Frequently Asked Questions
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What is the purpose of the ITC Centennial 2068: Community Stakeholder Visioning initiative?
ITC Centennial 2068: Community Stakeholder Visioning initiative seeks to engage the community as UTSA envisions the next 50 years of the Institute of Texan Cultures and its museum — the only resources in Texas devoted entirely to the state’s rich, diverse cultural heritage — to provide current and future generations with a greater awareness of and appreciation for the mosaic of Texas’ distinctive cultures. Focus areas include expanding the Institute of Texan Cultures’ research and storytelling through increased accessibility, new programming, greater reach through technology, and the exploration of topics at the intersection of culture and current events to engage Texans in every corner of the state across their lifespan.
What has been the community-based visioning process that will feed UTSA’s decision-making?
From the onset of the visioning process, UTSA prioritized engaging a diverse, experienced group of community leaders and stakeholders to serve on the Task Forces and Steering Committee to help inform and guide university decisions. The Task Forces, composed of various community leaders and industry experts, were asked to use their individual expertise and experiences to develop a set of recommendations that address the ITC Centennial 2068 questions in the following focus areas: Museum of the Future, Community Engagement and Sustaining Support and Facility and Land Stewardship. Shepherding the overall visioning process is a Steering Committee that is charged to synthesize and integrate input, output, and work from sector-specific Task Forces; develop at least 3 feasible scenarios integrated across sectors; and advise UTSA leadership on advantages and disadvantages of developed scenarios.
To complement the input of community members, UTSA also engaged a broad group of subject matter experts to serve as a resource to the Task Forces and Steering Committee. Finally, at various points in the visioning process, UTSA has widely issued community surveys to capture feedback that have been incorporated into the visioning process and work of each of the organized groups to support informed decision making.
The public will have an opportunity in the coming months to comment on the draft Steering Committee report. These comments will be embodied in the final Steering Committee report submitted to UTSA Leadership.
Following the conclusion of the visioning process, UTSA leadership will review the scenarios, work with stakeholders and community members, and develop a process to move forward in next steps.
I missed the Community Conversation public surveys that were conducted earlier in the Visioning process. How can I voice my opinions?
Public participation is critical to the success of the visioning initiative and the future of the Institute of Texan Cultures. Learn how the community has been engaged in the visioning process, and sign up for the ITC newsletter to receive the latest news, including information about the next round of public engagement. You are always welcome to contact email@example.com to share your thoughts on the visionary process and the ITC in general.
Will I have an opportunity to comment further on the draft Steering Committee Report?
UTSA is planning additional opportunities for the community to engage with and participate in sharing ideas and feedback on the ongoing visioning process. In June, the steering committee report will be shared on the ITC Centennial 2068: Community Stakeholder Visioning website and the public will have an opportunity to provide feedback through an online survey. The exact dates and opportunities for participation will be publicly shared through email, advertising and social media in the coming months.
Will accessibility to, from and within the ITC be improved?
Yes. A priority of the Task Force recommendations is that the ITC be accessible to all abilities, ages and languages, for all spaces, exhibitions and other community activities and for all forms of transportation. Though the Texas Pavilion, which currently houses the ITC, is located in a prime location in Hemisfair, access to and visibility of the building is limited. The high berms surrounding the property and existing roads/infrastructure limit connections to other San Antonio icons and attractions. Tourists attending events at nearby attractions such as the Convention Center or the Alamo, for example, cannot easily access the facility. More broadly, the Institute’s resources should be available to people in every corner of the state, and by taking full advantage of technology, UTSA can make the museum experience more accessible and compelling for all.
What are possible outcomes of the initiative regarding the location of the ITC?
The scenarios for ITC by the Steering Committee will be framed around several distinct possible outcomes, relative to the Task Force recommendations: 1) the ITC relocates to another existing or new building suited to meet museum standards for collection care and exhibition within Hemisfair; 2) the ITC relocates to an existing or new, multi-use facility in another part of San Antonio; or 3) the ITC remains in the Texas Pavilion, operating under its current model. To enhance the viability of each scenario, the use of a distributed model, where needed functions are housed elsewhere, may be considered as appropriate.
Will ITC relocate from the Texas Pavilion?
Possibly. The ITC has not generated sufficient revenue to cover its costs, including the ongoing maintenance and facility costs of the building and exhibit spaces to meet current industry standards. The reports of the Museum of the Future and Facility and Land Stewardship Task Forces note that the Texas Pavilion building is a suboptimal location for the ITC of the future because it does not meet standards for accreditation by the American Association of Museums — the recognized standard of excellence across the U.S -- due to design and construction shortcomings detailed in the AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment conducted by consultants M. Goodwin Museum Planning Inc. A 2021 report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Advisory Services Panel, a group of national experts that were engaged to examine placemaking and stewardship of the ITC’s Hemisfair site, corroborates these findings and recommends seeking a new Hemisfair location and building for the ITC that better supports future institutional, creates synergies with the Hemisfair campus, and heightens community and visitor access. As a result, one of the several possible scenarios under consideration is relocating out of the Texas Pavilion to another location, either in Hemisfair or downtown.
Would the ITC leave Hemisfair?
That is a possible scenario; however, leaving Hemisfair was not a recommendation of the Task Force Reports. In fact, the Task Forces and the ULI Advisory Services Panel report have suggested that a re-envisioned ITC could contribute positively and impactfully to the long-term vision for Hemisfair. A well-conceived roadmap could allow the ITC to grow alongside Hemisfair and support the revitalization of San Antonio’s downtown core. Moreover, it has the potential to strengthen the placemaking efforts that are reimagining public spaces in the heart of our community to create inspiring places where San Antonians want to live, work, play and learn.
The Texas Pavilion has always been home to the ITC. Why has the idea of relocation been raised as a part of the visioning process?
The core issue is that the original intended use of the Texas Pavilion is largely incompatible with the mission, needs and long-term vision for the ITC to showcase and preserve the special cultures of Texas. Buildings that house museums are designed specifically in such a way to place a special emphasis on the preservation of all art, artifacts and objects within the facility, whether on a permanent basis or on loan. However, as articulated in the AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment as well as the ULI Advisory Services Panel report, the Texas Pavilion was designed to be a short-duration exhibit hall for the 1968 World’s Fair, meaning it was intended to function similarly to a convention center in which programming and exhibits change on an ongoing basis; it was not envisioned as a collecting institution with the specialized design and capabilities that enable preserving those collections for future use and enjoyment. The ITC has the only museum of its kind in the state entirely devoted to preserving the rich cultural history of Texas and Texans. Because the story of Texas is ever evolving, the AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment notes, the facility that houses the ITC must be able to accommodate for the long-term preservation of its valued and changing collections. Accreditation is an important step to ensuring the long-term preservation of the ITC and its collections for 2068 and beyond.
Why is accreditation important?
Just as universities undergo accreditation to signify the high quality of their educational programs to students, employers, donors and others, large and mid-sized museums seek peer-based accreditation to validate the high quality of their operations, exhibits and impact. The Witte Museum, McNay Art Museum and San Antonio Museum of Art all have earned accreditation from the American Association of Museums.
Only accredited museums can participate in loan programs, which limits the programming possible with the ITC at the Texas Pavilion. Robust loan programs enable relevant materials and collections to be brought to ITC and shared with our San Antonio region, supporting robust programming and contributing to the vibrancy of the Institute for the benefit of our region.
In 2021, consultants M. Goodwin Museum Planning Inc. (MGMP) conducted an AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment of the Texas Pavilion. MGMP is a world recognized expert among museums and non-profit arts organizations, having worked with more than 100 museums in the U.S. and abroad. MGMP conducted an on-site building assessment of ITC in 2021, that leveraged an earlier comprehensive review conducted by the firm in 2010.
Per the AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment, repair and/or renovation of the facility would not resolve many of the barriers to accreditation or address the ITC’s ability to participate in loan programs with the Smithsonian.
Also in 2021, the nonprofit the Urban Land Institute at the request of UTSA conducted an Advisory Services Panel, engaging a group of national experts to examine placemaking and stewardship of the museum’s Hemisfair site. The ULI report similarly concludes that AAM accreditation for the ITC would not be possible at the Texas Pavilion.
Moreover, the Facility and Land Stewardship Task Force Report notes that building is much larger than what is needed for the ITC’s current and prospective collections and exhibits; the cost of continuing to maintain a facility of that size negatively impacts sustainability and adds an operational and cost burden that limits the future vision and opportunities for expanded programs and community engagement, which is a factor that is being considered.
What is required for accreditation? Why isn’t the ITC likely to be accredited if it continues to be housed in the Texas Pavilion?
AAM accreditation is based on core standards in several categories:
- Public Trust and Accountability
- Mission & Planning
- Leadership and Organizational Structure
- Collections Stewardship
- Education and Interpretation
- Financial Stability
- Facilities and Risk Management.
The AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment of the Texas Pavilion in 2021 specifically focused on the last category— facilities and risk management—and determined the facility did not meet certain core standards for accreditation. Among the core AAM standards not met, per the AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment:
- The facility design of accredited museums places a special emphasis on the preservation of all art, artifacts and objects within the facility, whether on a permanent basis or on loan. — The Texas Pavilion was designed to be a short-duration exhibit hall for the 1968 World’s Fair. Rather, the Texas Pavilion was not envisioned as a collecting institution and is not designed to preserve those collections for future use and enjoyment. (See FAQ above)
- Accredited museum facilities offer stable temperature and humidity conditions. — The Texas Pavilion was built without a vapor barrier, which causes extreme fluctuations in both temperature and humidity, making it unsuitable for archival preservation. Unfortunately, renovation or entryway improvements will not address this design flaw.
- Accredited museum facilities have a full, professional loading dock. — Museums require full service professional loading docks (including all associated material/delivery equipment, hydraulic dock lift or scissor lift, etc.) to be able to safely receive art, artifacts and objects of all shapes and sizes in a safe manner that preserves their integrity and value for the future enjoyment of all. The Texas Pavilion was built with only a rudimentary loading dock and has no capacity to support these requirements. The absence of a museum standard loading dock severely limits the ITC’s ability to participate in high-value loan exhibitions.
- Accredited museums ensure there are no sources of water above the galleries or collection storage. — The Texas Pavilion has public restrooms on the third floor above the second floor’s exhibition galleries. This fundamental design flaw creates opportunities for leaks and water intrusion into the exhibition galleries, which are filled with collection and loan objects and artifacts.
- Accredited museum facilities are built to deter threats of flooding. — The first floor of the Texas Pavilion is six feet below the water table, making it vulnerable to water intrusion. Past flooding resulted in the move of the collections storage space to 3rd floor of the building. There now is a pump on the first floor that runs 24/7 to keep it from flooding. This flooding problem means that no objects of art, cultural history, and/or cultural significance can be stored or handled on the first floor.
- Accredited museum facilities meet all current building codes and life safety standards. — ITC’s fire and life safety systems are insufficient to support a modern accredited museum. (See FAQ below).
Other areas of concern identified by assessment report include low ceiling heights, live load capacity, roof age and site access.
The AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment report identified safety issues. What are these? What has been done to remedy them?
The ITC’s Fire and Life Safety systems are insufficient to support a modern accredited museum for several reasons, according to the AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment:
- Only two of the ITC’s third-floor collection storage rooms have appropriate pre-action sprinklers.
- Due to its remote location away from UTSA’s central fire and security centers, as well as the fact that the building is not staffed overnight, the response time for an emergency call may be 25 to 35 minutes, well higher than the desired response time of less than 15 minutes for a museum fire and life safety program.
- Fire Department access to the facility is severely constrained by the berms on the site, with access provided to only one side of the building.
- The Main Gallery floor’s central, very large two-story “Dome Theatre” space is a fire chimney, with no fire and smoke separation between the collection storage areas on the second and third floors.
There are additional hazards associated with the Dome show, as stated in the AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment:
- Visitors laying on the gallery floor may block access to the nearby exits.
- Slide projectors are not securely anchored, creating a fall risk. (Note: This safety issue was addressed upon being identified.)
- Staff access to the upper portion of the dome on the third floor is not to code, including access paths, catwalks, vertical access, etc. All of these access points present risks to anyone servicing the Dome, the screens or the projectors.
- There are numerous holes in the walls, corridors and direct mechanical connections between the second and third floors. These holes/ fire apertures will require a completely new and rethought approach to providing mechanical and air handling service to floor 3.
Note: The recommendation report of the Museum of the Future Task Force recognizes that the dome show is a beloved ITC experience and it should be recreated in some way, if the ITC were to relocate from the Texas Pavilion. Some museums have utilized exciting technologies such as virtual reality, etc., that attract new audiences and contribute to a vibrant, dynamic exhibit environment that might be particularly well suited for this purpose.
The MGMP report also called into question the building’s live load capacity; subsequent to the report, astructural engineer was retained to evaluate this matter and has confirmed existing load-bearing capacity of the third-floor collection storage areas is fully adequate and does not pose a safety issue.
What issues with the roof of the Texas Pavilion were identified?
The AAM Accreditation Facility Assessment notes the Texas Pavilion’s roof is non-combustible and compatible with the concrete masonry construction of the building; however, it is likely nearing the end of its useful life. For accreditation, the ITC would need address the existing roof to either prove it meets the standards for accreditation or fully replace the roofing material with a product that meets the accreditation standards.
What ideas are being considered to make ITC self-sustaining?
Both free-standing and university museums across the country rely on a variety of income sources to fund their ongoing operations, programming and facilities costs, with revenue derived from gate entry and ticket sales; auxiliaries such as events, festivals and facility rental; donations and endowment distributions, federal and state program grants; and public/government support such as direct state appropriation or various tax allocations. Unlike others, ITC’s operations have long been funded predominantly by direct state appropriations, where reductions in special item funding have affected the number and breadth of ITC exhibits, curation of materials, programming and teacher training opportunities.
The Community Engagement and Sustaining Support Task Force report proposes that ITC can pursue financial sustainability by developing an entrepreneurial business model that embraces the full range of funding sources typical for museums, and is consistent with UTSA’s Incentivized Resource Management budget model and that will add to the state support. By conveying a new sense of the Institute’s relevance – what it stands for, its mission, its programming, and its place in serving a meaningful role in our community — as well as reinforcing UTSA’s commitment to supporting a world-class museum and other institution activities, the ITC can pursue new, innovative opportunities for partnerships with attractions, institutions and organizations that attract tourism to our region by utilizing the full range of entrepreneurial revenue streams.
Learning the lessons from other successful institutes, this entrepreneurial focus may include event space rental, food and retail operations, real estate development partnerships, fee-based virtual programming, and other creative vehicles.
Will the ITC’s name change?
Possibly. One of the Task Force recommendations was to conduct a marketing assessment to better understand community opinion on the Institute’s name and brand, and to determine whether a different name might resonate more with current and prospective visitors. Such an assessment would be conducted at a later time, and there would be opportunities for broad community engagement and input prior to any final decision.
Will the museum content be updated to reflect a more inclusive view of Texas cultures?
Yes. At the ITC, people around the world are introduced—some for the first time—to the rich tapestry of cultures that make up Texas and their contributions to the state’s extraordinary character. Just as the story of Texas is ever evolving as new generations of Texans shape our future, the ITC must continue to evolve — as all great museums do — to advance dialogue around differing historic and cultural perspectives that encourage new thinking about and a better understanding of our future as Texans.
As an example, the ITC currently is working to update the American Indian exhibit to offer museum visitors a more comprehensive look at Texas’ indigenous peoples.
Will the Texas Folklife Festival and Asian Festival continue?
ITC is justifiably proud of its strong tradition of providing cultural events and programming for the city and state, and is looking forward to resuming both the Asian Festival and Texas Folklife Festival, currently planned for sometime in 2023. A key Task Force recommendation is to continue—and possibly expand—ITC’s slate of cultural festivals to offer more opportunities for public engagement and potential, new revenue generation, and partnerships.
Will the ITC continue to host school field trips?
K-12 students and teachers have long been an important audience for the ITC, and UTSA is committed to ensuring the ITC continues to serve this key audience through on-site visits and other means to offer access to rich experiences for school children across the state. ITC staff have been reviewing field trip content and working with San Antonio school teachers and UTSA faculty to add to and refresh the content K-12 audiences learn during a visit. Additionally, UTSA hopes to better support teachers by further enabling access to collection materials—in-person and digitally—for use in the curriculum.
Will the ITC continue the docent program?
ITC docents play a vital role in engaging and interacting with members and schoolchildren. ITC could not operate without the support of dedicated volunteers. A robust volunteer program will be integral to the ITC of the future and could possibly be expanded to engage UTSA students in experiential learning activities.
If ITC were to relocate, would all the current exhibits be included in a new location?
Many museums rotate the display of their permanent collections, adding to the vibrancy of the experience for new and repeat visitors alike. A priority of the ITC Centennial 2068: Community Stakeholder Visioning initiative is to create a more compelling user experience for visitors, including interactive spaces equipped with technology to support an immersive experience and to meet requirements to maximize the ITC’s Smithsonian affiliation. Other recommendations are to create a community gallery for local and community artists and to develop interactive user-content that is both created and curated. At the same time, UTSA is committed to preserving ITC’s rich collections, either onsite or in another location that meets modern standards for stewardship of the collection.