EDUCATION

Former Alamo custodians win court agreement for temporary access to library on site

A group that served as guardians of the Alamo for more than a century has obtained a court order temporarily stopping a Texas state agency headed by George P. Bush from keeping the group away from a collection of artifacts and books at the historic site.

State District Judge John Gabriel granted the Daughters of the Republic of Texas a 14-day restraining order Monday in San Antonio, giving them access to the Alamo private library and preventing anyone from removing items from the premises. The group filed suit against the Texas General Land Office and Land Commissioner Bush in March, accusing it of unilaterally declaring the state the owner of the group's collection.

According to the temporary restraining order, "the court finds there is a substantial likelihood" that the Daughters "will prevail on the merits of its claims" against the agency.

The Daughters' lawsuit focuses on the collection within the research library, which was established in 1945. In the lawsuit, the group said it owns more than 77 percent of the collection, made up of some 38,000 items, including books, maps, flags, paintings, manuscripts and other artifacts used by researchers. The suit says that the items in question were donated to the Daughters — who began caring for the Alamo in 1905 — and that the donors wanted the items to be maintained under the group's stewardship, not the state of Texas.

The judge said the state agency is causing "irreparable harm" to the Daughters in the "potential loss of, and actual loss of access, control and oversight of priceless items collected" by the group.

The Daughters suit came shortly after Land Commissioner Bush announced that he was ending the group's management of the downtown San Antonio-Mission turned-fortress. The Alamo was the site of an 1836 battle during the Texas Revolution in which some 180 defenders were killed by Mexican forces. Weeks later, those deaths provided Texas soldiers with their rallying cry — "Remember the Alamo!" — that helped carry them to victory at the Battle of San Jacinto, clinching Texas' independence from Mexico.

Bill Noble, spokesman for the Daughters of the Republic, said employees for the group were barred entry from the research library Monday morning. The restraining order grants them complete access to the library and its collection, and the state agency must provide the group keys and other necessary credentials.

"We sought the temporary restraining order to gain access to the library," he said, "and to prevent the state from removing any of the collection."

Brittany Eck, spokeswoman for the Texas General Land Office, said that the Daughters were given a limited supervisory role over a staff of five employees at the Alamo Research Center, and they terminated that agreement Sunday.

"There will be a follow up hearing in the next few weeks to discuss these issues," she said.