Bullock Museum restores rare Spanish Colonial mission gate from San Antonio

Two halves of the gate reunited for the first time in new Becoming Texas exhibition

OCTOBER 30, 2018 (AUSTIN, TX) — More than 250 years after it was made by a master craftsman, a Spanish Colonial mission gate from the San Antonio area will be a key architectural feature for visitors when the Bullock Texas State History Museum opens the new exhibition Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here on December 10. The two halves of the gate will be on view together after significant restoration, reunited for the first time since they protected a San Antonio mission generations ago.

"There are very few architectural Texas mission-related artifacts remaining from the 17th and 18th centuries, and to have one of such importance is incredible," said Bullock Museum Director Margaret Koch. "The gate has such a presence. It's a survivor with a fascinating story to tell."

At different points in the history of the missions in San Antonio, building pieces were sold to locals, including this gate to the Ruiz-Herrera family. Made of mesquite, this gate remained on the family's ranch in Bexar County for decades, with an oral history of its origins passed down through generations.

"We are so fortunate to be able to share this remarkable artifact with the public, due to the generosity of Evie Herrera Patton, a descendant of the Ruiz-Herrera family, and the Texas State History Museum Foundation," said Koch.

In 1984, Kay Hindes, City Archaeologist for San Antonio, conducted extensive research on the gate after it was uncovered on the Ruiz-Herrera family ranch. Experts verified that the gate certainly came from a San Antonio mission, and when closed it would have been a formidable deterrent to intruders, designed to protect its inhabitants from attack.

Prior to its removal to the lab, the two leaves of the gate were leaning one atop the other against an exterior wall of a jacal on the ranch, leaving the top leaf more exposed to the elements. Suffering from water and insect damage, the leaf was missing all but one of its vertical stiles, and there were significant voids within the wooden rails throughout, making it too unstable to display upright.

With funding provided through the Texas State History Museum Foundation, the Bullock Museum gained approval from Herrera Patton to engage Austin conservator Catherine Williams of Silver Lining Art Conservation. Williams utilized handmade paper to fill the voids and provide additional stability for the gate, enabling it to be displayed upright. The paper was then painted to blend discretely with the wood. A special mount and glass enclosure constructed specifically for the gate will provide the proper support while on view in the exhibition.

"We spent about 200 hours researching and testing to determine the best materials and processes, and 400 more doing the actual work," said Williams. "The key to this project was finding a solution that included compatible materials that would age along with the gate, and that would not negatively affect the artifact long term."

For more information about Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here, opening at the Bullock Museum on December 10, visit TheStoryofTexas.com or call (512)936-8746.

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The Bullock Texas State History Museum in downtown Austin includes three floors of exhibitions, an IMAX® theater, a special-effects theater, café, and Museum Store. The Museum collaborates with more than 700 museums, libraries, archives and individuals to display original historical artifacts and produce exhibitions that illuminate and celebrate Texas history and culture. Named for the state's 38th Lieutenant Governor, Bob Bullock, the iconic building is at 1800 N. Congress Avenue. For more, visit TheStoryofTexas.com or call (512) 936-8746.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum is a division of the Texas State Preservation Board. Additional support for educational programming provided by the Texas State History Museum Foundation.

Exhibition Rendering

This press release is part of the Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here Media Kit

In December 2018, the Bullock Texas State History Museum will unveil the state's most comprehensive look at more than 16,000 years of Texas History with the permanent exhibition Becoming Texas: Our Story Begins Here. View Media Kit