Arts & Culture
3:05 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

The Hidden History Inside The Institute Of Texan Cultures

If you follow the Tower of the Americas to its base, and look just to its southeast you’ll see a huge square building of odd design. It’s the Institute of Texan Cultures. It’s one of downtown’s most distinctive buildings, yet many San Antonians have never been there. In case you’ve never been, maybe it’s time.

"There are all kinds of wonderful, hidden stories here at the Institute," said James Benavides, the ITC’s senior communications specialist, and his job is to make those stories less hidden.

"We have about 45,000 square feet of exhibit floor. We also have the back 40, which is a living history area" he said. "The back 40 area includes a one-room school house, and adobe house, a hill country barn, a frontier fort and a dog-trot log cabin."

Their charge is to tell the stories of the different cultures of Texas. And as Benavides said, they tell it in interesting ways.

"People are going to forget facts, and they’re going to forget names and dates," he said. "They’re going to remember an experience. They’re going to remember how they feel."

The ITC puts on major events like next month’s Asian Festival, and of course, June’s Folk Life Festival. These events put people in the midst of culture --the food, the dance, the music. Benavides explained his view on history.

"You know, there’s only so much you can get from a book or a static exhibit," he said. "But when you have the opportunity to participate, when culture really comes alive and when you get to immerse yourself in it, that is a true learning opportunity."

The ITC has extensive archives and audio recordings—including Robert Hugman talking about the River Walk that he designed.