Tuesday, April 23, 2024

UTSA seeks public input on three scenarios for the future of the ITC museum

UTSA seeks public input on three scenarios for the future of the ITC museum

JUNE 14, 2022 — The Institute of Texan Cultures Centennial 2068: Community Stakeholder Visioning process steering committee released its draft report today for public input. The report includes three feasible scenarios to advise UTSA leadership on the future of the ITC: relocate the ITC from the Texas Pavilion and Hemisfair district, relocate the ITC from the Texas Pavilion and remain in the Hemisfair district, or remain in the Texas Pavilion in its current location.

Today through July 12, UTSA will host a Community Conversation enabling the public to provide feedback about each of the three scenarios. An online survey, available in English and Spanish, will guide the feedback process. The community will also have the option to complete the questionnaire at the UTSA Westside Community Center.

“Community input will help UTSA to secure a thriving future for the Institute of Texan Cultures.”

“UTSA has been the proud steward of the ITC since 1973, and we are deeply committed to ensuring the ITC museum evolves and thrives to continue serving our city and state for generations to come,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “Community input is a critical component to the visioning process, and I encourage you to engage through our Community Conversation to have your voices heard. Together, we can ensure the museum’s programming, exhibits and special collections are preserved, expanded and made even more accessible to all visitors and lifelong learners everywhere.”

UTSA engaged a diverse, experienced group of community leaders and stakeholders to help inform and guide the visioning process. Throughout the fall of 2021 and through thoughtful discussions informed by expert resources and public input, the task forces explored different aspects of the ITC, including museum programming, community outreach, and considerations around the institute’s site and facility. The steering committee held more than a dozen meetings to evaluate the input received from the task force recommendations, additional public input and expert resources and to develop feasible scenarios to present to UTSA leadership regarding the future of the ITC.

“We are grateful for the steering committee’s thoughtful work to utilize the recommendations and input from the ITC task forces, experts and the community in its scenarios. UTSA’s commitment to thorough and transparent engagement, where all voices are heard, has been at the heart of this community-driven process,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. “Community input will help UTSA to secure a thriving future for the Institute of Texan Cultures, where future generations can continue to learn and celebrate the dynamic cultural history of Texas and Texans.”

Three conceptual scenarios

Three key themes emerged as the visioning process advanced: the institute’s location, its financial sustainability, and its programming. The steering committee used these themes as the framework to develop its draft scenarios.

The first scenario offered by the steering committee envisions the ITC relocating outside of the Texas Pavilion and the Hemisfair district, where it currently resides, to either an existing or newly constructed building. This scenario would enable the institute’s land, approximately 16 acres, and facility to be evaluated for development in support of the institute.

Advantages include the potential for new partnerships between the ITC, downtown and other San Antonio communities, more foot traffic for the institute in areas with visitors and tourists, expanded opportunities for exhibitions and programming, purposeful re-creation of the institute’s beloved dome experience, greater opportunities for digital immersion and more accessibility for all audiences keeping in mind facilities, transportation, programs and exhibits.

Conversely, relocating the ITC outside of the Hemisfair district may increase time and cost variables for the museum in addition to creating unnecessary barriers to existing festivals and events that are already accustomed to the existing venue and building space.

The second scenario explores the option of relocating the ITC from the Texas Pavilion but remaining in the Hemisfair district by moving the institute to an existing building or constructing a new building. This scenario asserts that relocating the ITC allows its land and facility to be evaluated for development in support of the museum of the future while keeping the institute in a recognizable and growing part of the city.

Advantages include the ability to keep the institute fully operational until the new facility is ready, built-in foot traffic from nearby attractions and developments, the potential for new synergies with the growing Hemisfair district developments, and the opportunity to further build out a new cultural corridor in the Hemisfair district and downtown San Antonio.

At the same time, relocating the ITC outside of the Texas Pavilion would take away from the existing facility’s 50-year history and presence in Hemisfair and could create additional cost, risk and time factors for the institute.

The third scenario envisions keeping the ITC in the Texas Pavilion. This scenario could be achieved in multiple ways: by remaining in the existing facility with minimal modifications, moving into a reimagined facility with significant modifications up to full replacement, or placing the institute’s programming, special collections and academic elements in different locations that could enhance their potential use. This scenario asserts that moving into a reimagined facility or utilizing a distributed model allows the opportunity for the land and facility to be evaluated for development in support of the museum of the future.

Advantages include extending the 50-year history of the museum in its iconic facility and elevating the institute’s cultural richness given its location in historic downtown San Antonio. This option would also retain a facility that is well-known by locals, easy for tourists to find and visually prominent in the Hemisfair district area.

Among the disadvantages, the museum’s current model does not allow for enhancing visual aesthetics or criteria discussed by the committee for the museum of the future. Additionally, the ITC’s facility would need to be updated and refreshed in line with other surrounding attractions in Hemisfair.

National accreditation

Throughout the visioning process, the steering committee carefully considered all three scenarios against the requirements for the ITC’s museum to achieve national accreditation. It evaluated each element of the framework against the American Association of Museum’s (AAM) Core Standards. These best-in-class standards address public trust and accountability, mission and planning, leadership and organizational structure, collections stewardship, education and interpretation, financial stability, and facilities and risk management. The McNay, Witte and San Antonio Museum of Art are all accredited by AAM.

Additionally, the steering committee weighed each scenario according to its operational, financial, environmental and political feasibility and considered options to enhance the feasibility of each scenario. These options included concentrating all of the ITC’s components into one facility or using a distributed model that disperses the institute’s components including its archives, library collections, displays, research, education and programming across two or more appropriate facilities.

Financial sustainability

The steering committee received recommendations from the task forces around financial stability: how operation and location scenarios might impact resources for the capital costs and annual budget needs to operate the ITC programming and facilities. The task force reports generated an array of ideas including audience-based and earned revenues (e.g., admission fees, ticketed showcase presentations, memberships, event rentals, food service/retail and corporate sponsorship), contributed financial support (e.g., donor philanthropy, State appropriations and/or U.T. System support), and revenue generated from the institute’s land, facility and assets. Another concept includes the potential use of a foundation to bolster financial sustainability of the ITC.

Robust programming

Programming was a critical consideration for all three scenarios. The committee agreed, across scenarios, that programming must meet the highest quality standards to give visitors the accessible, technology-driven and culturally appropriate experience they deserve. Ideas around preserving the beloved dome experience in the current museum were complimented with ideation around forward-thinking programming with innovative museum technologies.

Regardless of the future model, UTSA is committed to ensuring ITC programming, exhibits and special collections are preserved, expanded and available to all Texans and lifelong learners everywhere.

Review the steering committee's report and submit your input at the ITC Centennial 2068 website.

Next steps

The three scenarios developed by the committee are conceptual and serve as a launching point for further discovery and exploration of specific issues to move the process beyond the visioning phase. The intent of the steering committee’s work is to provide UTSA leadership with information regarding the community’s vision for the ITC of the future including programmatic needs and sustainability models surrounding the location scenarios to support the evaluative process that is to follow. Further, the university concurs with the committee’s assertion regarding the importance of engaging professional subject matter experts as part of the thorough evaluation that will be conducted of all three scenarios, including particularly the assessment of the Texas Pavilion facility.

“This is a very important moment as we plan for how the history of Texas and Texans will best be shared for future generations,” said Rebeca (Becky) Barrera, executive director of Somos Cultura y Más, a member of the ITC Centennial 2068 Museum of the Future task force and a ninth-generation Texan. “The community’s involvement has made a real difference, and will continue to do so, as we consider the visitor experience, what the facility can look like and its location in San Antonio.”

UTSA launched the ITC Centennial 2068 visioning process in 2021 to engage community members, industry leaders, elected officials and stakeholders as the university envisioned the institute’s next 50 years. The process is driven by the shared belief of UTSA and the steering committee that the voices of Texans are crucial to creating the museum of the future and has included multiple opportunities for public input and ideation.

The ITC debuted in 1968 as part of San Antonio’s celebration of the international World’s Fair exposition. Since that time, it has given a voice to the experiences of people from across the globe who call Texas home—providing insight into their past, present and future and showcasing the uniqueness and beauty of the many cultures that comprise Texas.

Christi Fish

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