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At Center of New Debate on the Alamo Is ... Phil Collins

Pop star's donation of artifacts for a museum ignites a debate on history
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2021 6:00 PM CDT
At Center of New Debate on the Alamo Is ... Phil Collins
British pop star Phil Collins donated this cannonball and other items to the Alamo in 2014.   (AP Photo/The San Antonio Express-News, Bob Owen)

(Newser) – The individual who owns what is perhaps the most extensive collection of artifacts related to the Alamo is a British gent named Phil Collins. Yes, that Phil Collins. This isn't exactly a secret, as the pop star agreed to donate his collection in 2014 to Texas with the stipulation that it be housed in yet-to-be-built museum at the San Antonio landmark. The Wall Street Journal notes that ground was broken this summer at the site, but its feature focuses more on the complicated debate set off by Collins' donation about how Americans should, in fact, remember the Alamo. Things have "gotten so heated recently that Alamo tourists have had to navigate around armed protesters in order to reach its iconic church," writes Kelly Crow.

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The standard American tale claims that Davy Crockett and others stood their ground at the fort but were overwhelmed by the Mexican army. (This was popularized in movies, and Collins has said he became "obsessed" with Crockett and the Alamo as a boy in Britain.) Local activists, however, say the museum shouldn't focus on Crockett and instead "more deeply explore the contributions of Texans of Mexican descent, or Tejanos, as well as Native Americans and Black indentured and enslaved people," per the Journal. Another wrinkle in all this: Skepticism about many of the items in Collins' collection. Texas Monthly did a lengthy feature on this earlier this year. A key quote from that piece:

"No collection is totally devoid of at least a couple of items that are questionable, at the very least,” says collector Compton LaBauve. “But the Collins collection contains more questionable pieces, with more than questionable provenance, by far, than any collection I’m aware of.” For example, Collins' collection purports to contain a shot pouch used by Crockett during the battle and a knife from Col. William Barret Travis, but a closer look at the provenance claims yield only vague and "fanciful" assertions, according to the story. The $140 million museum is scheduled to open in 2026, though a smaller exhibition hall will be open before then. (Read more Phil Collins stories.)

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