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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Culture Report: Witte Museum...

This morning I was reading through the Express-News and saw a story on the Lens on South Texas photograph exhibit at the Witte Museum and decided we hadn't had enough culture in our lives recently. Hey, I got the full U-Verse package at my house, but still, sometimes you have to go someplace besides your living room for a little entertainment.

If you haven't been down to the Witte or haven't been in a while, it really is a nice place to check out. It is located north of downtown on Broadway just south of Alamo Heights. We paid $7.00 each plus another $2.00 to go look at the stupid dinosaurs.
Let me save you some time. If you are not bringing a kid under the age of say, 7 or 8, skip the dinosaurs; they are those weird animatronic deals like you see at Disney or Chuck E. Cheese, but in the shape of, well, dinosaurs, and they don't sing songs or dance, they just make dinosaur sounds. If you want to donate the money for a good cause, great, but don't say I didn't warn you.
Anyway, on to what I wanted to see, and that was the pictures. I guess over the years, the museum has saved quite a collection of old photos taken in and around San Antonio and south west Texas, and here, they have put the images on display with captions. I know, sounds a lot like going through an old family album of strangers, but there is something revealing about seeing people pose at a time when photographs were not the everyday thing they have become in the age of digital cameras and cell phone shots. Back then, it was quite a treat to have some guy make your picture.

The display wouldn't be complete without a few photos of notable citizens of the time. One picture shows the famous Indian Geronimo posing in cowboy boots and a straw hat while being held as a prisoner of war at Ft Sam Houston. Another has Teddy Roosevelt posing shortly before his charge up San Juan Hill. And there are several local names you might recognize as well. Madam Candelerio apparently did some nursing of Jim Bowie at the Alamo. I assume it was medical related. Notice her portly dog and you can see that San Antonio got an early start on the Fattest City in America.
It isn't that I am some photography buff or even a student of history, but as my wife and I watched a slide show of the pictures on display set to some good ol' Texas music, we smiled and giggled at how darn goofy some of the people looked, trying to get all gussied up for the big picture moment. Oh, and lots of folks in the 1800's were cross-eyed.
There was one picture of a little Mexican girl described as being in a sort of border refugee camp who looked like the spitting image of our niece, Erica. It was amazing. And I think it is those sorts of coincidences or the humor that you can appreciate from the old pictures that makes the trip worth it.
But if not, the Witte offers much more. We wandered outside along the beautiful patio to look up a plaque that proudly displays the names of fallen San Antonio veterans of World War I where my wifes uncle is listed.They have some log cabins with interactive displays to teach youngsters how to build one as well as displays along the edge of the San Antonio River to explain how a river works, I guess.
Kids and adults will love the HEB Science Treehouse. We went inside and messed around with the KENS-TV Weather center where you can make your own weather forecast and learn how Bill Taylor does his headless weatherman trick on Halloween. All good stuff.The treehouse itself is pretty cool and I can imagine this place alone would keep kids occupied for hours. I especially liked this gate near the side of the patio donated by Frost Bank. It has lots of cool art work including a spider web. Probably looks even better from the front.

Anyway, if you feel the urge to get away from the house for a little while, I'd say this is a nice little trip that can take as little as an hour or as long as you'd like to make it last. We definitely didn't see everything in the museum, but we had a great time.

Note: I'm not sure about the legality of using the few pictures I have posted here. The sign in the Witte said it was cool to take pictures as long as you didn't use a flash, so technically, the pictures posted here are mine, but the pictures taken of pictures are property of the Witte Museum Collection and should be noted as such.


Blonde Goddess said...

I love the old photographs at museums! That's the best part of the visit in my opinion. I always love to look at the people in the pictures and wonder what their lives were like.

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed the Witte. Thanks for including us in your blog. I had to chuckle at your comments about the dinosaurs ... but, you're right: They're mainly for youngsters. And the kids have really enjoyed them. One grandma told me she had to bring her grandchildren four times! We had more than 160,000 visitors to the dinos last summer. That was beyond our expectations. You and other adults may be more interested in what's coming January 26 - Our Body: The Universe Within. It will be a little pricier, but these sorts of exhibits have been blockbusters in major cities all around the world. Thanks again. And watch our website for coming events: www.wittemuseum.org

Jim Dalglish, Vice President of Communications, Witte Museum

Dave said...

Thanks for your comments.

Tammie, you would have loved the pictures in this show - lots of interesting lives captured doing what they did in those days - surviving.

Jim, glad you found the blog. We really did enjoy our visit and won't wait so long to visit the next time.

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed the exhibit I organized. You totally got the point I was aiming for. Nice review. Thanks. Bruce Shackelford, Brown Foundation Curator, Witte Museum

Shorty said...

I've got to get myself to this place. I've lived here all my life and I've never gone. I would love to get a gander at those old photos and I'm sure the nephews and nieces would love the dinos. I know my nephew would love the weather stuff. I also heard it was haunted, so that's always a plus.

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San Antonio, TX, United States
I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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