TRAVEL THERE: THE WITTE MUSEUM IN SAN ANTONIO
The South Texas Heritage Center sets the Witte apart from any run-of-the-mill science and natural history museum.
Our first stop in San Antonio was The Witte Museum. I’d never visited it before, even though I’ve been to San Antonio many times. Most of my other trips have been overnight, two days as the most, and I prefer art museums over all others, especially one like The Witte, which used to be billed as a science and natural history museum. I’m not into stuffed animals and models of the solar system.
A New Description Captures My Attention
The Witte no longer calls itself a science and natural history museum. Now they are “San Antonio’s premiere museum of South Texas history, culture, and natural science.” That sounds a whole lot more like something I want to see. They’ve also just finished a “South Texas Heritage Center”with a special exhibitions called “Porfirio Salinas: Capturing South Texas on Canvas.” That certainly peaked my interest.
Bill, bless his heart, goes to these places because I want to, but I thought he might enjoy a special exhibition called CSI. However, it was 3PM when we arrived, only two hours before closing, so the CSI exhibit was immediately deleted – especially since it required a separate entrance fee. Just ahead of us a bus tour was arranging itself in the first gallery, so we detoured into another one. OOOPS, stuffed animals! So I checked the map and exited out a side door.
The South Texas Cultural Center
Once we stepped outside the main building, the South Texas Cultural Center was right in front of us. Inside, it being December and all, we found an unusual holiday tree just outside the Salinas exhibit. Come to find out, Salinas was a painter of bluebonnets a la William A. Slaughter. Every bit as good and with his own style, but his primary subject was bluebonnets, just like the more famous Slaughter. The exhibition was housed in a small gallery, but Bill had a hard time getting me out of there.
The rest of the first floor was devoted to the Old Time Trail Drivers Association. There were wonderful old photos, gorgeous saddles, interesting equipment and lots of logbooks and journals, but time was a-wasting and we still had a lot to see.
Upstairs was a mock-up of a South Texas town with a lot of artifacts strewn among the scenery. We strolled along and picked up quite a bit of history, but didn’t linger overlong. Next on my list was the Betty Coates Textile Gallery, because that’s where the Fiesta dresses are.
Back Inside the Main Building
As far as I’m concerned, the textile gallery alone is well worth a visit to The Witte. One of my favorite things about the Tyler Rose Garden is the Rose Queen gowns museum. Well, the Betty Coates Textile Gallery is the Tyler museum in miniature, but instead of Rose Queen gowns, gowns from San Antonio’s Fiesta are displayed. Just like a Rose Queen, Fiesta Royalty chooses themes for their coronation finery and the gowns on display were devoted to patriotism. We got an eyeful of red-white-and-blue glitz and glamour there.
Magic Lanterns, a Special Exhibition
Around the corner we found a special exhibition, focusing on a form of photography most folks don’t even know about, Magic Lanterns. I happened to take both a photography course and a history of cinema course while I was completing my BA in performance arts, so Magic Lanterns were something I’d been versed in from several points of view. Magic Lanterns were fancy slide shows at the time photography was still in its infancy. It was the x-box of it’s day. I’m just guessing, but I’m betting this was Bill’s favorite part of the museum.
We whirled through the rest of the museum so quickly that I can’t give you a coherent report. Here’s the bottom line: The Witte is no longer a building full of dead animals. A lot more is happening. Put it on your itinerary next time you go to San Antonio. You’ll be glad you did.
So where are we headed next? La Mansion del Rio! Don’t miss it.