Institute of Texan Cultures
The 50,000-square-foot gargantuan structure located just east of downtown is the magnificent Institute of Texan Cultures (801 S. Bowie St., 210/458-2300, www.texancultures.utsa.edu, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., $7 adults, $4 seniors, $4 children 3–12). The building’s main ground-floor exhibit reveals that Texans are a remarkably diverse bunch, with cultural and ethnic backgrounds from all corners of the globe. Although more than 250 distinct ethnic and cultural groups currently exist in the Lone Star State, merely 26 are showcased in the exhibits.
A large sign announcing each group’s name hangs from the ceiling, and the display cases below feature objects and artifacts representing the culture, with a focus on their Texas connection. An enormous globe at the entryway not-so-subtly conveys the message that Texas, like the rest of the country, is a big ol’ melting pot (or perhaps a really flavorful chili).
The Institute offers other resources in the halls above and beyond the massive main exhibit space. They include a research library, which contains books, oral histories, and an extensive photo archive devoted to Texas’s diverse cultural background, and offices related to special events, most notably the annual Texas Folklife Festival. This immensely entertaining multicultural event is held annually during the second weekend in June, when people from across the globe are recognized and honored via ethnic food, music, dance, arts, and crafts as a way of celebrating Texas’s unique heritage. The 22-acre institute is also home to a museum store and a living history area known as the Back 40.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition