‘Brackenridge: San Antonio’s Acclaimed Urban Park’

New Witte Museum exhibit to highlight the history of Brackenridge Park

Mason Hickok, Editor-in-Chief

The Witte Museum and Brackenridge Park are inextricably linked, two gathering places central to San Antonio’s history. The Witte Museum sits on the park’s northern end right off Broadway. Opened in 1926 — under the guidance of Ellen Dorothy Schultz Quillin — the Witte has seen history and development, sharing much of that with Brackenridge Park.

Both are being celebrated with the release of Lewis F. Fisher’s book “Brackenridge: San Antonio’s Acclaimed Urban Park,” out on Oct. 18 through Trinity University Press. The new exhibit at the Witte takes its name from Fisher’s forthcoming book on Brackenridge Park — an extensively researched look at the park through pictures and historical findings. Those same pieces and archaeological discoveries will be presented to the public. 

Marise McDermott is the CEO of the Witte Museum, a role she has held since 2004. McDermott spoke of the importance of working closely with Fisher on the exhibit. As a researcher, Fisher’s ties to the museum are closely linked. 

“We’ve been involved with him for many decades,” McDermott said. “[Lewis] Fisher has done a series of books on San Antonio … he has done a lot of research at the Witte — on our archives and our collections. So, I mean, it was natural.”

In speaking to what she hopes visitors might take away from this exhibit, McDermott believes it comes back to some of the Witte’s core values.

“The Witte is a museum where nature, science and culture meet,” McDermott said. “This exhibit exemplifies that. So it’s really the historical context, it’s the natural environment — I mean, that’s how he starts his book, and that’s how we’ll start the exhibit. [Give the] context for why this is a wonderful place for a park.”

Visitors to the exhibit can expect to see vintage postcards and photographs from the Witte’s collection, specimens found inside Brackenridge Park and pieces of the park’s ecology, such as dried plant specimens.

The CEO of the Witte Museum, Marise McDermott. ( Photo courtesy of the Witte Museum)

Both Brackenridge Park and the Witte have experienced their fair share of change. The former is in the midst of change now — a 2017 bond project is currently set in motion to renovate existing spaces within the park. While the Witte’s exhibit likely won’t tackle Brackenridge Park’s future, McDermott hopes a dialogue is born from this exploration of the past. 

“I love that; I think that would be a fantastic outcome,” McDermott said. “When you have a full cultural context, or a little bit wider understanding, [it] helps [with] a dialogue. There [are] lots of different opinions on how the park should be used and experienced … we [have] had many of those meetings here at the Witte. The Witte is considered a safe haven for that kind of dialogue.”

Visitors to the Witte can experience “Brackenridge: San Antonio’s Acclaimed Urban Park” on display from Oct. 22, 2022, through March 20, 2023. Tickets for museum admission can be reserved online at www.WitteMuseum.org.