The BIG 5 for BIG D

The five biggest initiatives for the future DFW Supercity

August 8, 2017


The Metroplex won't host a Super Bowl any time before 2023 and it likely won't have the opportunity to host the Olympics before 2036 or 2040. That doesn't mean there aren't big possibilities to do great things in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, though.

While the Olympics have been hosted in the United States eight times and will return to Los Angeles for the third time in 2028, no Texas city has ever hosted the international games. Of eleven sanctioned World Expositions that have been held in the United States, Texas has hosted only one official expo, San Antonio's HemisFair '68 (even though the Texas Centennial Exposition at Fair Park, not sanctioned by the Bureau International des Expositions, attracted over six million visitors in 1936).

Texas cities have had slightly more success hosting major national events. The Super Bowl has taken place in Texas four times - three times in Houston and once in the Metroplex. Miami will host its eleventh Super Bowl in 2020 and Los Angeles will host its eighth in 2022. New Orleans has hosted ten so far. Tampa will host its fifth in 2021, making 17 for the state of Florida (Jacksonville hosted one). In the realm of prized international events, Texas does not perform well.

Texas leaders need to come to the understanding that those major events by themselves do not make a place interesting or capable to boast of a great quality of life for its citizens. Rather, interesting places with institutions that work toward better quality of life for residents and exciting opportunities for visitors land more prestigious events.

Of course, there are additional considerations, like natural environment and public transportation, that factor into decisions about host sites, but a very big influence is how well the cities fare in the public imagination. Less tangible circumstances, like sense of history, aesthetic architecture, healthy lifestyle, social tranquility, etc. may inspire the selection of a host city or a popular visitor destination. While a place may not win points for economy and government, it can certainly lose points when these things are misguided, polarizing and divisive.

Texas cities need to engage in the kinds of activities that World Class Cities and their visitors care about. There are potential opportunities to present national events and initiatives that will build the kind of recognition for the Metroplex that it takes to win bids for other prominent international events. Some of the potential initiatives have even greater quality of life and economic benefits for Dallas and the surrounding cities than major international sports events, and the positive results will have long-term effects on the connotation of the city's name.

These overarching, prescient projects may also affect how the citizens think about the imminent challenges that are in the back of their minds: Fair Park revitalization, the Trinity River Corridor Project, the 2017 Capital Bond Program (to be voted on in Dallas this November), high-speed rail, and others.

Here are the five most timely opportunities to serve residents and visitors to Dallas-Fort Worth, while creating the city of the future. The odds for success are as good or better than efforts to win Olympics bids and land Super Bowls. And their impact will last. They are designed to help overcome some of the major obstacles and challenges the Metroplex faces.

1. Embrace history by understanding its relevance to the region
A. Lead the commemoration of the oldest written history in the modern boundaries of the U.S.
B. Establish a national historic trail to interpret Indian trade routes and the Spanish incursions.
C. To inspire further interests, build on 500 years of history since Cabeza de Vaca traveled here.
2. Aspire to the future by becoming a leading Supercity
A. Recognize that the Metroplex will grow even larger and needs greater cohesiveness.
B. Set a world-leading example through access, opportunity and social transformation.
3. Make connections for interested travelers and recreationists
A. Open a high speed rail station that connects the city and region, and provides great amenities.
B. Build on the cruise terminal concept with a regional tour bus port at the main rail station.
C. Establish a national hiking trail over the southern Great Plains with DFW as its central hub.
4. Build future institutions as new social and educational spaces
A. Build the nation's most provident and advanced museum covering critical topics of cultures.
B. Inspire others, like a Cabeza de Vaca interpretive center and a network of museums of culture.
5. Write new narratives inspired by digital collections
A. Utilize the network of libraries to build a Supercity of citizen historians, journalists, scientists, and more.
B. Establish avenues to disseminate new collections through museums and historic signage.
The highlighted projects are not a group of small, more easily-achieved good ideas (the report committee compiled that list, too). And they are not the largest of humanitarian and environmental objectives - to end poverty, hunger, crime and violence, and to better clean the air by planting millions of trees - but they may help on those fronts, as well.

Los Angeles
Los Angeles has been able to do what Dallas-Fort Worth has not. That is, land its third Olympics in 2028 and its eighth Super Bowl in 2022. In many ways, Los Angeles and DFW are similar and face the same challenges. But there are several things that have set Los Angeles apart:
The film industry has captured the imagination of the nation and the world; the museums have followed closely behind those of Washington DC, New York City and Chicago in stature; L.A. has taken full advantage of its natural environment - its proximity to the ocean and mountains; its history resonates with many Americans; it has presented a leading national holiday event, the Tournament of Roses Parade; it has supported its music legacy much better than most cities around the nation; it is rivaled in amusement parks only by Orlando, Florida; and, it has been proactive about public transit. With all of its World Class amenities, Los Angeles has also been able to support two MLB (baseball) teams, two NBA (basketball) teams, two NFL (football) teams (at times), and an annual college rivalry between UCLA and USC in a reasonably stable, historic athletic conference.
In Texas, and especially DFW, leaders have often thought that professional sports interests will solely guide them to host the nation's and the world's most prominent events. They have been wrong, as their success has been severly deficient, lacking most anything to hold up to the records of the nation's other major cities. A great city must lead in the whole gamut of culture, education, recreation, health, quality of life and city planning.

1. Embrace History

Historical Relevance - Plan the 500 year anniversary of Cabeza de Vaca in Texas

On the 500 year anniversary of the first Spanish-led exploration of Texas, resulting in the oldest written history inside the modern boundaries of the United States, Texas institutions should lead the planning for 10 years of educational and commemorative events across the U.S. and Mexico.

With the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition as a base model, DFW and the state of Texas should reach back to its much older history to produce a multi-year event of international interest.

Dallas has a sad legacy when it comes to historic preservation, only to be outdone by Houston in the competition for who holds the least historic value. A great deal of its history, however, is not strictly preserved in a century of scarce architecture, but rather in written stories and archaeological evidence.

oldest written description of any place in the modern boundaries of the United States covers the 1527 Narváez expedition that brought Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca to Louisiana and Texas, where the disoriented Spanish explorer spent several years trading goods with indigenous peoples in the forests and prairies between the Red River and the Trinity River. Of 400 men who set out, four miraculously survived to travel 6,000 miles from Florida to Mexico City, mostly on foot, in one of the world's most surreal and epic journeys. The survivors' experiences in harsh, exotic lands were certainly on par with those of Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta. Most of the castaways' days were spent in what is now Texas. [Learn More]

Ranking as a top chapter in the history of the Americas, Cabeza de Vaca's journey across Texas springs from Hernán Cortés's conquest of Mexico City and leads directly to Francisco Vázquez de Coronado's search for gold in the American southwest. From slavery and religion to primitive surgery, violent tornadoes and cannibalism, the account of Cabeza de Vaca provides tremendous insight and sets the record straight on numerous misinterpreted episodes of Texas and American history, as well or better than any other known record of the cultural confluence that formed modern America.

Ten years from now will mark the 500 year anniversary of the beginning of the expedition, culminating nine years later in the end of the perilous adventure. Coincidentally, 2036, the 500 year anniversary of Cabeza de Vaca's safe arrival in Mexico City and his fateful return to Spain, falls in the same year as the bicentennial of Texas independence.

The journey of Cabeza de Vaca parallels or even exceeds the Lewis and Clark Expedition in historic significance and the potential for academic interests, new research possibilities, international involvement, and tourism. Possible commemorative and informative activities include participation in memorial festivals and cultural exchange events, education and academic conferences, research and archaeological activities, and media productions.

Because of the vast locales involved and the historic/educational implications, the commemoration should involve numerous universities, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, National Geographic Society, Smithsonian Institution, National Park Service, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and many others. A major goal of the effort will be to establish a national historic trail to interpret the events of 500 years ago and memorialize the first encounters between Africans, Europeans and indigenous Americans.

Not only will it develop greater understanding of the peoples of Texas, the decade of research and events will be a catalyst for more people to be interested in the dynamic history of the DFW region, including civil rights, transportation, occupations, industries and music history, along with the broader history of the Gulf Coast and Mexico.

The Metroplex has an added significance in the earliest accounts and exploration of the "New World". Not only was it possible that Cabeza de Vaca roamed to the DFW area, trading goods with Native peoples and writing early accounts of the American bison, but the region is central to the legacy of other explorers, lying west of Hernando de Soto's route (which was completed by Luis de Moscoso Alvarado after de Soto's death near the Mississippi River) and east of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado's expedition.

By studying and commemorating the connected events that brought the arrival of early Sixteenth Century Spanish and multi-national travelers who explored Texas 500 years ago, there is extensive potential for educational cultural exchange events, and increased knowledge and interests to benefit the region, including:

-Academic conferences, international exchange and institutional collaboration
-Research and education
-Inspirational interests for students and lifelong learners
-Development of an interpretive center or museum
-Development of a national and international historic trail (like the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail)
-Archaeological discoveries might result in a historical/cultural park (similar to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, or the Anasazi Heritage Center in Colorado)
-The impact of the significant world events that unfolded 500 years ago on the Gulf Coast and inland Texas are potential subject matter and impetus for a World's Exposition or Fair

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Journey of Cabeza de Vaca
Having approached North Texas from the south, east and west 500 years ago, Spanish and African explorers' early encounters with Native Americans reveal some of the most interesting facets of human development, diverse cultures and changing ways of life, leading up to our understanding and state of the modern world.

2. Aspire to the Future

Prepare for Automation - Transition to the better future as a cohesive Supercity

DFW should lead the way into a future in which the overworked population may become underworked due to artificial intelligence, robots, drones and further automation, and strive to close the massive gaps in access to education, opportunity, nutrition, innovation, arts and transportation.

Artificial intelligence, computers, robots, drones and further mechanization of labor are supposed to make our lives easier. But, who knows? To modernize a phrase: the future is uncoded. One thing is certain: hours of human labor will be reduced for one unstoppable reason - mass efficiency.

One outlook on the future is that the workforce will move from overworked to underworked. Forecasts are uncertain if all people will have more free time or if some will have jobs and prosperity, while others have only a universal basic income to get by on. Either way, the Metroplex must be a place where citizens participate in a wide range of activities - recreational, educational, civic, social, cultural, and more. Participation must be built in as a forethought, because it won't develop as an afterthought.

Regardless of the isolating technologies involved - highly-automated workplaces or just continued internet and smartphone immersion - the public requires physical activity, community gatherings and real-life interests for physical health, mental wellness, self worth and civility.

The quality of life for people in the rapidly-changing technological future will depend on the standards of excellence and the proactive nature of the city and region they live in.

There isn't a question about DFW becoming a "Supercity" of the future, because - like it or not - it will be one. The pastures between Dallas and Fort Worth are gone, population density in the mid cities is very high and populations larger than Dallas and Fort Worth surround them. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington Metropolitan Statistical Area spans nearly 100 miles across and the population will reach 9, 10, even 11 million people in the coming decades.

The issue is, how good or bad will the Supercity be? The answer will be determined based on how cohesive local governments are willing to be, and how much citizens and philanthropists are willing to work across artificial boundaries to provide excellent quality of life for all communities. As a Supercity, leaders need to actualize the best possible distribution of opportunity and inspiration across the Metroplex.

Should cities continue to function as separate silos, parts of the region will be horribly depressed, having negative effects on the whole region. Distribution of entrepreneurial inspiration, jobs, healthcare, healthy lifestyle, transportation and other quality of life assets, like music, arts and lifelong learning interests, are key to developing productive interests and economic opportunity across area populations.

The Supercity must close gaps, like the historic obstacle to effective public transportation for the region that Arlington has presented, and populate deserts where access for arts, social and recreational activities, learning and nutrition are scarce in the far reaches of the Metroplex.

Grow South is an important recognition of the inequities that exist and missed opportunities in the south regions of Dallas. Lack of access to numerous other amenities exist in other parts of the DFW region, as well.

A collection of cities that are destine to be a Supercity must have greater aspirations and more vivid imagination: not just about jobs, housing market, traffic conditions, rotating sports seasons, expensively produced pop entertainment, etc. The Supercity must consider whether activities and amenities that make for a good quality of life are available in all the unknown and underserved recesses of the city.

Whether in their cars or in autonomous rideshare vehicles, distance is a great inhibitor in DFW that keeps people from going, and taking their kids, to interesting events and institutions. And being overworked has a similar effect in keeping people with transportation from having an integral relationship with the cultural fabric of the city.

High caliber arts, music, creativity, innovation, unique vendors, diverse product producers, entrepreneurial opportunities and productive leisure activities need to accessible and in close proximity for all Metroplex residents.

DFW civic leaders, philanthropists and citizens must take steps to reduce marginalization and make a fuller Metroplex experience central to everyone - to make everyone primarily involved in its opportunities and improvements - or the future Supercity's potential to lead the nation will be squandered.

Designing and leading a future where there is opportunity to benefit from the economy and participate in the leisure and extracurricular benefits is essential to build a good future for the Supercity. A program that engages and empowers citizens in collecting sociological data and improving communities is an important, even critical step.

While the kinds of efforts that are necessary may be led by civic leaders, universities and tech companies, the reality is that increased funding is required for cultural institutions, activities and centers that reach remote and underserved parts of the Metroplex, as well as better mobility for those areas.

The potential in striving for excellence in all aspects of urban life across all communities is not frivolous, but rather critical:

-Improved economy and lower crime rates
-Increased interests and attractions for visitors
-Greater, more efficient mobility
-Better education at all levels
-Improved cultural literacy
-Inspiration for social innovators and entrepreneurs
-Better incubator conditions and support for arts and creative industries

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Great Plains Trail
The natural environment of the Metroplex and the Southern Great Plains is well suited to recreation during many months of the year.

3. Make Connections

Attract People to DFW - Embrace diverse modes of transportation

The Metroplex must serve its growing population and visitors with greater connectivity across the region, state, and nation by providing commuters with a thorough public transit network and by utilizing imaginative alternatives for visitors, such as a central train terminal, tour bus port and recreation trails.

The Border Wall might be all the rage in current political circles, but history reveals that connections are the basis of forward progress and economic activity throughout the world. Trade in ideas and products is how the population gets things done and travel is how people fulfill their dreams.

Along with continued expansion of mass transit and improved walkability, high-speed trains and long-distance trails are the biggest new opportunities in Texas, not counting a few uncertainties, like Elon Musk's Hyperloop concept.

With high-speed rail potentially reaching Dallas from Houston and Fort Worth from the Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio and Austin, some strategic city in the Metroplex will need to be the place where they connect to make them most effective. Occupying nearly all the middle ground, Arlington ought to be making every effort to be the center of the new universe built around better travel, or it should hope to be directly connected to that center, or at least get connected to the region's transportation grid. After all, the city has a soon-to-be vacant stadium that looks like a train station, with enough space for the nation's best amenities, located on one or two of the possible main routes between Dallas and Fort Worth.

But would Arlington ever give up a street and some parking revenue to open a rail corridor in order to achieve massive success as a visitor destination? Probably not. The Metroplex may need to look toward Grapevine to host this connection.

Keep in mind that the largest visitor attractions in the nation happen to be transportation hubs, and the ones with amenities - like museums, restaurants, curio shops, transportation and tour connections - are the ones that truly count in visitors' minds as true destinations. What could be accomplished through the flagship transportation center in the region is nothing short of 10-20 million visitors on the streets (not only in the airport terminals) and the potential to move the DFW region up the tourism ladder to more closely match its 4th place rank in population.

A simple high-tech train station where trains meet is not the only opportunity to make new connections. While DFW is landlocked, it is surrounded by many interesting natural and cultural destinations. Its version of a cruise terminal should link tour buses to the main central train terminal. Tour companies have enormous potential to lead edventures throughout the region - Santa Fe, Tulsa, Memphis, New Orleans, Gouston, Galveston, San Antonio, Austin, and more - with the Metroplex as a hub and base of operations.

DFW should also open a
new frontier in recreation, as well, by connecting prominent national hiking trails to the Metroplex. There is potential for a DFW-centered effort to open a prominent recreation trail, comparable in interest and distance to other national trails, but more accessible and possible (achievable) for many more would-be adventure travelers.

The prominent dividing point on the Southern Great Plains between the famous Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail would likely exist about 90 miles north of the Metroplex, somewhere around Davis, Oklahoma, but the gravitational pull of its sheer population and transportation options should bring this to the DFW area, connecting at Lewisville, Grapevine or Denton. From there, an adventurer can hike through the Wichita Mountains, over the grasslands and mesas, including part of the historic Santa Fe Trail, and into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to join the Continental Divide Trail. Or trek along the Kiamichi Mountains and Talimena parkway, and join the Ouachita National Recreation Trail on the way to the Natchez Trace or Appalachian Trail.

If an 1,800-2,000 mile recreation trail sounds impossible, consider that up to one fifth of it is already in place with more in the works. Development includes possible use of the 225 mile Northeast Texas Trail, which reaches the Metroplex at Farmersville in Collin County. (In other words, this is certain to happen and the only question is whether DFW organizations lead or follow in the planning.) Hikers passing through the Metroplex might not seem like the best idea, due to the level of frustration it might present to them, but the next DART phase, the Cotton Belt light rail line (along with the forthcoming TEX Rail and existing A-train), will overcome the challenge that adventurers coming in and out of the north side of region might face.

On this Great Plains/Ozarks trail, national and international recreationists will enjoy opportunities to descend the Rocky Mountain foothills, wander over gypsum-lined red hills and valleys, experience national grasslands and wildlife refuges, and discover uniquely American historic events on the Chisolm Trail, Avery's Trace and the Trail of Tears. [Learn More]

The potential for improving the variety of connections and transportation modes, whether high speed or low impact, is enormous:

-Increased tourism
-Increased use and support for the region's cultural assets
-Visitor numbers to rival other top national attractions
-Less congestion on DFW regional highways and roads

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Cotton Belt Map
The Cotton Belt light rail line between Plano/North Richardson and DFW International Airport, with additional connections to Grapevine, Fort Worth and Denton, will open many new means for travel (hiking, biking, canoeing, boating, horseback riding) to destinations in the Metroplex and far beyond - to go wherever an adventurer can dream.

4. Build Future Institutions

Visionary Institutions - Museums as new social and educational spaces

While common lifeways like shopping and active occupations are in decline due to the internet and new technologies, DFW must embrace the social, educational and recreational capabilities, as well as visitor impacts, of innovative major museums, as they will serve health and sociological needs in the future.

Ranking just below major transportation hubs, the biggest amusement-theme parks and the top national parks, museums are among the nation's and the world's biggest attractions. But there haven't been many great innovations in museums in over a century, with the Smithsonian Institution being founded in 1846, "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," and the American Museum of Natural History and the National Geographic Society originating in 1869 and 1888, respectively. The first National Park, Yellowstone, was dedicated for preservation in 1872, about the time of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The National Park Service was formed over 100 years ago in 1916, when cars were barely in use. The British Museum was founded in 1753, before the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

Our ways of life have changed so rapidly over the roughly 150 years since the origins of the nation's prominent educational institutions, that people may not have had much time to consider the important role of those institutions. Technology now, however, will force the population to consider the value of museums and educational institutions, as they are left with more sedentary occupations and pastimes. The opportunity to create new, provident institutions for the future is available now.

The world has changed more in 500 years, since the colonization of the Americas, than it did in the previous 5,000 years. Human conditions advanced more in the century and a half since the American Civil War than in the six and a half centuries between England's decree of liberties, the Magna Carta, and the American war that ended slavery. Our ways of life changed more in a quarter century of widespread internet use and electronic banking, starting in the mid 90s, than in the quarter century before that, which started with the culmination of the Civil Rights Movement, the peak of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War and the 1969 moon landing.

The next 15 years are poised to bring more changes to our ways of life than the 50 years since color television became common and broadcast by satellite began.

Museums of art and history are usually strictly about those things, having most subjects covered. Now and then, a new one, like the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas and the future Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, comes along and makes an impact. Museums of nature and science are more broadly about the physical and biological sciences of our world, exceeding their defined boundaries at times. It is, however, the social sciences and culture (our ways of life), which bear on our past, present and future, that have not been thoroughly explored and interpreted in our museums, nor very effectively or cohesively presented to the public through educational institutions. Civilization has been so mired in rapid advance of technology and globalization, resulting in widespread strife in the ways of life of diverse peoples, that institutions have not fully explored the present and the future for humans. While unique cultures developed over hundreds of thousands of years as people migrated apart and formed diverse religions, languages, foodways, architecture traditions and other ways of life, they have become more homogenous at an ever increasing rate over the recent centuries and decades, and the world is now on the cusp of the most transformative technological revolution yet.

Dallas is not foreign to advanced institutions. Fair Park was one of the visionary places of its day, albeit with some serious faux pas here and there. Texas cities may not have stopped their booming business practices long enough to think about it, but they have led the way into new cultural realities in the world by advancing technology, energy, space exploration, travel, media, medicine and diverse communities. Texas politics, beliefs and customs have certainly been center stage in the turbulant confluence of our collective ways of life, sometimes with extreme and historic outcomes.

Of the many unexplored opportunities to develop great and desperately needed institutions, broad cultural literacy, understanding of ours and others' ways of life, including economics, media, diversity of beliefs, pluralism, civics and public policy, occupations, arts, social life, etc. is the most relevant topic in the world today.

Diverse "ways of life" is used as rhetoric to explain conflicts. Health problems are often blamed on people's changing lifeways. Nostalgic and romanticized pasts are victims of our changing ways of life. Potential climate change will have tremendous impact on our ways of life. Culture (the academic understanding of our ways of life) is complex and fascinating, and requires the best possible discourse and education for the best quality of life and for populations to peacefully exist.

Like the spread of children's museums over recent decades, museums of culture (utilizing a broader academic definition, and interpretation through numerous fields of humanities and social sciences) will interest populations in many American cities in the future, as people identify themselves as members of diverse cultures coexisting in a fast-changing world. A visionary and diverse city like Dallas or Houston might take the initiative, even if not for the social and educational benefits, then for the potential to attract 2-5 million visitors. And if not in Texas, then other cities will take the lead in this wide-open educational frontier.

With their historic and modern diversity, along with landmark industrial impacts, Texas cities are the most ideal location for advanced new museums. While the best options originate in Houston, with the vacant Astrodome, or in Arlington, with the soon-to-be vacated Texas Rangers Stadium - since they could accommodate 2-3 million museum visitors, 1-2 million event attendees and about 500,000 education users - there are other possible locations and combinations of collaborators in the Metroplex (as well as in Houston or San Antonio, or the city that most famously and actively takes the lead to capitalize on Texas culture, Austin).

As Austin recently seized the opportunity from more deserving historic locations - Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston - to become the site for the state's music history museum, the episode spoke volumes about the lack of ability of the larger urban areas to gain and utilize these types of resources. That possibility was open and widely known to DFW and Houston for many years.

There are other important potential institutions to establish, however, such as the above mentioned Cabeza de Vaca interpretive center, or the possibility to revitalize educational uses of Fair Park (though success for institutions at Fair Park will heavily depend on year-round quality events as attractions, openness to community participation and imperative for community improvement). The establishment of additional major museums in the Metroplex is desperately needed to better anchor and support the wider industry of cultural attractions with visitors (and increased funds) to DFW.

The potential for a leading national museum with the right mix of interests and activities is to attract and serve 100 million visitors over 20 years. The Metroplex will need two professional baseball teams, similar to the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington-Baltimore and New York City, to rival that level of attendance.

Other benefits of additional museums in DFW, particularly the mission to establish one as a flagship institution that will serve millions of visitors as a major national and international attraction:

-Economic benefits for businesses and arts activities
-Higher funding to the mechanisms that support arts and community initiatives -Increased awareness and visitor support for other museums and cultural assets in DFW
-Improved educational and lifelong learning interests
-Opportunity for involvement by academic and community organizations, and creative industries
-School group visits and academic conferences

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Old Red Couthouse
The preservation and revitalization of historic sites like Fair Park and the Old Red Courthouse in downtown Dallas will be more easily accomplished with the addition of major national museums and international attractions for DFW.

5. Write New Narratives

Digital Collections - Increase documentation in libraries and public spaces

DFW should set new standards for use of libraries in the collection and interpretation of cultural history, as well as being the leaders in the effort to digitize and disseminate information of interest to citizens and visitors, with further goals to inspire researchers and media producers.

Technology changed drastically during the lifetimes of hundreds of millions of people and left a great many of them with valuable collections that have no certain future. In these collections are a full gamut of nostalgia, family history and information that is interesting to others. Some of this information is the fabric of communities; some is the history of businesses and organizations; some is needed by researchers; and some of it is the invaluable material artifacts and narratives of the world's heritage.

Libraries might seem like archaic, energy-consuming spaces in the internet age. But they have the opportunity to reverse the information valve and become the places where citizens write the narrative of their cities and their international origins for the world to view. Like collecting folk songs in the earliest days of recording, converting hundreds of thousands, even millions, of experiences and material collections, big and small, is the new frontier of information.

Whether film, magnetic recordings, written scripts, printed materials or other cellulose materials, tremendous amounts of interesting content is never digitized and ends up disintegrating in attics and eventually landfills, rather than being preserved in family records, having the potential to be shared online or to be preserved in university collections and public archives.

There is amazing potential to conserve the material and reveal the interesting stories that might be discerned from new archives. The richness of these stories are our cultural fabric and they are the origin of narratives that movies, television, documentary media, music, literature, and significant related industries are based on.

Lack of access to technology, insurmountable expense, hurdles of poor quality, lack of time and expertise, and other prohibitive factors often make it difficult for individuals to preserve theirs and their family's or organization's collections. Libraries and dedicated facilities may serve as ideal collection points by installing specially-equipped labs for digitizing most all media formats and archival objects, while providing access to experts, advisors, curatorial staff and media producers.

This will allow materials of great personal value to be retained by individuals and families, whether in digital or original formats, and for the most significant content to be shared with libraries, museums, history associations, university collections and researchers, as well as amatuer and professional media makers.

A movement to increase citizen involvement in building valuable resources from collections will also empower ordinary people to more purposefully record and document events, and gather information to be made available and shared with other researchers, including genealogists. From the events and cultural traditions that make up the lifetimes of diverse people, to the information contained on stones in area cemeteries, there is a wealth of productive work for dedicated citizen journalists and historians to do.

The possible benefits of public involvement in technology conversion and documentation may be easily taken for granted, sort of life advancements in photography or access to public broadcasting, but should not be considered short of the early potential of the radio, television and film industries.

-Greater interest in Metroplex history and the region's international connections
-Increased media production with North Texas as topic and location
-Increased local events based on media production and presentation
-More citizen journalism and local involvement in documentation of stories and sites
-Higher level of critical thinking by DFW citizens
-Greater involvement of youth and senior populations in productive activities

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What Needs to Happen?

To launch any of the initiatives described will require visionary leadership by city representatives and community leaders, as well as mindful philanthropists and engaged philanthropic businesses. A strategic philanthropical umbrella organization should be formed. The challenge to accomplish the described visionary projects may seem as enormous as JFK's challenge to Houston to land humans on the Moon; it may seem impossible to many in DFW. But, if successful, the benefits are undeniable.

Not to worry, though. Should Dallas-Fort Worth area cities and leaders choose to not set course on these visionary efforts, other cities will surely make successes of them.

Without a doubt, St. Petersburg, Baton Rouge, San Antonio or El Paso will lead an effort to commemorate the 500 year anniversary of the Narvaez expedition and Cabeza de Vaca's subsequent historic documentation, the oldest written history of the nation. The cities that have always dominated travel and tourism - New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc. - will continue to do so, while port cities and recreation destinations will gladly keep more than their share of visitors.

Cities like Seattle, Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans, Austin, maybe even Houston, or some surprise visitor-focused newcomer, will make their mark on the Twenty-first Century by building the innovative and necessary institutions of the future.

It is up to the collective civic leadership of the Metroplex to take action. Success depends on proactive philanthropists to change the course for the up-til-now hodgepodge region, one that has lagged far behind its potential, in order to make DFW a leading Supercity.

The goal is to involve city leaders and philanthropists in forming a "Plan A" for DFW's future to be not just a Supercity of necessity, but a great one that leads the world in visitor interests and quality of life.

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The BIG 5 Address Obstacles and Challenges

Posted: August 8, 2017

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