OK! How’s that shopping list coming? You getting it squared away? I’m going to say that mine’s a… work in progress. I haven’t forgotten about the SHA Conference coming up in just a few weeks (January 4, 2017) in lovely Fort Worth, Texas. While there will be all kinds of great symposia and individual talks to see and plenty of opportunities to catch up with – and learn from – colleagues, conferences like these are also a chance to experience some things that you just can’t see closer to your own homes. A chance to get out and see a new city, learn about its unique history and culture first-hand. Unless you live in Fort Worth, in which case… yeah, you might be ok to do other stuff. I remember at six years old when I lived in San Antonio, I got SO SICK of visiting the Alamo every time a relative would visit. And when I moved to DC, I never thought it could happen but you really can reach a moon-rock-touching saturation point… and don’t get me started on “the Exorcist” steps… I digress…

Let’s talk about tours! This year’s conference features four tours. All of them are scheduled for Wednesday, January 4th. They all originate from the conference hotel, the Omni. Please bear in mind that if you signed up for a workshop, you should check those times against the tours to make sure you don’t have a conflict and I’d bet you probably would.

The first tour that I wanted to talk about is T-3 – the Fort Worth Architectural Walking Tour. Fort Worth is a great city. It’s big but it doesn’t necessarily feel big. And for some reason it feels more Texan than others do (I may catch some flak for that…). I think a lot of that comes from the fact that so much of its original architecture remains intact. You can get a sense of the original city if you get out of the car and walk around and this tour is perfect for that. You’ll see the site of “Hell’s Half Acre” one of the bawdiest, most violent, and generally infamous-iest(?) Red Light Districts in the American West (and that’s quite the scale to be at the top of, I’d say). After driving all those cattle for mile after mile after mile to the stockyards, I’m sure folks were ready to let off some steam and this spot was where that happened. There’s also early “skyscrapers”, municipal buildings, and other features all tucked into the main downtown area. It’s a really nice walk and well worth a gander.

Livestock Exchange Building in Downtown Fort Worth – 1920s (source: United States Library of Congress).

T-4 – the Fort Worth Cultural District Tour is a great chance to take in some of Fort Worth’s proudest attractions. This tour is a wonderful way to make a leisurely (or ambitious if you’d prefer) day of art and culture out of the conference’s opening. There’s the Amon Carter Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Modern Art Museum (“the Modern” for those in “the Know”), the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and the National Museum of the Cowgirl and Hall of Fame. The Amon Carter Museum is a great celebration of American Art. Right now they’re featuring a limited exhibit on American Photographs that’ll be just about to wrap up when you’re there. Moving over to the Kimbell, you can take in works from Monet, Michelangelo, and Matisse and see sculpture and other arts that span centuries from across the globe. Even the building is a work of art! Go check it out! The Modern is a great place to marvel at and pretend you understand (maybe that’s just me) modern works of art by the likes of Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Susan Rothenberg. Standing next to one another, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History and the National Museum of the Cowgirl and Hall of Fame are also on the docket. The Science Museum covers such topics as astronomy, paleontology (including dinosaurs!), energy and the Cowgirl Museum is the only such facility in the world dedicated to the women of the Wild West. The Cowgirl Museum is also the site of the next night’s social event and barbecue. So while you’re there taking in the art and history of the American West, maybe you could hang your coat over a chair and save your spot for the barbecue.

Kimbell Art Museum

The view of the interior of the Kimbell Art Museum.

On this tour remember that museum admission is not included so if you want to go to the Modern, or the National Museum of the Cowgirl or the Fort Worth Science Museum, you’ll need to pay the admission fee. If you’re a student, bring your ID for a student discount.

You don’t have to stick to Fort Worth for the tours, though. Two of the tours take you over to Dallas. North Central Texas (and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in particular) boasts one of the largest and oldest African American communities in the state. Come see the history of this vibrant group with T1- Facing the Rising Sun—A View of a Late-19th- to Early-20th-Century African American Community. On this tour you will visit the Dallas African American museum where you can learn about the Freedman’s Cemetery excavation project which took place during the 1990s and early 2000s. The guides of the tour include Duane Peter, the Principal Investigator of the cemetery excavation, and Phillip Collins, a descendant of the early African American Community there and former Curator of the museum. What a great way to learn about this specific portion of Dallas’, Texas’, and the nation’s history than to hear from those who live there. You’ll also visit the Freedman’s Cemetery and from there continue on to Saint Luke Community United Methodist Church to admire the beautiful stained glass featuring 54 scenes from the community. A one-of-a-kind opportunity right there and a great tour all around!

Saint Luke's Stained Glass

One of the stained glass scenes from the Saint Luke Community Church.

Finally, it’s pretty well known that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas as he waved to the crowd from his motorcade on a warm November afternoon in 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald, after firing from the schoolbook depository escaped to a movie theater where he was eventually apprehended and ultimately killed in front of live news cameras as he was transferred out of the Dallas Police Headquarters. One of the Nation’s darkest and most talked about moments in history unfolded right downtown. And as someone who’s passed by all the landmarks many times, they are still amazing to see. With T-2 – John F. Kennedy Assassination Tour, you’ll see it all. Starting from the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, where Kennedy spent his last night, you’ll head by bus to Dealey Plaza in Dallas to see the spot where the President was shot and visit the Sixth Floor Museum to learn about the event. You’ll visit the famed “Grassy Knoll” and see Zapruder’s (of the famed Zapruder Film) offices and head on to Oswald’s residence in Oak Cliff where the infamous photograph was taken. There are many other stops along the way but you’ll eventually make your way back to Fort Worth where you’ll see Oswald’s grave site and conclude at the Ozzie Rabbit (Oswald’s USMC nickname) bar. Led by the tour organizer, Joseph Murphey, historical architect with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District, anyone will find this tour interesting and sobering (except for the bar part, I guess). I’ve taken a similar tour to this one and it really is one of those permanent memories in my mind that I’m so glad I took part in. So much history that’s still there just as it was and all in one place.

One of the final moments of Kennedy’s motorcade before the assassination in Dallas.

Anyway, that’s it! Your tours! Get in there and sign up folks, or at the least sign up when you arrive on January 4th.

Until next time.