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A Month in Special Collections: November

December 10, 2018
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Academia America’s 7th Annual Dia De La Raza Commemoration

December 3, 2018

In October, Special Collections attended Dia de la Raza, the 7th annual event organized by Academia América. The event focuses on a different theme and this year celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the 1968 Edgewood High School Walkouts. The event was hosted at the El Tropicano Hotel, where they honored 38 individuals who participated in the walkouts.

In 1968, Mexican-American students at Edgewood High School were fed up with many issues directly affecting their school and academics. Not only were they being punished for speaking Spanish, students were forced to learn in damaged facilities and received little to no funding to advance or support their studies. The students were encouraged on a path of manual labor, rather than attending college which was supported by the lack of college preparatory courses offered to students.

The students saw the walkouts as an opportunity to bring these issues to light in order to encourage change. They wanted the same opportunities and resources that students at other city schools had, and were tired of being neglected for so long. Over 400 students walked out that day and risked threats of being expelled, many of whom were close to graduation.



Da de la Raza not only honored the students who were brave enough to walk out that day, but also teachers that supported them. My favorite part of the night was hearing the stories of former students and teachers sharing their detailed experiences from that day. Their actions that day caused the SAISD to make changes not only at Edgewood, but at other city schools that were facing similar advertises.

dia 6

Former Edgewood High School students being honored

Special Collections participated in the event by setting up a pop-up exhibit. We were able to pull newspaper clippings from the San Antonio light, various La Raza posters and documents as well as photographs from other walkouts in Texas, such as those from Crystal City.

50th Anniversary of Civil Rights Hearing on Mexican Americans

November 26, 2018

Earlier this month, Special Collections Archivists attended a conference titled “50 Years Later: Holding up the Mirror” at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). The conference was organized to mark the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hearing on Mexican Americans in the Southwest, examining the progress of the past 50 years and the needs for the future. The 1968 hearing was held at OLLU, so it was fitting that this month’s conference was held in the same location.

[Image Above: Five San Antonio teenagers give testimony at U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hearing on Mexican-American problems in Chapel Auditorium at Our Lady of the Lake College. (L-R): Jose Vasquez, 1968 graduate of Lanier High School; Edgar Lozano, senior at Lanier; Martin Cantu, 1968 graduate of Edgewood High School; Homer Garcia, senior at Lanier; and Irene Ramirez, senior at Lanier. Photo is part of the San Antonio Express-News Photograph Collection.]

As summarized on the conference website, “In 1968 the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights held a six-day hearing in San Antonio, Texas to examine civil rights issues facing Mexican-Americans in five Southwestern states – Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and California. This was the first time any federal agency had devoted such resources to an examination of the Mexican American. The areas examined were: Education, Employment, the Administration of Justice, and Economic issues. While the hearing examined issues in a five-state area, most of the focus concentrated on South Texas and San Antonio.”

The hearings came under scrutiny from local leaders, particularly Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, who asserted that the hearings did not produce any new information beyond what was already known from numerous preexisting surveys of Mexican Americans. He and others were also concerned about the selection of speakers for the hearing, which he stated were “based on the choice of field representatives sent here by the commission from other sections of the country and totally unfamiliar with local complexities,” which he felt caused poor scope in representation. Gonzalez proclaimed, “What we need is constructive and feasible suggestions in resolving these problems, and this the commission hasn’t and isn’t coming up with.” To these and other criticisms, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, vice chairman of the commission, replied, “All we do is hold up a mirror to the community and let them tell us if there are any problems. And that’s what we’re doing here.”

The conference theme, “Holding Up the Mirror,” brought attendees full circle to reexamine education, voting rights, immigration and migration, housing, farm labor, and other issues affecting Mexican Americans in the Southwest today. As part of the conference, new Reports and Recommendations to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights have been created. Special Collections participated by showcasing archival materials from our Mexican American Activism collections, including photographs from the 1968 hearing and a copy of the original hearing transcript. The transcript is also available to read online.


50 Years Later: Holding Up the Mirror. 50th Anniversary of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Hearing on Mexican Americans in the Southwest Conference Website. Accessed November 20, 2018.

“HBG Continues Chiding of Civil Rights Group.” San Antonio News, December 5, 1968.

“Sloppy Staff Work Charge by HBG.” San Antonio News, Page 7-B. December 20, 1968.

Hall, Robert. “Farmworkers Strike in Starr County.” Accessed November 21, 2018.

Behind the Scenes at UTSA Special Collections

November 19, 2018

November has been a very busy month in Special Collections. I thought our readers might enjoy a peek behind the scenes. During busy times, our vault at the JPL is filled with boxes staged for patron visits. Dozens of access requests are labeled with visit information and we play Tetris with manuscript boxes as we prepare for each day’s patrons. But how do all those boxes make it the JPL?

Our manuscript collections are housed off-site at a building across campus. Unfortunately, we can’t  beam the boxes over or move them through a pneumatic tube under the library–staff head to the off-site facility, pull the boxes (a task that involves multiple trips up and down a tall ladder), log them out, and load them up.

Boxes are then transported with a rugged transport cart. A fully loaded cart weighs around 400 pounds. Pushing the cart from point A to point B provides staff with a rigorous upper body workout! Upon arrival, each 40 pound record carton is hoisted onto a shelf or cart and prepped for the patron’s visit.

So what’s in all these boxes? Popular materials this month include Activism/Activist collections, the Tom Slick Papers, Leo Garza political cartoons, UTSA history collections (the university’s 50th is coming up in 2019), and a crowd favorite, the Mexican Cookbook collection.

Anyone can access UTSA Special Collections materials. Browse our online guides, decide what you would like to see, and submit a visit request form. Our super friendly staff will make sure your boxes make it to the reading room within a few days and will send an email confirming your visit day and time. Transport turnaround is a little longer when it is raining–water and archives are not a good combination! Check out our hours and locations page for more visit information.

A Month in Special Collections: October

November 12, 2018
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Fasteners: Friend or Foe?

November 5, 2018

Fastener: a [hardware] device that mechanically joins or affixes two or more objects together. In general, fasteners are used to create non-permanent joints.

Throughout the protracted journey of digitizing the Sons of the Republic of Texas Mexican Manuscript Collection, I have come across a plethora of fasteners affixed to this collection’s documents. Some of these objects have been a part of the documents since their creation. Other fasteners appear to have been periodically by one of the many sets of hands that have had a part in compiling, purchasing, processing, and handling the manuscript collection.

fastener flat lay

An assortment of typical, and not-so-typical fasteners I’ve removed from the collection.

Although applying a fastener can serve a useful function: keeping unique pages together as part of a larger object (where loose pieces of paper could be misplaced and provenance lost). Fasteners can also present a two-pronged threat. The first danger is potential physical damage such as puncturing, tearing, or creasing. Chemical damage such as staining from rust also poses a threat. Common finds include twine, straight pins, paper clips, and staples.

Of course I don’t remove every extant staple from the thousands of documents in the collection. But I do remove any fastener that has already begun to rust, shows the early signs of degradation, or is damaging the fragile paper in some way.

twine btw pages

Sometimes, twine was tied around sub-sections of documents. The issue here is that the documents could not be opened for scanning, or for a patron’s research, being so tightly bound by knotted twine. In these types of cases, I removed the flexible fasteners to both facilitate access and prevent damage.

twine zoom 2

A humorous, and not uncommon, occurrence would be when the stain of a rusted paperclip is visible on a document, adjacent to a fresh metal staple now binding its pages together. One threat of chemical damage was replaced by physical damage-unnecessary punctures.

staple paper clip zoom

Over 5,000 documents from the SRT Mexican Manuscript Collection spanning several centuries of Mexican history are available online.

Visions of Alternate Futures

October 29, 2018

You might have heard that UTSA is in the midst of developing the next iteration of the Campus Master Plan. The most recent plan was completed in 2014, and the introduction to that version outlines the reason the University periodically conducts this exercise:

The purpose of this master plan is to provide direction for the future physical development of UTSA so that the university can best serve all its students, faculty and community stakeholders. UTSA’s future direction must not only reflect the values, aspirations and traditions of the university community, it must also reflect the expectations and needs of the surrounding community and region.

This master plan serves as a common vision and a blueprint for progress, providing direction and a sense of place for our academic community.

Looking ahead, a master plan can offer a sense of optimism by suggesting that all future campus development would be thoughtfully conceived. New buildings would be in harmony with the existing buildings, the landsite, and the surrounding community, and would serve the needs of a variety of constituent populations. By undertaking this planning project, the hope is that the University would avoid making lasting decisions willy-nilly, resulting in a campus that is a hodgepodge of shortsighted ideas in the form of buildings.

Looking back, studying master plans from UTSA’s past offers views of what our predecessors valued and what they believed the future would hold. It is fascinating to read these past plans to see which ideas did or did not come to fruition. It feels like catching glimpses of alternate realities. One of my favorite documents to show visitors to the archives is the 1993 Comprehensive Planning Guide: A Vision For the Future, which features a dramatic bridge to a proposed “East Academic Campus” that was never built.

1993 Comprehensive Planning Guide: A Vision For the Future cover page1993 Comprehensive Planning Guide: A Vision For the Future land use plan map

1993 Comprehensive Planning Guide: A Vision For the Future back cover page

UTSA: General Information and University History Collection, UA 1.01

In a recent conversation, my Special Collections colleague, Milton Babbitt, reminded me of the existence of the first Comprehensive Planning Guide, which was prepared in 1971 by Ford, Powell & Carson, Architects and Bartlett Cocke & Associates., Inc., the campus architecture firms. Mr. Babbitt worked for Ford, Powell & Carson and was responsible for site development of the UTSA campus.

1971 Comprehensive Planning Guide cover page1971 Comprehensive Planning Guide academic buildings1971 Comprehensive Planning Guide paseo rendering

1971 Comprehensive Planning Guide plaza rendering

UTSA: General Information and University History Collection, UA 1.01

The second image is especially compelling, since it shows what campus would look like if the later academic buildings were designed to match the first four core buildings, radiating outward.

Standing here in 2018, on the cusp of our 50th anniversary year (2019), I can only wonder what campus will look like in 2030, 2044, and especially in 2069, which will be the 100th anniversary of the University.

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