From western forts to Victorian mansions and pivotal battlegrounds, the Texas Historical Commission's 20 state historic sites exemplify a breadth of Texas history. Come explore the real stories at the real places.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Landmark Inn Participates in San Antonio Founders Day

By Jose Zapata, Landmark Inn Site Manager

History came to life at the ninth annual San Antonio Founders Day, a living history and cultural-arts event held on October 20 at Alamo Plaza. Participating again in the heritage celebration was Landmark Inn State Historic Site, which had a booth staffed by Glenn Nuyttens and Sadie Torres.

Landmark Inn booth
Glenn Nuyttens and Sadie Torres interacting with booth visitors

The Landmark Inn booth was one of more than 40 exhibits focusing on historical and cultural topics related to San Antonio’s roughly 300-year history. The free, popular Founders Day event draws several thousand locals and tourists each year to commemorate the diverse cultural groups and prominent individuals who made significant impacts on the city’s heritage. Activities include music, dance, crafts, and interactive period displays.

Period toys demonstration

The Landmark Inn’s booth had a general store theme, along with a hands-on laundry area and photo display. Visitors of all ages were able to do laundry in the 19th-century method, play with period toys, and grind coffee beans. Glenn and Sadie responded to numerous questions about the Landmark Inn and Castroville, as well as passed out visitor bags with an assortment of promotional materials including Landmark Inn visitors guides, maps, and issues of The Medallion.

Glenn demonstrating the Jacob's Ladder toy
Hands-on laundry display

More information about this year’s San Antonio Founders Day event can be found in this San Antonio Express-News article. Landmark Inn State Historic Site is located in Castroville, approximately 20 miles west of San Antonio, in the Texas Hill Country Trail Region.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pioneer Days at Landmark Inn

By Jose Zapata, Landmark Inn Site Manager

The Friends of the Landmark Inn and staff extended the popular Pioneer Day event to two days this year. The first day was set aside for local school children. Nearly 200 students, teachers, and parents participated in Friday’s event. Saturday’s event was attended by another 200 children and adults. Held on October 5–6, the weather was very agreeable for outdoor demonstrations.

Students arriving at Landmark Inn

There were 14 exhibitors, all dressed in 19th-century attire and eager to demonstrate and discuss toy-making, hand tools, woodworking, laundry day, school house, outdoor cooking, wine-making, and an assortment of military and Old West displays. Most of the exhibitors were from Castroville, while others were from nearby Hondo, Uvalde, and San Antonio. We also had exhibitors from Salado and Fort McKavett.

Lace-making demonstration
Lace-making close-up

The Buffalo Soldier camp was popular, as was the outdoor kitchen, Dutch-oven cooking, and lace-making. Fort McKavett and Casa Navarro, two other Texas Historical Commission historic sites, participated in the event. The Landmark Inn’s historic buildings and grounds were a fitting backdrop for this event.

Buffalo Soldier camp

Fort McKavett's exhibit

Casa Navarro's exhibit

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the exhibitors were prepared by Carolyn and Vincent Biedeger, who were also busy demonstrating the outdoor kitchen and Dutch-oven cooking.

Dutch-oven cooking

Pioneer kitchen

Pioneer Day has become a local favorite and will be on next year’s calendar of events. In the meantime, join us for the 17th Annual Kids Fish on Saturday, January 26, 2013. Landmark Inn State Historic Site is located in Castroville, approximately 20 miles west of San Antonio, in the Texas Hill Country Trail Region.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

4th Graders Visit New Fulton Mansion Education and History Center

By Lara Garner, Fulton Mansion Educator

Fall is certainly in full swing here at Fulton Mansion. Our calendars are filling up quickly with events and school programs. Last month, we were proud to welcome the entire 4th grade class of more than 200 students from Fulton Learning Center, located just down the road from the museum and named after our very own George Fulton! This visit coincides with their annual study of state history during the 4th grade school year.

This is the first time we’ve had a large group of students enjoy our exhibits in the new Fulton Mansion Education and History Center, which opened at the end of August. It was a smashing success! The 4th graders thoroughly enjoyed playing “junior engineers” by building a model of the Cincinnati Covington Suspension Bridge (designed by George Fulton), and trying on cowboy and ranching clothes—a few teachers might have even been lassoed.

The students also enjoyed dressing our Victorian mannequin in the “Life in Victorian Rockport” section of the new exhibits. Many of the students were surprised to learn how many layers a Victorian lady had to wear on a daily basis, especially in the hot summer weather. Our Fulton Learning Center visitors also enjoyed playing with our new touch screen interactive, which includes designing your own cattle brand certificate or using a camera to insert your face into an old Fulton family photo. Giggles were shared by the students and staff alike as they played with the interactive.

Another portion of the interactive includes a “leave your thoughts” section. Some of our favorite remarks from the students included, “I love the Fulton Mansion” and “Jillian and Sydney love the Fulton Mansion and we love Halloween” (referring to our big Halloween on the Harbor event). After enjoying the exhibits and interactive in the Education and History Center, the students went on to tour the Mansion. They were inquisitive, engaged, and always energetic. We look forward to welcoming these students back in the years to come.

Fulton Mansion is located in the resort area of Rockport-Fulton, 30 miles north of Corpus Christi. The site is part of the Texas Tropical Trail Region.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Using Electrolytic Reduction to Preserve Historic Artifacts

By Kerri Wilhelm, Historic Sites Curator of Archeology

More often than not, artifacts recovered from an archeological excavation—especially those recovered from marine environments—are heavily corroded and require some form of cleaning for archeologists and researchers to recover information. This is especially true of historic metals and iron-bearing artifacts, in particular.

A proven laboratory method of treating and “cleaning” corroded metals is electrolytic reduction (ER). In this process, a controlled electrical current is applied to a solution called an electrolyte. Correct application of an electrical current to historic metal antiquities will incite the formation of hydrogen bubbles on the artifact, which can effectively lift off much of the corrosion product.

Electrolytic reduction also involves a chemical process wherein reduction occurs and the corrosion products on the artifacts are “reduced” back to their metallic state. This part of the process consolidates the metal corrosion layer. This layer can then be mechanically cleaned by the formation of the hydrogen bubbles on the artifacts that will lift off the consolidated corrosion product.

Anna Lumbroso, a summer intern with the THC’s Historic Sites Division, recently created an electrolytic reduction bath in the Historic Sites Curatorial Repository Processing Lab in Austin. Her process and results are detailed below.

In the photo above, Anna is combining the soda ash and de-ionized water to create the electrolyte for the electrolysis units we will be running in the lab. She must carefully calculate the dry weight of the soda ash (sodium carbonate, Na2CO3), convert the measurement to a liquid equivalent, and very slowly mix the solution to ensure uniform and consistent conductivity in the bath. The measurements must be accurate to ensure the correct pH is achieved: a 5 percent sodium carbonate electrolyte with a pH of 11.5 (extremely alkaline, hence the goggles and gloves).

Jim Jobling and The Texas A&M Conservation Research Lab were kind enough to donate a five-gallon bucket of sodium carbonate for our first few tests.

Next, Anna is “tinning” the leads to the cathode (3/16” brass rods) and anode material (16 gauge mild steel mesh with ½” openings) with steel solder to ensure the conductivity of the lightweight appliance wire we selected for our electrolytic cell. After they are tinned, she attaches them to Mueller clips, which will then be attached to the cathodes and anode material. Learning to solder has been an experiment in patience for both of us!

In the photos below, Anna attaches the positive lead to the anode.

Shown below is the completed electrolytic cell with the sodium carbonate electrolyte.

The ER baths are run inside the fume hood to evacuate the hydrogen gas, which is the byproduct of this process. Once the electrolysis has begun, the electrical current incites the formation of hydrogen bubbles on the leads (clips) and the artifacts themselves as reduction takes place. The purpose of the process is to attempt consolidation of the oxidized layers of corrosion product while also removing chlorides, thus arresting, or at least greatly impeding, the decay of the object.

Anna has created a small ER cell utilizing an old cell phone charger and a simple 6oomL Kimax chemistry beaker that we “liberated” from UT’s surplus. The drawback of using the cell phone charger is being unable to adjust the current density. Fortunately, the electrical draw is low. A positive of the charger use is being able to create a small anode custom fit to smaller, more delicate artifacts.

Anna has enjoyed this laboratory project and has learned a process that she can take forward with her in her academic and professional careers.