Sunset in San Antonio skyline

San Antonio Cultural Resources

The minute you’re in San Antonio you are immediately within a cultural resource. With over 300 years of stories, you can’t throw a history book in town without hitting one. 

cultural resource 101

Let’s start with the simplest definition to explain what a cultural resource is: Evidence of past human history. There’s a nerdy, more detailed definition from the National Park Service (NPS) and it’s: “aspects of a cultural system that are valued by or significantly representative of a culture or that contain significant information about a culture.”

What does that even mean? Basically, it’s what is left behind from cultures through events, people, places, and even ceremonies. If you think about your own culture and family history overtime, there are places and things that continue to be a part of your community.

The types

Now that you know the definition, can you guess the types of cultural resources there are? I’m gonna pretend you said yes! Types like buildings, objects, and places. Specifically, there are: Archaeological Resources, Cultural Landscapes, Structures and Installations, Museum objects, and Ethnographic resources. These also have very nerdy definitions so if you wanna read them you can go straight to the NPS definitions page

You may be wondering why the NPS is calling the shots on the definitions. The NPS are stewards, or managers, of ‘significant’ cultural resources for preservation and conservation at a federal level. Meaning, they help preserve and protect cultural resources that are important to our history from a national, regional, state, and even local perspective. They ‘police’ these sites to make sure nobody messes with them.

super important

But what is significant? Well, that can be super easy or super complicated. Some of the easies are something like the Statue of Liberty or an Alcatraz. Other cultural resources like archaeological sites or cultural landscapes require a lot more research and investigation to find out how important they are. Even some buildings that may look like a whole bunch of nothing may be ‘significant’ because it’s the only one of its kind. There’s nuance folks!

Plus, significance can also be in the eye of the beholder, or more aptly, the eye of the ones in power. Whose histories are being preserved and whose stories are being told? The list of these important sites, which is the National Register of Historic Places, is only a fragment of the cultural footprint in our country.

san antonio significant

Another quiz! Can you think of any San Antonio cultural resources? I’m sure you did! When you think of San Antonio, the most obvious one is of course, The Alamo. Or maybe you thought of the Riverwalk. Both are a combination of the types of cultural resources the NPS has defined. 

The Alamo is a cultural landscape with buildings and structures that contribute to its overall significance. It’s also an archaeological resource with buried architectural elements, and also has museum objects since it’s been occupied. And I’m not just talking about that little skirmish that happened in 1836. Plus, there’s even ethnographic or biographic records consisting of letters and reports of those who witnessed and experienced living and working at the Alamo. 

cultural scout

We’re lucky here in San Antonio that we have one of the strongest, if not THE strongest (that’s me saying it), preservation offices in the country. The Office of Historic Preservation has a program called ScoutSA that you, yes YOU, can survey this great city and find cultural resources. 

It’s a local survey team of professionals and amateurs hunting, searching, and discovering places, people, and events that make San Antonio the place we all love. So, now that you have a decent idea of what a cultural resource is, I challenge you to go find them! Here in San Antonio and beyond! 

Have a favorite cultural resource in San Antonio? Follow-up and let me know!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *