Unearth artifacts at Dig Our History Days

Jessica  Rodrigo By Jessica Rodrigo

June 10, 2013 at 1:10 a.m.

For four days, downtown Victoria's history will come to life.

Various groups in Victoria will host Dig Our History Days on Friday through Monday to help people connect with Martin De Leon and villagers from the 19th century.

The four-day event is the first of its kind in Victoria and one that Jeff Wright, executive director of Victoria Preservation, Inc. hopes will draw Victorians and other Crossroads residents who are interested in the area's rich history to downtown.

Volunteers of Victoria Preservation Inc. will give tours of the downtown on foot and by car. The walking tours include areas surrounding DeLeon Plaza such as the Victoria County Courthouse, historic homes, Fossati's, Leo J. Welder Center and more and will be interactive, so visitors are encouraged to ask questions about any of the locations.

It's almost officially summer, so dress accordingly, Wright said. Driving tours will be on a 32-seat bus and will take visitors through historic neighborhoods to look at the variety of homes and building architecture in the area.

The downtown area covers history from 1824 to the present, he said, and there will be a specific tour of La Villa, which will look at the time period of 1835 when the market square was located where City Hall now sits.

"It's where Martin De Leon and his family lived and basically settled," he said. "It will be a snapshot of Victoria in 1835."

For those who aren't history buffs, he said there will be a something for everyone, from the walking tours to the archeology dig and the museum activities.

Participating museums include the Museum of the Coastal Bend, Nave Museum and the Children's Discovery Museum of the Golden Crescent. As part of the event, the museums will have free admission on designated days and offer historical tours or activities for families and guests to participate in.

The Museum of the Coastal Bend's curator, Eric Ray, will be one of two archeologists overseeing the digs on DeLeon Plaza. There will be small, 3-by-3-feet test tents that the public can help excavate.

"If they come and show up, we'll put a trowel in their hand or put a screen in their hands and let them do that actual work," he said.

Since there was so much activity on DeLeon Plaza in the past, he said, they're not sure what to expect, but that there will most likely be ceramic or glass pieces left behind from the villagers that lived there. During the event, they will also be using Twitter to chronicle the items found at the site.

For the younger children, there will be archeology activities that look at how the found pieces might be put back together or simulations of digs with sandboxes.

Another aspect of the historical event includes the collection of oral histories. Members of the event will be interviewing and recording stories and experiences people have had in the area.

"We're not looking for something in particular, but we're looking for all the stories that are sort of covered up by time," Ray said. "Those stories that people might not think aren't important enough to share or that people think we're not interested in hearing."

After the event, the collection will become available for future historians at the Museum of the Coastal Bend and at the Victoria College libraries.

On Saturday and Sunday, the DeLeon Plaza Bandstand will host bluegrass musicians for entertainment, and there will be food and drinks available at downtown restaurants.

Ray hopes the event will show people that archeology is more than just digging around in faraway places and searching for artifacts from history but instead that it can happen right in our neighborhoods and city.

"Archeology and history are all distant things that happened in the more recent past," he said. "Telling stories about the last 100 years is just as important as telling stories about the last 1,000 or 10,000 years."



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