A new exhibition shows San Antonio's HemisFair '68 like never before
A new online exhibit allows you to take a first-time tour of — or, if you’re old enough — reacquaint yourself with HemisFair ’68.
Gathering and presenting those films is the work of Katharine Austin, the curator for the Texas Archive of the Moving Image. The archive is a non-profit working to discover and preserve important films about the state's film history, and then educate Texans about them.
“We have a new web exhibit called Meet Me in San Antonio HemisFair '68 on Film. And mostly it's using footage from the collections in TME’s archive of HemisFair. We sort of recreate the experience of what HemisFair was like 55 years ago,” Austin said.
HemisFair '68 was the city’s World’s Fair, which opened on April 6, 1968, and closed six months later. The event celebrated San Antonio's history, and it essentially remade the Alamo City into a vacation destination.
“We have promotional films and government films related to the planning and execution of the fair,” she said.
But the collection also included a personal touch — TAMI appealed to those who went to the fair to share their home movie footage.
“We have so many Texas family home movies of them visiting the fair and everything they did there,” Austin explained. “It's also really looking at 55 years later — really how big of a role HemisFair played in changing what San Antonio looks like and what how we know San Antonio to look like today.”
The Archive groups the different videos per subject.
“There's a whole reel of the different transportation options that were there between the monorail, the sky ride, and the lagoon cruise,” Austin said. “And so you're like in the passenger car with other Texans as they're riding around the elevated loop around on the monorail or even flying over the fairgrounds in the Sky ride.”
The Archive of the Moving Image has traveled throughout the state for year and asked for home movies along the way.
“We would take them back to our office in Austin, digitize them, and then we'll return the original materials with a digital copy. And then we keep a digital copy for the archives,” she said.
The exhibition also shows the area southeast of downtown before the fairgrounds was built.
“It was amazing to see footage of what that part of San Antonio looked like before the fair,” Austin said. “The fairgrounds were 92 acres, and that was just part of 143 acre urban renewal program that San Antonio did in that area.”
In this case, "urban renewal" included the use of federal funds to buy out the community of 2,000 families, many of German, Polish, Mexican and Chinese descent, with a take-it-or-leave-it deal.
The site was then razed, and only 24 structures were left standing.
Architect O'Neil Ford included them in his HemisFair master plan, which included bold structural designs, including something unique, an inspiration from Seattle's World Fair.
The collection also features the building of the Tower of The Americas and the Hilton Palacio Del Rio.