With the abundance of salt and freshwater fish in Texas waters, recreational fishing has long been a popular leisure activity. People of all ages have enjoyed this tranquil sport out in nature, away from the distractions of everyday life.
Photographs of 19th century fishing excursions are uncommon. Before the Kodak camera, few people were willing to hire a professional photographer to venture out to water’s edge. Occasionally fishermen would visit a studio and pose with their catch in front of a painted backdrop. By the early 1900s, people were routinely taking their camera along to record their summer activities, including fishing.
These images are the work of both professional and amateur photographers. They record fishing trips and fishing trophies: some taken for family albums, others for newspaper features.
- MS 142 Salas (Mario Marcel) papers, .33 feet of research materials and thesis
- MS 330 A La Nueva Business and Professional Woman’s Clubs records, 4 feet of assorted administrative materials from folded organization
- UA 99.0025 UTSA. Papers of Faculty and Staff: Clark, Ellen Riojas, assorted electronic records
Earlier this year Special Collections staff was fortunate enough to meet with Dwight Henderson and receive the donation of two groups of records. Dr. Henderson, former UTSA Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, donated his faculty papers to the UTSA University Archives, as well as records related to the Mitchell Lake Wetlands Society, a group that assisted San Antonio Water System in protecting and developing Mitchell Lake as a bird and wildlife sanctuary.
Just south of downtown San Antonio, Mitchell Lake is part of the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center, which is on a 1200-acre natural area. The bird refuge consists of the 600-acre Mitchell Lake and there are an additional 215 acres of wetlands and ponds and 385 acres of upland habitat. The Leeper House, a restored 1910 home is now the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center headquarters. National Audubon Society has partnered with the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) to showcase this natural area and welcomes nature enthusiasts as well as schoolchildren and families. The best way to learn more about the history of Mitchell Lake, and the Mitchell Lake Wetlands Society, are through the words of Dwight Henderson and Ruth Lofgren in their book Mitchell Lake Wildlife Refuge: an illustrated history:
Thousands of years ago a small lake formed in a natural drainage area south of the city of South Antonio. Migrating birds flocked to this natural wetland on their way south. Early Spanish residents named it Laguna de los Patos (Lake of the Ducks). After Asa Mitchell purchased 14,000 acres in 1839 which included the little lake, it became known as Mitchell’s Lake. Until the end of the century a few birders visited the lake, and duck hunters found it an ideal spot for their sport.
All of this changed in the 1890s when San Antonio developed both a water and a sewage system. Gravity carried the sewage initially to a 500 acre sewer farm near Stinson Field. Seeking a larger site, the city contracted with The San Antonio Irrigation Company to construct a dam at Mitchell Lake to create a larger lake where the sewage could be sent. From 1901 until 1987 sewage-both raw until 1930 and treated thereafter, flowed into the lake area.
The larger lake continued to attract birds along with birders and hunters. As more people moved to the vicinity of the lake after World War II, residents began complaining about the odors emanating from the lake. The Texas legislature stepped in in 1972 requiring the city to cease using the lake for the sewage. Concerned with what might happen to the lake, the San Antonio Audubon Society suggested that the area become a refuge. City Council agreed and passed an ordinance in 1973 designating Mitchell Lake as a refuge for shore birds and water fowl.
Although the site was officially a refuge, no one knew what might happen to it in the future. From 1987 to 2004 a number of organizations and individuals maintained a careful vigilance over the lake, beginning with the 201 Wastewater Advisory Committee. Other key organizations were the Junior League, the League ofWomen Voters, and the Mitchell Lake Wetlands Society (MLWS).
In 2000 the SAWS Trustees and the City Council approved the Mitchell Lake Master Implementation Plan which would provide a blue print for the development of the lake as a refuge and an educational natural classroom. In order to carry out the plan, SAWS began the process to find an organization to manage the site. While that was underway, the Mitchell Lake Wetlands Society proposed moving the Leeper House, which was at the McNay Art Museum, to Mitchell Lake to serve as a nature center at the refuge.
A combination of money from a 1994 bond issue, SAWS, and the MLWS resulted in the house being moved in 2003 to Mitchell Lake. SAWS also provided a number of infrastructure improvements including roads and bridges at the site.
SAWS solved the management issue in 2004 when it contracted with National Audubon Society to operate the Mitchell Lake Wildlife Refuge for 25 years, with the possibility of a renewal. The Mitchell Lake Audubon Center opened to the public in September 2004.
The Mitchell Lake Wetlands Society Records consist of administrative records, including correspondence, minutes, reports and financial records as well as typescript drafts, research materials and photographs. The bulk of the materials were collected by Dwight Henderson and Ruth Lofgren.
- Mitchell Lake Wildlife Refuge: an illustrated history, 2nd edition – http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15125coll2/id/3959
- San Antonio Water System: Mitchell Lake – http://www.saws.org/environment/mitchelllake/
- Sharpe, Patricia. Lost & Found. January-February 2005 – http://archive.audubonmagazine.org/features0603/lake.html
Fredericksburg was founded close on the heels of New Braunfels. After the first Adelsverein settlement was established in the spring of 1845, John O. Meusebach left New Braunfels in August to establish a second settlement sixty miles to the northwest, named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. 120 settlers arrived in spring of 1846, each receiving one town lot and ten acres of nearby farmland.
Planners anticipated that farmers would reside in town and travel daily to their fields, as was the custom in Europe, but instead residents quickly adopted the Anglo-American model of isolated homesteads on their farmland. The town lots did not go to waste, however. Many families constructed what became known as “Sunday Houses” – simple one or two-room houses with lean-to kitchens that could be used during weekend trips to town for shopping, business, and church-going. Information about
Sunday Houses and other historic structures may be found in Old Homes and Buildings of Fredericksburg (1977) by Elise Kowert, compiled from a weekly series in the Fredericksburg Standard. The General Photograph Collection includes three images of Sunday Houses in Fredericksburg.
Perhaps the most iconic building in Fredericksburg is the Verein’s Kirche (Community Church). This octagonal structure was one of the first buildings constructed by settlers in 1847 and served as inter-denominational church, school, community hall, and fortress. The original structure was demolished in 1897, but an exact replica was constructed in 1934-35, which has since been used for a variety of purposes, including library, museum, and archives.
Fredericksburg is also the home of the National Museum of the Pacific War, which grew out of the Chester W. Nimitz Naval Museum, originally opened in 1967 to celebrate the WWII accomplishments of Admiral Nimitz, a Fredericksburg native. Even before the museum opened, Nimitz was beloved and honored in Fredericksburg, as evidenced by Fredericksburg’s Tribute to Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, a 1945 spiral-bound booklet from the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce documenting an Oct. 13, 1945 welcome home celebration following the end of WWII.
Donell Kohout, Martin. “FREDERICKSBURG, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hff03), accessed July 07, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association. Jordan, Terry G. “SUNDAY HOUSES,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/cfs01), accessed July 07, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Have you ever wondered what goes into digitizing archival materials? We have an impressive amount of material digitized and available online in our digital repository UTSA Digital Collections. At last count, we had around 59,700 items!
Digitization is an integral part of what we do in Special Collections, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not as simple as “just scanning.” A lot of time, effort, resources, and decision-making goes into the digitization process. And while we may never be able to digitize everything in our holdings, we have a few guiding principles and objectives to help us prioritize what gets digitized.
Our main objectives for digitizing materials are: to increase access to our most heavily used collections or those with high research value; to promote our collections; to enhance preservation of heavily used materials by reducing wear and tear on the originals; and to provide access to those materials that may not be accessible in their original format (because of fragility or format degradation).
Digitization encompasses a series of activities. Among them, we must:
- Identify and select material for digitization
- Prepare documents for digitization (including locating, paging, and refiling)
- Create basic descriptive information about the documents to provide contextual information for the user and to allow for searching in our online repository.
- Perform quality control of digital copies
- Upload digital copies and basic descriptive information to our online repository
- Update finding aids to include links to the digital copies
So how do we decide what collections to digitize? Because our material must be paged for our users, it is easy for us to keep track of which collections get used. We maintain an Access database and we run reports to determine which collections have been used the most throughout the year. We also keep track of what collections users search for on our website. We do this because we want to make sure that we’re putting our resources into digitizing resources that patrons actually want to see. With nearly 7,500 linear feet of archival materials, 3.5 million photographic prints and negatives, and 28,000 rare books, it’s hard to imagine that we would ever be able to digitize everything, and it probably wouldn’t make sense to. We want to digitize the material that’s the most useful for our patrons.
Other times, we identify a collection that is at-risk because of format degradation or fragility and digitizing it will enhance the preservation of it. For example, our 3.5 million historic photo collection housed at the Institute of Texan Cultures presents unique preservation and access challenges. The preservation of photographs and photographic negatives is particularly complex and requires special humidity and climate control to slow down the inevitable degradation. Providing access to negatives is a challenge in that it requires special viewing equipment and the very act of handling the negative too much makes the negative vulnerable. This makes for a very strong digitization case.
In short, we are constantly assessing, analyzing, and prioritizing. We pride ourselves on our strong – and smart! – digitization program. So be sure to check our Digital Collections repository regularly because it is growing every month!
When you think of the records documenting UTSA’s history Special Collections maintain, you might think of boxes of old papers sitting on a shelf in our stacks. If you’re reading this blog, it might occur to you that this text is a type of record produced by the University—our department within UTSA Libraries created this blog as a means of sharing what we are and what we do with members of the University and the general public. Similarly, much of the content on our website is updated through time, and many of the documents we create and post online may never be printed onto paper. Increasingly, departments and groups at UTSA are embracing the ubiquity of the web, relying on HTML pages and social media accounts to spread information and content about themselves, often rapidly updating and deleting the “old” content without much thought about preservation.
Recognizing that the University has been actively creating and publishing content online, Special Collections partnered with the Internet Archive back in 2009 to collect and preserve web content produced by UTSA as a new method of archiving material. We use the tools available through the Internet Archive’s Archive-It system to capture relevant web content, which is preserved and made publicly accessible through our Archive-It partner page.
For our University Archives collections on the web, we maintain three collections produced by or about UTSA, which we’ve broken into the following groups: Academic Departments, University Administration, and Student Organizations. These are made up of official (utsa.edu) websites, as well as a large portion of social media sites that departments, faculty, staff and UTSA organizations have adopted to post and share information about their activities. *
While this information is invaluable for documenting the goings-on of the University, capturing it involves a lot of work. It begins with our team (in this case, the University Archivist) searching for and maintaining lists of websites that document UTSA. We load these into our Archive-It collections and administer web crawls (using a tool that ‘crawls’ through the links of pages, like Google crawls the web) taking care to monitor our results and change crawl settings as needed to capture the sites to the fullest extent possible. We also provide metadata—information about each webpage—that enables users to find and access our web collections.
You can view past captures of UTSA’s websites, along with other web collections the Special Collections team has curated, on our UTSA Archive-It partner page. Click on a collection to see a list of our archived pages, click on the page URL, and you can see past captures via the Wayback Machine (Archive-It’s tool for displaying web pages from the past). As you travel through the internet timeline, consider just how fragile and ephemeral this type of record can be. We hope you find these web archives useful.
*The University Archivist is busily preparing for the spring crawls of the websites in these collections—new crawls will be completed soon after this blog publishes. If you have suggestions for UTSA websites that we might not be aware of, please let us know. Many of our social media websites come from the UTSA University Communications & Marketing Social Media Directory.
- MS 426 John Shown collection, 2 boxes (1.5 linear feet) comprised of one personal journal, inventories, slides, and photographs of artwork, vertical files, 9 issues of Forum magazine
- UA 14.01 UTSA. Center for Archaeological Research publications collection, 29 boxes (29 linear feet) of books and serials