(July 6, 2017) -- An interdisciplinary collective of faculty and staff experts with The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has founded the UTSA San Antonio Missions Research Consortium, a group dedicated to the study, protection and enhancement of the universal values of the historic early 18th-century San Antonio Missions.
The UTSA Center for Cultural Sustainability (CCS), housed in the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning (CACP), is leading the consortium in collaboration with other UTSA research centers, such as the UTSA Center for Archaeological Research and the UTSA Institute for Economic Development.
Collectively, UTSA faculty members have published more than 50 scholarly works and 20 research reports on the San Antonio Missions, and several active research studies are in progress in diverse fields like archaeology, architecture, public policy, tourism marketing and art history. UTSA researchers are also currently studying or have conducted studies at five other UNESCO World Heritage sites— the Franciscan Missions in the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro, Mexico; the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, Italy; Baalbek and Tyre in Lebanon; and Citadel Erbil in Iraq. UTSA students regularly visit and study the Missions as part of their classes.
“The future of the San Antonio Missions is linked to the future of San Antonio and Texas,” said William Dupont, CCS director, UTSA professor of Architecture and a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). “UTSA faculty have been studying the Missions and their communities for nearly as long as the university has existed. The university is home to a deep well of knowledge related to the Missions that can strengthen understanding of their past to better manage their future. Academic research has an important role to play in fostering appropriate and sustainable growth respectful of our outstanding heritage.”
Consortium members collaborate with the government agencies and non-governmental organizations who manage or protect the San Antonio Missions World Heritage site and the adjacent communities in a variety of ways, such as conducting research projects, leading preservation efforts, publishing educational materials and serving as resources.
In 2015, CACP Dean John Murphy represented UTSA on the San Antonio delegation to Bonn, Germany at the 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to petition for the Missions’ designation. That same year, the Missions were inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site—the first in Texas and 23rd in the U.S.
The City of San Antonio and other organizations are creating city initiatives, new development and policy to prepare for the expected influx of tourism and associate increase in revenue. The UTSA-led consortium exists so that academic and scholarly research is a part of the ongoing dialogue about the Missions’ future.
“UTSA has long had an interest as both an academic institution and as a neighbor in the growth and preservation of the San Antonio Missions,” Murphy said. “We all understand the importance of the San Antonio Missions, and we as scholars hope to aid in collaboration and top-tier research opportunities.”
Among the research studies underway at UTSA, Sedef Doganer, associate professor of historic preservation and incoming chair of the UTSA Department of Architecture, is conducting a market assessment of heritage tourism potential and economic impact within one-mile radiuses of Missions San José and San Juan. The assessment is being sponsored by the City of San Antonio and led by the UTSA Institute for Economic Development.
Shelley Roff, UTSA associate professor of architecture, is researching, analyzing and cataloging the tools and materials used in the construction of 18th-century Spanish colonial Missions, like the San Antonio Missions, in the Texas region.
In 2014, Dupont and a team of UTSA researchers provided the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park with a specialized education curriculum for a demonstration farm at Mission San Juan. The project provided a curriculum and lessons plans for grades 6-12 to educate students about Spanish Colonial ways.
The UTSA consortium is also hosting bi-annual meetings with city and community leaders, city, state and federal agencies, non-profits, and other stakeholders to discuss or educate them on current issues surrounding the developments at and around the San Antonio Missions. Most recently, the UTSA CCS hosted a four-day preservation workshop, in partnership with the National Park Service, where participants explored masonry care issues at the Missions.
UTSA is ranked among the top 400 universities in the world and among the top 100 in the nation, according to Times Higher Education.
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