On Jan. 28, the Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) in downtown San Antonio became an associate of the Smithsonian Institute of Washington, DC. Present at the signing ceremony were ITC Executive Director Timothy Gette and UTSA President Ricardo Romo, as well as Smithsonian representative Harold Closter, director of the Smithsonian Affiliations program.
Affiliation with the Smithsonian will allow the ITC to display artifacts from the Smithsonian collection, as well as provide access to Smithsonian researchers and staff. The Smithsonian, owning an estimated 133 million artifacts, has the facilities to display less than 3 percent of its collection.
“The objective of the Smithsonian affiliation program is to get the Smithsonian into America,” Gette said. “We can borrow objects and bring them to San Antonio so the American public can see objects on display.”
Gette expects that the affiliation with the Smithsonian will increase attendance at the ITC.
“It’s also the branding aspect of it. It’s amazing what the Smithsonian name does for a museum,” Gette said. “People will come because they see the Smithsonian name. That’s my goal: to increase attendance at the ITC.”
Gette has led two museums into Smithsonian affiliation previously: the Dallas Museum of Natural History and the Virginia Museum of Natural History, where he worked for five years before coming to the ITC.
The ITC was originally established as the Texas Pavilion in the 1968 Hemisfair. After the celebration, the Pavilion was renamed and put under the administration of the University of Texas Board of Regents. Since 1986, the ITC has been a campus and museum within UTSA. Gette has been the director of the ITC since January 2009.
“One of the things Dr. Romo said he wanted me to do was to make the Institute of Texan Cultures into a premiere museum,” Gette said. “The affiliation with the Smithsonian… gives us access to their collections, their researchers, their staff, and other members of the affiliation program.”
The ITC is sending staff members to the annual Smithsonian Affiliate Conference in June to look at possible additions to the ITC’s display.
“One of things we’ll be exploring is objects that would enhance exhibits at the ITC as we tell our stories, and there are lots of objects in the Smithsonian collections that are about Texans and the role that Texas has played in the history of the United States,” Gette said.
Gette said that the American History Museum, American Indian Museum, and Natural History Museum would all be collections of interest for the ITC.
“There’s a whole lot of objects we’d like to bring in,” Gette said. The addition process will be ongoing, with the ITC repeatedly visiting the Smithsonian and other affiliates to swap exhibits and bring new ones into the ITC. “We’re working really hard to keep the ITC fresh,” Gette said.
Other nearby Smithsonian Affiliates include the Alameda, also in downtown San Antonio, and the Women’s Museum and African American Museum in Dallas.
On Dec. 16, the ITC received a $750 grant from the American Association of Museums (AAM) to conduct a self-study to evaluate the possibility of the ITC being accredited by the association. This, along with the Smithsonian affiliation, is part of an ITC objective of increasing credibility for the museum and, ultimately, attendance. The process of accreditation from the AAM will take approximately one year.