What’s Going on With Phil Collins’s Collection of Alamo Artifacts?

As rock star hobbies go, this is an especially interesting one

Phil Collins
Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson listens as Phil Collins speaks in front of The Alamo in 2014.
Gary Miller/Getty Images

Sometimes rock stars have interesting hobbies that they pursue when not making music. In the case of Phil Collins, his non-musical passion involves the Alamo — specifically, collecting artifacts connected to the building’s history. And if you think the idea of a musician who grew up outside of London being fascinated with all things Alamo-related is unexpected, don’t worry — Collins is apparently well aware of this and wrote a book that explains his lifelong interest with the Alamo.

In 2014, Collins donated his collection of artifacts to the Texas General Land Office, with the plan that they would go on display to the general public in 2023. Now, 2023 has arrived — but questions have arisen surrounding the authenticity of some of the items Collins donated. That, in turn, has led to more debate over the nature of historical artifacts and memorabilia — and whether even an object of dubious provenance can be of historical importance.

These are all contentious topics. A new article at The Art Newspaper notes that one of the objects in Collins’s collection — a knife that belonged to Jim Bowie — sparked an ongoing lawsuit by the person who assisted in the sale against the authors and publishers of a book that argued that it was inauthentic. A small number of other objects have also drawn scrutiny.

The Art Newspaper also spoke with the museum’s curator Ernesto Rodriguez, who made two overarching points: first, that the vast majority of the objects donated by Collins were not of contentious origin; and second, that Collins’s donations are only part of the museum’s holdings.

“The collection not only tells the story of the Texas Revolution but also about how people collect and the perils of collecting,” Rodriguez told The Art Newspaper. “[Collins] is a wonderful individual who has been very generous to the Alamo and the people of Texas.” A lot will depend on how the objects in question are handled — but Rodriguez’s comments elsewhere in the interview about “showing a story of how people collect” suggest an interesting perspective on things.

We’ll know soon enough — the collection is set to open to the public in March.

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