'Victory or Death' letter won't come to Alamo without a battle

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by Brian New

KENS

Posted on October 10, 2012 at 8:11 AM

Updated Saturday, Nov 23 at 7:27 AM

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The “Victory or Death” letter written by Lt. Col. William Travis is known by nearly all Texans, yet it’s been seen in recent years by only a few.

The Texas General Land Office wants to change that by putting the letter on display at the Alamo for the 177th anniversary of the battle and siege -- celebrated Feb. 23 through March 6, 2013.

The effort, however, has sparked a battle of its own.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is the custodian of the 1836 letter and is charged by the State to protect it.

Archive staff has recommended not allowing the letter to be put on display at the Alamo because of security and exposure risks.

"Light is our main concern with this document," said Sarah Norris, a conservationist.

In a controlled laboratory inside the Texas State Library and Archives building, Norris brought the 170-year-old letter out of its safe and pointed out how black ink on the letter has faded to brown, and how the paper is deteriorating.

Any additional light exposure would further damage the document, she said.
 
Since the early 1900s, the letter has only been on public display a handful of times -- only three times outside Austin, and never back at the Alamo where Travis wrote it.

"We feel strongly that people can be inspired by seeing Travis's original pen strokes," said Mark Loeffler, of the Texas General Land Office.

The Texas General Land Office has ensured the commission that the letter will be escorted down to San Antonio, placed behind Plexiglas and guarded around the clock for the two weeks it would be on display.

Loeffler said the extensive measures the General Land Office proposed will cost nearly $100,000. The money would come from private contributions.

"It will not be more secure than it will be at the Alamo," Loeffler said.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission is scheduled to meet later this month to further discuss the proposal.

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