of the state that the museum will only present already-consumed imagesBig Sky and Big People, Big Gushers and Big Cows, Wide Open Spaces and a Vast Pastwith not a moment’s reflection on what these images convey, or why these images are chosen, or what the choices tell us about the Lone Star State.” But the Historical Commission’s Jim Steeley seems unconcerned about these questions; he made it clear to the Observer that having a state history museum is more important at this point than any argument about what the museum will contain. Stephen F. Austin University History Professor Archie McDonald is less critical of the proposed exhibits: “They have emphasized some of the important themes of Texas history, but there are more things that could be included.” It is the lack of those “more things” that have incited the strongest initial criticism of the museum plans. Professor Ron Tyler, Director of the Texas State Historical Association at U.T.Austin, said he “just can’t conceive of a history museum that wouldn’t include native Americans.” The Program and Need Analysis does indeed “include” native Americans, but from an outsider’s perspective; the museum as currently conceived would present native Americans only in terms of their encounters with European explorers and settlers, not on their own terms. Executive Director Tunnell concurs with other historians on this issue. “I do think,” he said, “that the Texas State History Museum needs to tell the whole story of Texas, and be inclusive of minority contributions to Texas History.” Tunnell added, however, that in being inclusive, the museum should not cover the same material as San Antonio’s Institute for Texan Cultures. The Program and Need Analysis stresses that one of its goals is to encourage visitation to other regional Texas history museums, but in no place does it mention the Institute for Texan Cultures. The omission appears symptomatic of differences in curatorial philosophy between the Insti tute and the proposed museum. The Institute is curatorially conservative in that it houses archives, a significant permanent collection of artifacts, and in-depth, artifact-centered exhibits. The state museum, as proposed, would have none of these. Instead, the museum’s plans subjugate traditional museum functions to entertaining, audience-friendly technology: “Our visitation projections are based on the concept of developing a history museum which builds upon the strengths of traditional history museumsgood educational exhibits reflecting serious historical scholarshipand adds state-of-the-art, interactive, total immersion exhibits… and a significant, changing-exhibits gallery to attract repeating visitation.” Not only does the outline suggest far more attention to state-of-the-art technology than to state-of-the-art history, but those priorities reflect the plan’s essentially commercial logic. If “visitation projections are based upon” the outline, that outline can be changed only at the risk of budgetary considerations. The Program and Need Analysis includes an IMAX theater to show a new, specially written and prepared film about Texas’ unique heritage. Another proposed exhibit is the “Texas Spectacular”: a star-shaped theater that would utilize lighting, surround sound, video, theater set pieces, historical objects, projected photographs, and mechanical vignettes to tell a half-hour version of Texas history, focusing on “the early history of Texas, including Spanish exploration and the Mexican state; the Texas revolution; the era of the Republic and the progression to statehood; land, settlement and cattle; and the discovery of oil and the new frontier of the twentieth century.” \(See also “Two-Step Through Time” and attempts “to Disney-fy the past, airbrush out its ugliness and viciousness and pain.” The plans emphasize “excitement”exhibits designed so that “visitors would have an exciting experienceand space winch subtly suggests early Texas The seating area could be in the round, with the audience surrounded by suspended semi-transparent fabric onto which hints of the story would be projected–the rugged outline of a western mountain range…light filtering through the branches of towering pines…a bit of the profile of an old mission. These images could begin to trigger the imagination and create anticipation for what is to come. The entire space might be washed vista., eater set pieces on either side of the screen would magically appear behind surface screens, framing the projected image and adding dimension to both the scene and the story. As the story unfolds, the audience’s attention could be drawn to five separate `action’ areas encircling the theater space, each area devoted to a specific moment in the history of Texas…. The soundtrack would continue to build “As t screens coma ante’, si disappear ‘ into the ceiling, setting the audience up for the most dramatic moment of the show. All five stage sets would come to life at once, each stage area extending out to a point that would be fully revealed for the first time in the show. from the Program and Need Analysis, E. Verner Johnson and Associates, Inc. 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER AUGUST 1, 1997
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