s population, Germany prioritized preserving Syrian culture, while facilitating a smooth assimilation process.

Syria has a rich culture and history that has been endangered due to the Syrian Civil War. Germany wants to make sure that Syrian artifacts and collections are preserved, as many sites have already been destroyed due to ISIS treatment of this particular places. ISIS views Syria’s historical sites as a threat to the Islamic religion – and it sells ancient artifacts to produce revenue. Recently, the city of Aleppo was leveled by ISIS forces and the ancient Roman theatre has become the chosen site for ISIS beheadings.

In order to keep record of Syria’s historical sites, especially those that are at risk, the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin and the German Archeological Institute reached an agreement with the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs to begin a program that would preserve Syria’s threatened artifacts.

The project aims to weave together present day viewpoints with digital records of Syria, including an online data base which already stores 200,000 photos and documents. Another goal is to build 3D models of the UNESCO sites that were destroyed, so that one day Syria can rebuild these ancient treasures.

Ancient City of Aleppo
Digital interface of the Syrian Archive Project. The collection currently houses over 200,000 items.

As public historians, the Syrian Archive Project raises several questions:

When accepting refugees from war-torn countries how can we preserve their history?

If we are holding these artifacts, who is the true owner? When should the artifacts be repatriated?

How, as public historians, do we handle this situation? What is our role?

Work Cited

“Ancient City of Aleppo”UNESCO. Retrieved 17 August 2011.

The Museum für IslamischeKunst (Museum of Islamic Art) belongs to Staatliche MuseenzuBerlin–Stiftung PreußischerKulturbesitz(State Museums of Berlin–Prussian Cultural Heritage Foudation), http://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/museum-fuer-islamische-kunst/home.html.

THE PUBLIC HISTORIAN, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 107–128 (November 2018). ISSN: 0272-3433, electronic ISSN 1533-8576. © 2018 by The Regents of the University of California and the National Council on Public History. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page, http://www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p1⁄4reprints. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2018.40.4.107.

St. Stanislaus Church

 

St. Stanislaus Church's front entrance, taken from the parking lot on a sunny afternoon.
The front entrance to St. Stanislaus Church

Known for being the second oldest Polish parish in the United States, St. Stanislaus Church stands far from the busy main street in Bandera, closer to the original survey location and modern day suburbs. The current limestone structure was built in 1876 by Polish immigrants who first settled the area in the 1850s. Gothic styling dominates the exterior of the church, while the interior is much more conservative, reflecting the parish mission of being focused on Catholic teachings.

 

The church is flanked by several buildings on the surrounding streets, with two old rectories for nuns, now a museum and church office, an adoration chapel (Now the priest’s quarters.), and the now defunct St. Jospeh’s school, which serves as a meeting hall for local christian groups.

 

Impacted but Not Broken

Here stands a beam from the South tower of the World Trade Center in the Bush Museum in Dallas, Texas. The beam – which stood strong despite the severe impact – is a metaphor to President Bush’s efforts to create solidarity amongst the American people. On September 11, 2001, America witnessed the worst attack to ever occur on American soil – but for a split second, race, religion, socioeconomic status, and political party did not matter because we are all Americans. America realized that in times of crisis, it must cling tight and not break – just like the beam of impact, twisted and dismantled, yet still strong. 

Beam in museum
Beam of Impact from World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas.

The Old Lone Star Brewery

The imposing front facade of the Old Lone Star Brewery, featuring it's two towers, battlements, and the modern skybridge connecting the east and west wings.
The front facade of the Old Lone Star Brewery from the public parking lot across the street. | Courtesy of Peter Coons.

Constructed between 1895 and 1905, the Old Lone Star Brewery is an imposing complex that does not spark to mind beer at first glance. The multiple-building site is more akin to a fortress with it’s towers and battlements. The complex has housed not only the original brewery it was built for, but also a cotton mill and several individual businesses after the passing of the Volstead Act made alcoholic beverages illegal in 1920.

In 1970, the complex was sold to it’s current occupants, the San Antonio Museum of Art. The museum, however, would not open to the public until 1981 with the completion of a $7.2 million dollar modern renovation.

The Geo-Political Battle for West Bank Antiquities

The front glass entrance to the Bible Land Museum, located in Jerusalem, on a bright, sunny day
Entrance to the Bible Land Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.

For the past fifty years, the Israeli government has been collecting confiscated artifacts from smugglers coming out of the West Bank region. Rather than sit on these ancient artifacts, the Bible Land Museum in Jerusalem has put on display 40,000 of these artifacts in an exhibit called “Finds Gone Astray”.

However, as many things are in this region, this exhibit was not without it’s controversy. Since 1967, following the Six Day War, Israel has occupied the West Bank territory. With the land under their control, they also control any archeological digs and artifact recovery operations. Thus, any and all confiscated artifacts since then have been in the possession of the Israeli government. Contesting the legality of the artifacts possession, the Palestinian Authority has demanded the immediate return of these artifacts to Palestine on several grounds.

Palestine claims that since the West Bank was their territory prior to the Six Day War, and since Israel is occupying it, then they deserve the right to own these items as the land is considered theirs. Palestine also claims that Israel is in violation of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, which prohibits the display of cultural and historical artifacts by an occupying force. Lastly, Palestine also claims that Israel is using the exhibit as a propaganda tool to argue for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, another hotly contested issue and a tool used by both countries.

This begs the question: What will become of these items in the event of peace? Who owns what? Will the contention of these items continue to sour already strained relations? The public has a right to view these historical and cultural artifacts, but the main point of contention is who should display it? The ethnic owners of these items, Israel, or the land’s occupiers, Palestine?

 

For further reading on this topic, please refer to this link: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2019-02-05/stolen-smuggled-artifacts-on-display-in-jerusalem-museum

John Hernandez Blog-02

In Chapter 2 of Faye Sayers, Public History, she goes on to list the different requirements for individuals that work as curators, archivist, and heritage center managers. With each of these requirements needing to be filled before they can obtain a job in these three fields. Each has their own part that they play in public history; with archivists focusing more on the research portion and gathering of local history. Curators focusing more on presenting and guiding visitors in museums as well as planning new ways of passing on the information to the general public. Lastly, with heritage center managers focusing on a mix of both information gathering and presenting the information to the public. The way Sayer describes the three jobs in public history falls into line with my definition of public history, that it is the gathering and presenting of history with the general public that may not be as interesting with history as a historian would be.

A good example of what Sayer discusses in Chapter 2 of her book, is the Institute of Texan Cultures and how they employ all three jobs positions in public history. With archivists and heritage center managers gathering the information for exhibits as well as the heritage center managers helping in presenting that information to the public. As well as curators and the heritage center managers, sharing the responsibility of interacting with the public and guiding them through exhibits, answering any questions about the history being taught. Within the Institute, the archivist focus on gathering that information through books, manuscripts, oral history and a collection of photographs (http://www.texancultures.com/visit/library/). Giving each of the groups of historians that they employ the information and resources to pass it on to the people.

Another would be in the Remembering Rondo, discussing how they gathered the information through oral history as well as the more “business” aspects of the project. The American Historical Association (https://www.historians.org) focuses more on employing those trained as archivists and heritage center managers more so than curators. While they serve historians in all fields and professions that they may find themselves in, they are more geared toward providing historians with up-to-date information, but make their online exhibits open to the public. Not only catering to just historians but the general public, providing historical information to all who are interested in learning more. While providing a membership program that supports historians across all fields that provides them with new and accurate information so to pass it on. With archivists making up the majority of those employed by the AHA to gather the history, whether it be through text or oral history and again making it available to not only historians but the public as well in and easy to access online archive.