For students conducting research on Texas history or tourists searching for an authentic look into the area’s rich past, the Presidio Gallery at 126 Nueva St. provides both for no charge. The Presidio Gallery is the special collections and archives of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
According to the gallery webpage, student researchers have the opportunity to study a collection of over 1,600 square feet of archival collections including 40,000 historical photographs and much more. A majority of the collection is provided by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, an organization that collects and maintains historical artifacts relating to Texas history, according to archival staff.
“A&M-San Antonio was a perfect fit,” Leslie Stapleton, Archives and Special Collection manager, said. “At A&M, the DRT’s collection gets to stand out, and it also makes the university shine and puts them on the map. It’s a win-win for both of us.”
Following a lawsuit in 2012, the DRT had to relocate its archives and collections from the Alamo where it was previously housed. After collaborating with A&M-San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson and Judge Nelson Wolff, the artifacts were transferred to the Bexar County Records building.
Since its grand opening on Oct. 27, 2017, the gallery has been a valuable resource to students and researchers doing projects on Texas history.
“It’s focused on local history,” said history Professor Amy Porter. “It depends on what your topic is; you might be able to find great 19th-century primary documents, but even if you’re looking at a 20th-century topic, there’s a good chance they’ll have something for you. So it’s worth reaching out to Leslie and setting an appointment.”
Porter had contributed to “Texas Women and Ranching,” a collection of essays that explores the role of women in Texas ranch culture published in the beginning of the year. Part of her research was making an appointment with the Presidio Gallery to find information on Maria Calvillo, a rancher in 19th-century central Texas.
“When I was doing this research, I had made an appointment and went over there and met with Leslie,” Porter said. “It was very easy because Leslie pulled everything I requested, so I was able to take notes and make copies.”
Students from Porter’s HIST 4307, Methods of Historical Research class, past and present, have used the gallery for a 15-20 page research paper assigned in the class. Depending on the topic, students may use the primary sources from the archives as valuable resources in gathering information.
“I think most of the students really enjoy spending time in the archives,” Porter said. “You’re just surrounded by so many rich documents and books, things we don’t have on our campus, and they get to be historians. They’re doing the things historians do.”
Aside from research purposes, the gallery also features exhibits that celebrate the rich history of Texas and A&M-San Antonio. Currently, the featured exhibits include memorabilia relating to the 10-year anniversary of this campus and original documents from the Texas Revolution. One such document, a letter from Alamo defender Daniel Cloud to his brother explaining his willingness to fight against the Mexican government in San Antonio, is the archive manager’s personal favorite.
“He’s telling him exactly why he’s willing to go fight,” Stapleton said. “He’s saying that ‘even if we die, it’s worth it.’ It’s a really emotional letter, and it’s really powerful so that’s my favorite piece.”
Students and researchers can visit the gallery and request materials by appointment by calling 210-784-1512. The hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.