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Marketplace Morning Report

New battle erupts over future of the Alamo

Marketplace Contributor Apr 30, 2015
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There’s arguably nothing more representative of the independent spirit of Texas than the Alamo. It’s most famous for what happened there in 1836 — during the Texas Revolution, when just a few hundred would-be Texans and their allies temporarily held off a few thousand members of the Mexican army.

More than 175 years later, there’s a new struggle for control of the Alamo.

Earlier this year, the State of Texas cancelled its contract with the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to manage the Alamo. The DRT, a group made up of women who can trace their ancestry to early supporters of an independent Texas, had been taking care of the site for about a century. But the state cited numerous problems – including poorly cared for buildings and poor money management.

Just before the state cancelled its contract with the DRT, it hired Becky Dinnin as the Alamo’s new director. One of the biggest parts of Dinnin’s job is to lead an enormous fundraising campaign for the Alamo.

Still, she emphasizes there’s a more important goal than making money.

“This is really about telling the story of the Alamo — certainly we want it to operate in the black — but our goal is not revenue,” Dinnin says.

She says there will never be a fee to enter the Alamo itself but it could cost something to visit a future museum. A museum at the site is a requirement of the recent donation of the largest private collection of Alamo artifacts, gifted to Texas by British rocker — and Texas history enthusiast — Phil Collins.

“Maybe that’s a little bit of what sparked it, maybe that was a great kick in the pants that (Collins) gave to all of us to say, now is the time to do the right thing for the Alamo,” Dinnin says.

And that brings us back to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. Though the group has given up its fight to remain the Alamo’s caretakers, the DRT is concerned about the idea of charging any visitor fees. And the DRT is not letting the state have more than 38,000 documents it has collected related to Alamo and Texas history. In fact, the DRT has filed a lawsuit to that effect.

“The lawsuit basically says that the Daughters own the collection at the library that is on the Alamo complex. The State of Texas has taken the position that the collection belongs to the State of Texas unless the Daughters can prove otherwise,” DRT’s lawyer Lamont Jefferson says.

The DRT says it’s worried the Alamo will become too commercial. The group’s president has said she doesn’t want it to become Disneyland. Director Becky Dinnin says the Alamo won’t become Disneyland, but may become more like another other U.S. historical site.

“For people who’ve been to see the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, similar to what they have re-done that space,” Dinnin says.

Though Texas and the Alamo’s new leadership envision a new future for the historical site, one thing will never change: “You will always remember the Alamo.”

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