Remember the Alamo: TAMU Conservation Team Helps Preserve Texas Landmark

The Battle of 1836 is what tends to come to mind when we remember the Alamo.

But beyond the 13 days, when a brave group of men fought for freedom, there's a broader history to the iconic Texas landmark.
The Alamo served as a Spanish mission and was the first recorded hospital in Texas.

"Any time you have a building that is this old, it's very important that it be maintained," said Pam Rosser.

Rosser is the Alamo's conservator. She's leading a new battle - the fight against deterioration. Rosser constantly checks the Alamo's walls for excessive moisture, stress cracks, and other potentially harmful conditions.

"When I'm cleaning the walls, I have a very soft brush that I use to gather the dust bunnies that have accumulated over the years. I have a hand sprayer that I just fill with distilled water that I spray to help remove some of the debris that may be very much adhered to the historic surface," said Rosser.

This year, Aggies joined Rosser's preservation team, bringing technology to the front lines.

Texas A&M Professor of Architecture Bob Warden is leading the team, which includes students and professors from Texas A&M, Texas A&M at Kingsville, the University of Texas and UT San Antonio.

"What we're doing is hoping to measure locations of all of these things so that we can keep track of what she's cleaned and taken care of. And also to get a sense of how bad these problems might be. How often do they arise? What's the next period of cleaning that needs to take place," said Warden.

Warden says they're using high-tech gadgets to get color images and laser scans that will help create a digital map of all the maintenance.

"We have the total station, which we, it's a surveying machine and it documents different points and loads them on to a map. Basically it shoots tons of points all over. It just scans everything in 3D. So we'll take scans of the interiors and exteriors. And then we bring them back to the office. It's really neat because you can see every piece of erosion, every rock detail," said Sarah Claus, a Texas A&M graduate student working on the project.

The 3D information they receive helps them measure coordinates from one point to another, just like using a tape measure. Now all this information can be found on a computer.

"With those types of detailed images, if we have, say there's a rock eroding away rather quickly, I would be able to go to this database and with that image, measure that particular stone. And then I can send it to whoever needs to do that work. And let them know, sort of ballpark, square footage as to what it is exactly they're going to be doing," said Rosser.

The 3D models will greatly enhance the last detailed drawings of the site, which were created in 1961 by the Historic American Buildings Survey. The digital database will serve as a universal foundation of information for future Alamo projects

"I'm proud to say I'm working at the Alamo. It's part of my history now, too," said Hannah Vossler, a Texas A&M graduate student working on the project.

The project is expected to be completed by early 2014 and will eventually be online and accessible to the general public.

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