Presidio La Bahia unveils new museum and educational program

June 8, 2010 at 1:08 a.m.

Ralph Neldon, left, and Ricardo Villareal  wait for visitors in the calabozo, or jail, at Presidio La Bahia on Tuesday.

Ralph Neldon, left, and Ricardo Villareal wait for visitors in the calabozo, or jail, at Presidio La Bahia on Tuesday.

GOLIAD - The newly renovated Presidio La Bahia museum and new incentives to bring students to the historical fort were unveiled on Tuesday.

"When we first came here, the cabinets in there looked like hell," said Newton Warzecha, director of the Presidio La Bahia, to a chuckling crowd. "Excuse me, Father," he said to The Most Rev. David Fellhauer, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Victoria.

The diocese owns the property on which the Presidio sits.

Fellhauer provided the blessing for the museum, and with the cutting of a red ribbon, some 160 guests were allowed to enter and explore.

The most notable of the $500,000-worth of renovations was the new display cabinets, which were imported from Germany and are similar to the ones used in the Smithsonian, said Preston Kirk, who does public relations for the Presidio La Bahia.

"These displays make it much easier to appreciate the pieces in there. They used to be flat, but now they're elevated to where you can see them," visitor Carrol Norrell said.

Warzecha rearranged artifacts and hired graphic artists and illustrators to help guide visitors through the Presidio's history.

Norrell said she noticed the renovation helps to better tell Presidio La Bahia's history.

"This is not a 'Six Flags' event. This is as close as you get to what really happened," she said

The renovation project took more than three years to complete. Now that it's finished, Warzecha unveiled a plan to get students to come see it.

About half as many students visit the Presidio La Bahia now than they did five or six years ago, Warzecha said.

"For the months of March, April and May of 2011, we will offer free admission to all fourth- and seventh-grade social studies students and their teachers when on school trips," Warzecha said.

In addition, the Presidio La Bahia will offer to cover about half the cost of transportation to get the students there.

The offer will be available to schools who sign up the first 10,000 students.

What's more, the Presidio La Bahia has hired Beeville history teacher David Vickers to write a lesson plan for teachers wishing to bring their students to the fort.

"Education is what Presidio La Bahia is all about," said Warzecha.

The funds for Presidio La Bahia's new educational program came from the Mary Hobbs Griffith Foundation.



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