Texas Insights - October 2014

Volume V, Issue 2
 

What’s New?

Discover the remarkable story of French explorer Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle’s historic voyage that spurred Spanish colonization and changed Texas history forever in a new exhibition, La Belle: The Ship that Changed History, on view October 25, 2014 through May 17, 2015, in the galleries of the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. The sinking of the French ship, La Belle, just off the Texas coast in 1686, and its subsequent excavation from Matagorda Bay in the 1990s, is one of the state’s greatest stories. The find is considered one of the most important shipwreck discoveries in North America. The Bullock Museum has produced the exhibition, bringing together for the first time the 17th-century ship timbers, more than 100 of the one million artifacts, video footage, interactive experiences, and a 4D film that tells this important Texas narrative.  
 
La Belle was the oldest French shipwreck ever revealed in the Western Hemisphere at the time of its discovery in the mid-1990s. It was painstakingly excavated through an archeological feat that included the use of a revolutionary cofferdam. The cornerstone of the exhibition is a live-action rebuild of the ship by conservators in full view of visitors. This reassembly of history will be accessible online via a live web cam stream provided through a partnership with the History Channel. Rebuilding of the ship will be led by marine archeologist Peter Fix of the Conservation Research Laboratory and Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation. Texas A&M University. A companion book will be available for sale in the Bullock Museum store, starting in October 2014. 
 
The Bullock Museum has produced, Shipwrecked, a new “4D” film based on the La Belle story. The film takes visitors on a perilous journey to North America with the great explorer La Salle as he attempts to establish a port colony at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Filmed on board one of the few sea worthy vessels modeled after ships of the 1600s, the film dramatizes the story of La Salle’s venture, revealing the personalities and struggles through the eyes of one of the only survivors of the expedition, a young boy named Pierre Talon, who recounts to his captors all he saw from the moment the ship set sail from France. The film will be on view daily in the Bullock Museum’s Texas Spirit Theater, a venue that offers an immersive experience combining visual drama with sensory 4D effects, such as rain, wind, lighting and rumbling seats. 
 
The discovery of the shipwreck La Belle uncovered a complete “time capsule” of European colonization efforts in North America. La Belle is a case study in historic preservation and in how archeologists, historians, and scientists understand the material evidence of the past and how museums share that past with the present. Guest-curated by Dr. James E. Bruseth, who oversaw the original excavation of the ship for the Texas Historical Commission and co-authored the book, From a Watery Grave: The Discovery and Excavation of La Salle's Shipwreck, La Belle, this show will be one of the most significant historical exhibits on early European settlement in the United States. 
 
When the temporary La Belle exhibition closes May 17, 2015, the ship will be moved into the main gallery of the Bullock Museum’s first floor. Around this pinnacle piece of Texas history, an elaborate permanent exhibition will be constructed to convey a comprehensive understanding of prehistoric Texas and early encounters between regional American Indians and European explorers. La Belle’s 54-foot keel and the hull will be the centerpiece of this complete first-floor renovation. The newly renovated first floor will reopen in November 2015.
 
La Belle: The Ship That Changed History is organized by the Bullock Texas State History Museum with the Texas Historical Commission, the Musee National de la Marine, and Texas A&M University. Support provided by the State of Texas, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the Texas State History Museum Foundation. 
 

 

Stories of a Workforce

The Houston Metropolitan Research Center and the Houston Public Library invite you to view their new exhibition titled, Stories of a Workforce: Celebrating the Centennial of the Houston Ship Channel. This exhibit, housed at the Julia Ideson Building in Houston, open now through January 30, 2015, features maps, signage, memorabilia, banners, painted portscapes, ship models, work gear, logs, and objects that enhance and illustration the story of the Ship Channel and the workers who made it a reality. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information.  Vis

 
 

Discovering Texas History Conference

The Texas State Historical Association, the Region 13 Education Service Center, and the Bullock Texas State History Museum are proud to present the Discovering Texas History Conference, November 13-14, 2014 at The Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin. This event, for 4th and 7th grade Texas history educators, will focus on the history of Texas from 1836-1900. Participants will be able to choose from a variety of breakout sessions addressing historical content, geography, economics, civics, teaching strategies, and resources. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information. Visit

 

Featured Institution

Amon G. Carter Museum of American Art

Amon G. Carter envisioned an art institution to house his collection that would be free and accessible to every community member. He wrote, “As a youth, I was denied the advantages which go with the possession of money. I am endeavoring to give those who have not had such advantages, but who aspire to the higher and finer attributes of life, those opportunities which were denied to me.” The Amon Carter Museum of American Art honors this legacy.
 
Through its nationally recognized education department, the museum carries out Amon G. Carter’s philanthropic vision each and every day. Programming geared to teachers and students is what connects the masterpieces in the Amon Carter’s collection to school audiences. The education department also helps fulfill the museum’s mission of serving an educational role. 
 
The museum began employing professional gallery teachers to facilitate student programs in 2002 after recognition that area students had few (if any) opportunities to interact with and learn from original works of art. Focused on Pre K–12 students in public and private schools and homeschool settings, this initiative connects the museum’s collections to classroom curricula through facilitated conversations led by a staff of six part-time, professionally trained gallery teachers. During museum experiences, gallery teachers employ an inquiry-based model that encourages students to contribute their observations and interpretations to discussions about works of art. Tours are multidisciplinary by design and bring together topics from language arts, math, social studies, science, and visual art—all of which support the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) learning objectives, as well as national teaching standards. 
 
Student program goals include creating relevancy between featured artworks, tour themes, and students’ lives. Revealing art’s relationship to history, language arts, math, science, and other disciplines extends the life and impact of the art museum experience, enabling students to relate to these concepts throughout the year, not just during a one-time visit. Additionally, gallery teacher-led tours at the Amon Carter are often students’ first visit to an art museum, their first opportunity to learn how art is relevant to daily life, and their first experience to discover that they are always welcome there and that museums are for everyone. Museum educators develop tour content in part by consulting with participating schools’ teachers and administrators, which ensures tours feature current educational pedagogy and continue to meet students’ needs. Tours are free of charge.
 
The Amon Carter regularly shares its collection through live, interactive, inquiry-based instruction beyond the doors of the museum, first into the community and surrounding area, then across the state and country, and finally internationally. Using a wireless, portable videoconferencing system that can be moved through the galleries to send and receive live video and audio feed, a museumeducator facilitates theme-based tours for educators and K–12 students. The camera can be positioned for very close inspection of individual works of art to enhance discussion. Most videoconference lessons make connections between art and the core subject areas, such as language arts, science, and social studies. Using this exciting technology, students and teachers have been able to virtually visit the museum from as far away as Taiwan and as close as our own city. 
 
In addition to student programs, the Amon Carter has a thriving professional development program for teachers. Museum educators have developed a successful formula for professional development that includes three important components: knowledge, strategies, and resources. Trainings are designed to be multi-disciplinary, and Amon Carter educators choose topics that relate to a range of classroom subjects and market sessions to a variety of teachers. During educator trainings, museum educators provide content knowledge related to American artists and artworks and suggest strategies for incorporating new knowledge into classroom practices. They model best practices so teachers can replicate these dialogue- and inquiry-based experiences with students, and they supply teachers with resources to introduce students to artworks and supplement existing lessons with works of art. Educator trainings include the Future Teacher Program, which introduces pre service teachers from area colleges and universities to the museum’s teacher and student resources and its collection. Educators may also utilize the museum’s Teaching Resource Center (TRC). The TRC is a lending library of free resources on American art, history, and art-making techniques in a wide range of formats, including art reproductions, books for adults and children, digital images, teaching guides, and videos. Many of the materials available for check out are unavailable to educators through other sources and provide unique support for improving students’ critical thinking skills. Educators of all grade levels throughout Texas may borrow collection materials for instructional use at no cost. Educators around the world may request digital images and supporting electronic documents for curriculum enrichment. The Amon Carter is one of three Texas art museums with a TRC and one of two Texas museums that is a repository for teaching resources from the National Gallery of Art. 
 
Prior to 2011, the museum charged teachers a supply fee to participate in many of its professional development programs. Feedback indicated that fees often prohibited teachers from attending. Building on the foundation of the Amon Carter offering free admission to its permanent collection, special exhibitions, and public programs, the museum offers all professional development programs at no charge.
 
By helping students and teachers understand the relevance of American art to their own lives, we are ensuring that current and future generations will have an appreciation for their cultural heritage and be able to contribute to an educated and well-rounded community. For more information about teacher or student programs, please email Sara Klein at teaching@cartermuseum.org. 
 

Historian's Corner

The Texas Declaration of Independence and the Creation of an Accidental Republic
By Stephen L. Hardin
McMurry University

The rebellion that transformed the Mexican region of Tejas into the Republic of Texas is a study in incongruity. The commonly accepted designations—the Texas Revolution or the Texas War of Independence—are deceptive. If “revolution” is “a fundamental change in political organization; especially, the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed,” the conflict failed to meet this definition. The revolt began as part of a Mexican civil war, in which both Texians and Tejanos supported the federalist cause. Unlike the French in 1789 or the Russians in 1917, the Texians never sought to reweave the fabric of Mexican society. Nor was this action initially a bid for complete separation from Mexico.
 
Texians made that plain in the preamble to a declaration issued on November 7, 1835:
Whereas, General Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, and other military chieftains, have, by force of arms, overthrown the Federal Institutions of Mexico, and dissolved the social compact which existed between Texas and the other members of the Mexican Confederacy; the good People of Texas, availing themselves of their natural right, SOLEMNLY DECLARE . . .
 
The following eight articles delineated their intentions and principles—but never mentioned “independence.” Notwithstanding all the war party agitation, most Texians maintained their moderate instincts: they fought to restore the federalist Constitution of 1824 and for the right to manage their own affairs without central government interference. Far from seeking “fundamental change,” most Texians yearned to reestablish the status quo.
 
Why then did Texians declare independence from Mexico just three months later? Texas leaders understood that they could not win the war alone. If Mexican federalists would not lend a hand, they must enlist assistance from the United States. Texians claimed thousands of acres of disposable land but they were cash poor. To win this war they first had to fight it. That required troops, weapons, and provender and all those items cost money—lots of it. U.S. President Andrew Jackson was unlikely to risk an international incident by openly supporting the Texas rebels against Mexico. Texians sought instead the support of individual Americans who championed their cause. The ad interim government dispatched Stephen F. Austin as an agent to the United States. Once in the "old states" the empresario appealed to supporters to provide volunteers, funds, and supplies. He and other Texas agents visited American banks to secure loans for the rebel effort. 
 
There, however, they encountered a dilemma. Banks in the north would not consider supporting a cause that might ultimately bring another slave state into the union. Southern bankers, while more sympathetic, refused to lend their money so long as the war remained a Mexican domestic dispute. They might be interested if—and only if—Texians declared their complete separation from Mexico. 
Why this southern support for Texas independence?  Southerners anticipated that an independent Texas would remain independent for, say, six months before entering the union as a slave state. In 1836, the United States had an equal number of free and slave states. Since both free and slave states voted as a block, it created a legislative gridlock with neither side being able to gain advantage. Southerners believed that adding Texas to the list of slave states would tip the congressional balance of power in their favor. 
 
In a rambling letter dated January 7, 1836, Austin neatly summed up the situation. 
 
I go for Independence for I have no doubt we shall get aid, as much as we need and perhaps more—and what is of equal importance—the information from Mexico up to late in December says that the Federal party has united with Santa Anna against us, owing to what has already been said and done in Texas in favor of Independence so that our present position under the constitution of 1824, does us no good with the Federalists, and is doing us harm in this country, by keeping away the kind of men we most need[.] [W]ere I in the convention[,] I would urge an immediate declaration of Independence—unless there be some news from the [Mexican] interior that changed the face of things—and even then, it would require very strong reasons to prevent me from the course I now recommend. 
 
When Stephen Fuller Austin spoke, Texians listened. By March 2, 1836, nearly all of them believed that their best hope for the future rested on complete separation from Mexico. Consequently, declaring independence was not so much an act of political conviction as it was an exercise in expedience. 
 
At the time, Texians did not consider the approval of a declaration of independence a momentous occasion. Most representatives arrived in Washington knowing full well that independence was a forgone conclusion. Virginia observer Fairfax Gray captured the insouciant nature of the proceedings in his diary but they so underwhelmed him that he did not even record author George Childress's name correctly. The important news of the day, at least as far as Gray was concerned, was the break in the weather: "The morning clear and cold, but the cold somewhat moderated." Only then, did he mention—almost as an afterthought—that the Convention had approved the declaration of independence:
 
The Convention met pursuant to adjournment. Mr. Childers [sic], from the committee, reported a Declaration of Independence, which he read in this place. It was received by the house, committed to a committee of the whole, reported without amendment, and unanimously adopted, in less than one hour from its first and only reading. It underwent on discipline, and no attempt was made to amend it. The only speech made upon it was a somewhat declamatory address in committee to the whole by General Houston. 
 
And it was done; the delegates merely rubber-stamped a question that they had already decided.
 
Following the victory at San Jacinto, most Texians believed (or at least hoped) that annexation to the United States would quickly follow. It was not to be. Back in the “old states,” the northeastern voting block stymied southern schemes to immediately annex Texas to the union.
 
Texians began to realize that they were on their own. In the fullness of time, a curious phenomenon occurred: Texians began to take their nationality seriously. President Mirabeau B. Lamar dreamed of a Texas Republic bordered on the east by the Gulf of Mexico and on the west by the Pacific Ocean.
 
Yet, such dreams were mere fantasies. During its entire existence the nation hovered near bankruptcy. The experiment in nationhood was a heroic failure, but nonetheless a failure. In December 1845, when the United States finally annexed the Republic, one could almost hear a collective sigh of relief.
 
Modern Texans take pride that their state was once a sovereign nation; it is one of the central tenants of Texas exceptionalism. Indeed, some chauvinistic citizens call for a restoration of the Texas Republic, erroneously describing the period from 1836 to 1846 as a golden age.  The irony is that the delegates at Washington-on-the Brazos never viewed the republic as anything more than a contrivance on the road to U.S. annexation. 
 

Featured Lesson

The decisive, Convention of 1836 is where ordinary men of Texas wrote the Texas Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the Republic of Texas, organized the ad interim government, and named Sam Houston commander-in-chief of the military forces of the Republic, becoming extraordinary men in the process. As you prepare to teach the Texas Revolution, make sure to include, The Ordinary or Extraordinary Men of the Convention of 1836, from the Star of the Republic Museum. In this lesson, students will examine the background of men who participated in the Convention of 1836 and explain how they impacted Texas’s declaring independence from Mexico, while at the same time discover how an ordinary person can become extraordinary. 
 

Texas History News

Several opportunities for Texas history educators and students are available or are on the near horizon:

The Smithsonian Institution, the Texas State Historical Association, and the Harrison County Historical Museum would like to invite you to visit the Journey Stories exhibit while it is in Marshall, Texas. Each Tuesday, through November 2, 2014, join the Harrison County Historical at the Weisman center for their Tuesday Lunch Topics, which feature presentations from various Marshall Area citizens, telling their own Journey Stories. 
 
 
The Texas State Historical Association and the Region 17 Education Service Center are proud to present the Texas History Workshop, October 21, 214 at the Region 17 Education Service Center in Lubbock. This workshop will cover Texas history from 1682 to the present. Deadline to register for this event is October 13, 2014. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
For the first time in decades, some of Fort Travis Seashore Park’s Historic Bunker and Battery will be open for tours during the Jane Long Festival, courtesy of the Galveston County Parks Service which has been making exciting changes to this unique park. Hosted by the Bolivar Peninsula Cultural Foundation, on October 11th, the festival will include local art, craft and food booths, expanded parking, a children’s pavilion to include games, face painting, and snow cones, a silent auction, local artists, and live entertainment, including western shootouts and music. For more information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
 
 
The Texas Council on the Social Studies Annual Fall Conference will be held in Galveston, October 31–November 2, 2014 at the Moody Gardens Conference Center. Texas history teachers are invited to visit the Texas History “Mega Booth,” to learn about programs from the Texas State Historical Association, the Texas General Land Office, the Portal to Texas History, the Texas Archive of the Moving Image, the Texas Alliance for Geographic Education, and the Bullock Texas State History Museum. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org. 
Join the Texas Historical Commission and the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site for their annual Father of Texas Celebration.  This event, on November 1, 2014, is designed to honor the early Texas pioneers. Enjoy a day filled with special presentations and hands-on activities for the whole family to enjoy. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information. 
 
 

 

Step back in time with the Brazoria County Historical Museum as it presents the Ninth Annual Austin Town, November 7-8, 2014. A living history re-enactment, Austin Town recalls and celebrates the lives of those pioneers who settled Colonial Texas from 1821-1832. Set just north of Angleton, the fictitious Austin Town features character interpreters, demonstrators, sutlers, militia drill units, and period games. See TeachingTexas.org for more information.
 
Houston Arts and Media are proud to present the Houston History Book Fair and Symposium. Hosted by the Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Houston Public Library, and Story Sloane's Gallery, this event will take place at the Historic Julia Ideson Building on November 8, 2014. Activities will include meeting the authors of many publications, door prizes, speakers, dozens of local history books will be available for purchase. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
 

 

Join Great Promise for the American Indian for their 23 Annual Austin Powwow and American Indian Heritage Festival, hosted in the City of Sunset Valley at the Toney Burger Center. The event will be held on Saturday, November 8, 2014 from 9am to 10 pm, and will feature traditional Native American dancers, singers, arts and crafts, storytelling and foods. This is the largest Native American gathering in Texas. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org. 
 
Humanities Texas is accepting nominations for the Linden Heck Howell Outstanding Teaching of Texas History Award. This award is open to any teacher who teaches a Texas History course. The winner is presented with a $5000 cash award and an additional $500 for their school to purchase instructional materials. Nomination deadline is December 12, 2014. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org.
 

 
The Texas State Historical Association is accepting nominations for the Mary Jon and J.P. Bryan Leadership in Education Award. This annual award is to recognize and honor an outstanding history teacher in Texas. This award is open to any secondary or higher education educator who teaches history in Texas. The winner is presented with a cash award of $5,000. The deadline to submit a nomination is December 12, 2014. For additional information, visit TeachingTexas.org. 
 

 
   
Join the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza on November 18, 2014 for a presentation from the Dallas Times Herald photographers who experienced the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. What begin as a routine assignment for William Allen, Darryl Heikes, Bob Jackson, and Eamon Kennedy, quickly evolved into one of the most significant news stories of the 20th century. Visit TeachingTexas.org for additional information. 
 
 
The Texas State Historical Association and the Region 4 Education Service Center are proud to present the Encountering Texas History Conference, February 13-14, 2015 at the Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston. This event, for 4th and 7th grade Texas history educators, will focus on the history of Texas from 1900 to the present. Visit TeachingTexas.org for more information. 
 

Texas Insights is a publication of the Texas State Historical Association
in cooperation with the University of North Texas.

Texas State Historical Association
1155 Union Circle #311580
Denton, TX 76203-5017

Stephen Cure - Editor
JoNeita Kelly - Associate Editor

 

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