Faring in Uncertain Times — A Note from Executive Director, Anjali Zutshi
As the nonprofit partner to the Texas Historical Commission, we are privileged to steward the private philanthropic resources that have been entrusted to us, to help protect and preserve the state's historic resources. It is perhaps easiest to appreciate the importance of historic preservation at times like these—when a little perspective can provide guidance and comfort as we adjust to a new normal.
As you can imagine, the COVID-19 crisis has deeply impacted the ability of the THC's historic sites and museums to deliver content through traditional programming. As a community that believes in learning from history, we are doing just that during these unprecedented times. While the Friends of the Texas Historical Commission (FTHC) staff have been working from home for the past twelve weeks, we have been busy exploring funding for new programming, like robust online and distance learning, and distance-friendly programming at the THC’s historic sites.
At the same time, most of the programs and projects the FTHC has been focused on will continue. Thanks to our generous donors, we are excited to bring on six Preservation Scholars as THC interns this summer. While they are working remotely for at least part of their internship, these students will gain precious hands-on experience in preservation work.
Capital improvement and restoration projects like the French Legation in Austin, the Eisenhower Birthplace in Denison, and the construction of a new Visitors Center and traditional Grass House at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site, continue to move forward. The Outdoor Education Exhibit at San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site will be completed as planned this year, and the Real Places 2021 Conference, presented by the Friends of the THC, will continue but in a virtual format.
History has shown that when we are presented with new challenges, we adapt to deal with them in innovative ways. The experiences of past generations of Texans continue to inform the present, and it is our job as historic preservationists to make sure—even in times of crisis, and maybe most urgently in times of crisis—that these stories are actively preserved for future generations.
At this time of hardship for families and organizations across the state, it is especially important for us to preserve the lessons from history. We truly appreciate your support in this endeavor. Please know that all levels of support are appreciated and have a direct impact on our ability to help preserve and share the voices and stories of Texas. Visit THCFriends.org to learn more about our programs and initiatives, or to donate online.
THC Staff Spotlight: Rachel Galan, Educator and Interpreter
I often reference the expression “things have come full circle” when I talk about my place at Caddo Mounds State Historic Site (CMSHS). In 1991, in a small anthropology program at Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU), I had the good fortune of a mentor professor, Dr. Jim Corbin, who asked the question, “what are you interested in?” That question was my opening into Caddo culture. My 19-year-old self delved into researching Caddo stories and their connections to the Caddo ethnohistorical and archeological records. Through that research, I was introduced to Snake Woman in her story, Snake Woman Who Distributes Seeds. I had no understanding that Snake Woman and I would be taking a very long journey together.
It took a master's degree in Library and Information Science from UT Texas in Austin, a 12-year stop in academic libraries, a brief stint as a PhD student in SFASU’s Resource Interpretation program, a bit of luck meeting CMSHS Site Manager Anthony Souther at a meeting at SFASU and my insistence that his new educator position at CMSHS was meant to be my position to finally bring me around full circle to my current involvement with the Caddo people, Caddo culture, and Snake Woman.
My name is Rachel Galan, I have the honor to work as the assistant site manager at CMSHS in Alto, Texas. CMSHS is the ancestral homeland of the Caddo people. This beautiful and sacred space is nestled on the Mound Prairie in the piney woods of rural east Texas. CMSHS encompasses thousands of years of Caddo and Texas history and holds the ancestors of living Caddo people in an ancient burial mound and in the land.
With the start of my time at CMSHS, Caddo stories again took on an important role in my life. Caddo traditional stories gave me a way to teach about Caddo history and culture through cultural universals and are key to connecting visitors to this site no longer home to her people. The early Caddo people abandoned the mound complex around 1250 AD, were pushed from east Texas in the mid 19th century by the arrival of anglos and other indigenous people, and were forced from Texas in 1859 in a Caddo Trail of Tears that ended in Indian territory in Oklahoma.
Today, site staff, volunteers, and our Caddo community work together to tell the stories of CMSHS, preserve the land and Caddo culture, and develop opportunities to highlight the lives and contributions of contemporary Caddo people. The building of a traditional Caddo Grass house at the site was one project that brought all these pieces together. This project, captured in the Emmy Award winning documentary Koo-Hoot Kiwat: the Caddo Grass House, created a community that was tested on April 13th, 2019.
On April 13th, 2019 CMSHS was devastated by an EF3 tornado that hit the site during our annual Caddo Culture Day event.This event altered the lives of many. This was not the first time a tornado would have struck the Caddo people who lived in the space that is now CMSHS, and there is a word that Caddo language revitalizationist Alaina Tahlate gave us for our tornado experience, Shaho. That experience is personal, communal, and evolving. In shaho is the devastation to lives, the destruction of property, and the altering of the landscape. But also in shaho is the building of community, opportunities for healing, and the amazing journey of the recovery of people and places. In 2016 we developed an interpretive garden, Snake Woman’s Garden to highlight and teach about the rich Caddo agricultural tradition. This garden became a symbol of resilience and renewal when it not only survived, but also thrived after the April 2019 tornado.
At this time of rebuilding CMSHS structures and programs I look at my work through a new lens, Shaho, and strive to honor the ancient stories of CMSHS and the current stories of strength, resilience, and re-creation of our local and Caddo communities. It has been quite the journey, but I am glad that my travels with Snake Woman, CMSHS, and the Caddo people are not yet complete.
The FTHC offers development and fundraising trainings geared toward volunteer leadership (board members and advisors) and staff from nonprofits wanting to learn more about securing philanthropic support for their organization. The series of in-person workshops and webinars is suited for large and small organizations from any discipline with limited development staff. Upcoming trainings include:
Two-day Online Workshop: Elements of Success Philanthropy–Building a Comprehensive and Sustainable Development Program for your Organization
Date: Monday-Tuesday, July 15 and 16, 9 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Virtual Platform: Zoom
Free Webinar: Grant Evaluation–Setting Goals and Measuring Impact
Offered in coordination with THC's Museum Services Program
Date: Wednesday, July 22, 2:00–3:00pm
Welcome Preservation Scholars Class of 2020!
We are excited to host six Preservation Scholars this summer as interns with the Texas Historical Commission! While working remotely (pictured above during a weekly Zoom meeting!), scholars are working on projects like historical marker research and writing in the THC's History Programs Division, editorial projects in the THC's Communications Division, development of quick reference guides for webinars in the THC's Museum Services Program, and research and opportunity analysis for projects in the THC's Main Street Program.
Through the Preservation Scholars Program, the FTHC seeks to build interest in the field of historic preservation among students from underrepresented cultural and ethnic communities, as well as from nontraditional academic backgrounds, engaging a wider and more diverse range of voices and perspectives into Texas’s historical narrative.
Pictured left to right: Farah Merchant (University of Texas at Austin), Katherine Bansemer (Texas State University), William Polley (Prairie View A&M), Gabriel Ozuna (University of Texas Rio Grande Valley), Richard Quiroz (Texas A&M Corpus Christi), and Lezlie Hernandez (Texas State University). Please join us in welcoming them to the THC!
Friends Donor Spotlight: Robert Oliver
The FTHC would like to shine a spotlight on Robert Oliver, who has served as a board member since 2016. Robert descends from generations of native Texans. Raised in Refugio, Texas, he now resides in Cuero.
He has served as board member and chairman of the Cuero Heritage Museum, as well as a board member of the Texas Independence Trail Region. He currently serves on the board of the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion and is a member of Preservation Texas and the Texas Association of Museums Council.
Robert Oliver has dedicated his time to founding the Chisholm Trail Heritage Museum, which houses one of the finest international collections of cowboy objects in the world. Preservation awards won under his chairmanship include the 2014 Texas Association of Museums’ prestigious President’s Award; the 2013 Texas Downtown Association “Best Restoration/Rehabilitation” award for the Knights of Pythias Hall; and the 2012 Preservation Texas Honor award for “Special Recognition” for the Knights of Pythias Hall. He has been chairman of the museum since 2000.
Robert has been an invaluable member of the FTHC Board of Directors, sharing generously of his time and resources to support and raise public awareness about the Texas Historical Commission's projects and programs.