After five years of planning, the Briscoe Western Art Museum opens this weekend in the former Hertzberg Circus Museum downtown, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The Briscoe, which is named in honor of former Gov. Dolph Briscoe, will be the premiere museum telling the 'iconic story of the American west and the people who lived there,' according to Jonathan Spaulding, who gave 1200 WOAI news a tour of the museum on Wednesday.
"We find San Antonio as a really great window of what's going on in the west, because it is this crossroads where you really see the future shape of America," Spaulding said.
The Briscoe Museum includes some 700 artifacts and works of art, many of them unique and some from private collections which have never been seen in public before.
Among the items on display are an original western cattle drive chuck wagon, and the personal sword of Mexican general and dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana. The museum features authentic Mexican Army uniforms from the Alamo period, and an amazing diorama which features the Mexican Army and the Texians defending the Alamo in vivid detail, including an ability to push a button, see the individual who are 'talking with' highlighted on the diorama, and hear their original story.
But Spaulding says the Briscoe is about far more than Texas. He says before putting together the museum, officials went all across the American west, from the beaches of southern California to Seattle tot he Rocky Mountains to the Dakotas to San Antonio, and asked people what their idea was about the American west.
"The fascinating this was, no matter where you go, even in places people think are very different, whether it was at Venice Beach or the Alamo, people had common themes," he said.
The art and artifacts tell the stories of the vaquero, the American cowboy, and the Native Peoples of the west through their words, their art, and artifacts touching their lives.
Spaulding says one thing that is amazing when you walk through the Briscoe is how so few big issues change. He points out that the story of the west boils down to changing demographics and disputes over water, which are the same things which are top of mind in 2013.
"Water is the defining element in the west, because of its scarcity," he said. "It is the critical element that defined the west."
City officials have stressed the importance of the Briscoe Museum as a key attraction downtown, and within walking distance of the Alamo. They say tourists who go through the Alamo will then be directed to the Briscoe for a more in depth look at the history and culture of the region.
"Our thematic galleries allow visitors to explore at their leisure, creating their own narrative through themes such as movement, work, opportunity, and conflict," said Museum Executive Director Dr. Steven Karr. ''
He points out that culture, not chronology, are the centerpieces of the Briscoe, which also contains meeting space in a new wing built to the east of the original Hertzberg building, which is the city's original Carnegie Library.
Part of the grand opening festivities on Saturday will include lunch from a chuck wagon, as well as outdoor performances by the San Antonio Charro Association and the Nevaquaya Arts Native Dance and Music Show.
For more photos of the Briscoe Western Art Museum click here