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Organizing the Organizers: SVREP Processing Update

September 26, 2016

In our last update, Leah shared the progress we’d made inventorying the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project collection and beginning to flatten some of the 900 maps acquired from the organization. Since then, we’ve spent the last month continuing to organize just over 400 boxes of documents into searchable categories, perfecting our map flattening skills, and even getting the chance to learn a little more about the collection outside of the stacks.


My first series, Administrative documents, foldered and labeled (aka organizational heaven).

What was once a storage unit filled with boxes is slowly becoming a collection of recognizable series. Leah is currently organizing correspondence “To” and “From” SVREP staff and Karina is sorting and organizing records from Latino voting conferences held all across the Southwest. As each box’s contents are sorted, titled, and dated, the same information is being collected digitally so that eventually its location in the collection can be searched online. Each set of records is given a brand new acid free folder and then stored in a new box for long term use. Seeing the boxes of go from working chaos to neatly housed, discoverable content is extremely satisfying and I can’t wait to get to the heart of the collection, the voter registration series.


Power tools! Holes in the innermost container allow controlled amounts of moisture to reach the maps.

We are expecting the process of foldering the collection to last us quite a bit of time, and there are days when endlessly looking through financial or statistical data can be monotonous. Thankfully we get a break in our week to head to The Institute of Texan Cultures to check on the maps. Were they humid enough to lay flat after their time in the tank? Did we leave enough weight on them as they dried? Permanently flattening a large, stubbornly furled, often crispy map using only approved archival methods is a challenge that I had no idea I would have to someday overcome. But luckily we’ve received the last shipment of supplies we need to finally get a routine going. Leah drilled holes in our containers, and (2) half inch thick pieces of glass we’d been waiting on are now busy distributing their weight on Texas county and precinct boundaries. With each passing week we’re getting better at guesstimating the time it takes, and getting closer (421) to our goal of flattening 500 SVREP maps.

Ordinarily, this would be the end of the update: we’re working diligently and our maps are succumbing nicely to weight and gravity, but last week we got to be part of something really special. KLRN and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center screened a documentary called Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz, and the Special Collections team were able to attend! For months now, we’ve known that Hector Galan was making a documentary for PBS and that he hoped to have it released before this year’s Presidential Election. In fact, in June, the producer contacted UTSA Special Collections inquiring about any material we might have to be used in the film. They were specifically looking for an IRS document that solidified SVREP’s status as a 501(c)3. After checking document titles and dates in the original inventory, Archivist Katie Rojas found it. I have never been so giddy to see an IRS form on the big screen.

Leah, Karina, Amy and I all had a chance to check in with SVREP staff in attendance and talk a little bit about our progress with the collection. I spoke with a volunteer whose name I saw on a SVREP sign in sheet from 1982. She was so proud to be a part of an organization that had influenced so many communities and she wasn’t alone; so many of the people in attendance took part in voter registration drives, made calls and knocked on doors to help SVREP reach it’s initial goal of registering 1 million Latinos to vote. Before the Q & A came to a close, former SVREP President Andy Hernandez asked anyone who had ever worked for or volunteered with SVREP to stand, and you couldn’t help but feel the pride. As we were leaving Leah mentioned that it really felt like a family reunion.

Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz will air on PBS Oct 3, then will stream on immediately after. Check it out, and keep an eye out for the most exciting IRS document I’ve ever seen. Then see if you catch a glimpse of any of the other artifacts (floppy disks, “state of the art” IBM computer manuals, canvassing scripts) mentioned in the film. We’re keeping them safe until you can come in and see them for yourself.


Willie Velasquez Documentary Screening Q & A  Moderator Gilbert Garcia, Documentary Director Hector Galan, SVREP Vice President Lydia Camarillo, Former SVREP President Andy Hernandez



**This project is generously funded by the NHPRC**

Black Power to #BlackLivesMatter: Documenting decades of struggle to end racism, violence, and prejudice.

September 19, 2016

This fall, two new UTSA Special Collections exhibits connect the past to the present. Archival materials from the Mario Marcel Salas papers and contemporary student works reveal the continuum of discourse that has evolved around racism, violence, and social injustice from the 1960s to the present. Headlines from a 1969 Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) resonate as echoes from the past that mirror the headlines of today. “No justice for Black People,” “what shall I tell my children who are black?” “BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL” foreshadows #BlackLivesMatter.

UTSA students Alexis McGee and Hernan Paz, whose work is featured in the Special Collections exhibits, created their projects for Professor Sonja Lanehart’s course


#BlackLivesMatter panel by Alexis McGee, Downtown Library exhibit

#BlackLivesMatter: Critical Perspectives. “The goal of the class is to critically examine the sociocultural and historical contexts of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.” Through the analysis of literary, research, and multimedia texts, students gain theoretical grounding in Critical Race Theory, Whiteness Studies, Critical Discourse Analysis, AfroFuturuism, AfroPessismism and Critical Visual Analysis. A community panel of activists and experts provide historical context for San Antonio, Texas’ and U.S. “engagement in racial and social injustice and violence against Black and Brown peoples.”

Alexis Mcgee designed the #BlackLivesMatter panel on display at the Downtown Library. Images and bios of African Americans killed by police confront the viewer. Mcgee points out these are “only a portion” of those lives lost to prejudice, racism, and violence. The JPL exhibit features an etching by Hernan Paz entitled, “The New Jim Crow.” Paz explains the meaning of the piece which is accompanied by a torn copy of the 1994 Crime Bill:  “The 1994 Crime Bill was proposed and passed as a bill that would target the “rise of crime” that was occurring but instead lead to mass incarcerations,


“The New Jim Crow” etching by Hernan Paz, JPL exhibit

of which the LARGE MAJORITY of that population was African American males. And once you’re in the system, it’s over, because the New Jim Crow has already taken you. The New Jim Crow is in reference to the fact the Penal System as it is now is a way to target minorities who step out of white supremacy ideal.”

In each exhibit, print materials and photographs from the Salas collection provide historical context for the #BlackLivesMatter content and invite the observer to reflect on how the objects in the exhibit relate and what emotions and questions they evoke. Both exhibits will remain up throughout the fall semester.


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River History Digitized: New Photos Available Online

September 12, 2016

This post was written by our San Antonio River Authority Records summer intern, Gina Watts.

Some of the most popular items in any Special Collections are photographs, and UTSA is no different. People from all over the community come in to see what their part of the city looked like in the 1960s, if that famous photo of their grandfather is still around, or how the city fared after a historic flood, and it certainly keeps the Reading Room staff busy.

What you hear more and more, though, are requests for digital copies of photos. UTSA, of course, has a large collection of digitized objects ( and it is growing all the time. Here, I’d like to describe some of our process with regard to the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) Records specifically, as we close up our work on processing this collection this summer.

As we processed the SARA Records, Abra and I were told to keep an eye out for objects that struck us as having historic and aesthetic value, something that would interest the local community. As the Special Collections department grows and sharpens its focus on the criteria for digitization for the public, objects that are frequently requested, objects that require preservation care, and objects that showcase important moments in San Antonio take precedence.

As a SARA intern, I was glad to be able to select a small project or two to digitize. Having never done a digitization project before, this was my first introduction to using CONTENTdm, the content management system for UTSA’s digitized content. Once an object has been selected for digitization, it’s time to scan and input metadata (descriptive information about the scans). Each field also has a carefully controlled vocabulary so that things can be found more easily by our patrons.

A prime example of one of our selected projects: this Eagle Scout Project from 1970. Abra found this report tucked in the back of a larger folder of official reports related to wastewater treatment. We were both immediately interested in it as an individual object and made the decision to separate it out, both in the box and on the finding aid. The engaging nature of the report and the interesting photographs convinced us that we couldn’t let it get lost in other materials. Looking through it, you’ll find the work of Daniel D. Crawford, Jr., and Sherman E. Weaver, III, who took it upon themselves to study pollution in Cibolo Creek near Schertz and Universal City.


Daniel Crawford and Sherman Weaver studied pollution in Cibolo Creek for their Eagle Scout project.

From their findings (which were less than stellar), they made recommendations to post signage about the pollution problem, inform those responsible, promote legislation against harmful dumping of materials into the creek, and most importantly, to build a sewage plant to handle the needs of that area. Happily, this area has been served by the Cibolo Creek Municipal Authority (a separate entity from SARA) for its wastewater management needs since 1971. Is it a coincidence that the boys’ project was only a year before? Well, we can’t make any concrete statements, but Crawford and Weaver certainly did put together a convincing report and we’re glad to show it off to you today.


Excerpt from page 5 of Crawford and Weaver’s report.

What better way to showcase the amazing changes in San Antonio’s water management over the last few decades? Abra and I have, of course, sifted through 140 boxes telling us about all the ways SARA has made improvements to the river system here in town, but we felt like this one object was an impressive ‘before’ picture in comparison with today.

Other recently digitized objects from SARA include King William area photographs from 1968, Olmos Dam photographs from the 1920s, and photographs of the river from Nueva St. to McCullough Ave. Here is a selection of the newly digitized photos:


San Antonio River in King William neighborhood, 1968


Kalteyer House, 425 King William St., 1968


Olmos Dam construction progress, 1926.


Olmos Dam construction progress, 1927


San Antonio River, photo taken from the McCullough Ave. bridge looking upstream to Brooklyn Ave. bridge, 1968


San Antonio River, photo taken standing on the St. Mary’s St. bridge, looking upstream, 1968

You can see all digitized content from the San Antonio River Authority Records here.

Digitized collection content only represents a small fraction of this large and growing collection. To see a complete inventory of the collection, please review the finding aid. Please make an appointment with us if you would like to view items from the collection in person.

A Month in Special Collections: August

September 6, 2016
  • Click to enlarge image and access links

Making Progress: Processing Update for the SVREP Collection

August 28, 2016

A little over two months have passed since our team has begun processing the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) Collection. While it was a daunting task beginning to weed through over 400 boxes of material, we have already made tremendous progress and have also encountered some challenges along the way. Since we began processing the SVREP Collection in early July, we have completed a full inventory, created a processing plan, organized the material into series level, and began flattening over 500 maps.


A glimpse of the boxes that were inventoried

The first step was to complete an inventory of every box in order to determine the exact contents of the collection. This step was vital in order to assist with the next step of creating a processing plan. With my great luck, by the time I began my position in June, Jennifer Longoria, the Archives Assistant had been working hard since May and had nearly completed the inventory by the time I arrived. With the added help from Karina, our student worker, they were able to complete the entire inventory very quickly.


Archive Assistant, Jennifer Longoria working on the map inventory

The next step included creating a processing plan for the entire collection. This process involved a heavy amount of back and forth communication between Amy and myself while we identified the major parts of the collection based on the inventory list. While most collections contain common series titles, we wanted the series titles to closely reflect the original organization of SVREP. This included using common terminology used within the SVREP organization and assuring we stuck to their original order as closely as possible. One example of this was the many “Field Project Files” that were used for voter registration. The project files contained a variety of correspondence, financial, and personnel files within one folder. Rather than separating the documents into their corresponding series, we thought it was important to keep the files together.


First round of series organization

Our biggest obstacle has been developing a map flattening workflow that has consistent successful results. Because of our limited resources and space, we have been creative in testing alternative methods and utilizing our existing resources. We decided to use “Hot Water Humidification” as our chosen method of map flattening. This method involves filling a container, (in our case a large trash can) with about 5 inches of water and placing another smaller container containing the rolled maps inside the larger container. The larger container is closed and not opened for 2-4 hours. The humidity that is created from the water is supposed to provide enough moisture for the maps to eventually be flattened under weights using bloating paper and reemay in order to absorb any excess moisture.


Maps being prepared to receive the humidification treatment

After attempting this method, we discovered that the temperature in the room where we had the trashcan was colder than usual, making it difficult for enough moisture to accumulate. Instead of waiting 2-4 hours, we discovered that the maps needed to be left 6-8 hours in order to absorb enough moisture. In addition, we had to try different weight options. Our first round of flattening did not contain enough weight even though we gave the maps an extra week to see if there was a difference. After applying additional weight the next round, we saw a significant improvement. The map flattening process continues to be a trial and error process but also has been an incredible learning experience that will no doubt be useful in the future. The team and I are confident that we soon will find the correct timing and method to create a seamless process.


Project Archivist, Leah Rios assessing the condition of a map

The SVREP team includes Jennifer Longoria, Karina Franco, along with myself and Amy Rushing who oversees the entire project. They have been instrumental in problem solving and ensuring that this collection is completed in a timely manner. The SVREP team will continue to write monthly blog posts so please stay tuned and follow our continued progress on the SVREP Collection.


**This project is generously funded by the NHPRC**

A Sky-lit Patio

August 22, 2016

This month we continue “Names and Places of UTSA,” a blog series on university history, with a post by archives student assistant, Kira Sandoval.

Color photo of the Sombrilla, 1995

View of the Sombrilla on a sunny day, 1995, UA 16.01.01, Office of University Communications Photographs.

As a student at UTSA, when I am asked for directions, I generally give them in relation to where the Sombrilla is located. It is the most recognizable architectural element at UTSA and at the heart of campus. Its aesthetic design makes a large impact while also providing shelter and a place of gathering for the UTSA community.

As the university belongs to the rich Mexican-American Spanish culture of San Antonio, many know that the word “sombrilla” means sunshade, which comes from the Spanish word “sombra” meaning shade. The Spanish word ultimately derives from the Latin word “umbra” meaning shadow, shade or ghost. Depending on which Spanish speaking country or dialect one is using, “sombrilla” could mean umbrella, parasol, or sunshade, and here at UTSA the structure functions as all of the above. It protects students from the elements of the Texas Hill Country—rain, sun, occasionally a rogue hailstorm—while still allowing a breeze to flow under the canopy to refresh its inhabitants.

Portrait of O'Neil Ford, 1974

Portrait of O’Neil Ford, 1974, MS 27, Gil Barrera Photographs of UTSA.

O’Neil Ford and his architectural firm, Ford, Powell & Carson, designed the UTSA campus, including the Sombrilla. Ford was a significant Texas architect who influenced Southwest architecture during his lifetime. He is known for designing the UTSA campus, the Tower of the Americas, Trinity University and for the restoration of San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio. Ford designed the campus to be centered around a plaza, like many old European cities. Paseos radiate out from the plaza in four directions, indicating through the architectural plan that it is the center of campus and socialization. The original design of the heart of the plaza was for a “sky-lit patio”, which we see now as the incarnation of the Sombrilla.

Large columns of light beige Texas concrete are used to hold up the structure, mimicking the native building material used to create the Hill Country aesthetic of the campus buildings. The covering is made of translucent acrylic to let light in and create an illusion of an open-aired ceiling like that of a pergola. Strips of wood of varying colors are evenly spaced in panels creating geometric zig-zags and patterns overhead. The combination of the designed pattern of the wood with the acrylic gives the Sombrilla an airy illusion of a floating shelter.

Fountain Under the Sombrilla

Fountain Under the Sombrilla. Photo by Kira Sandoval.

The 8-ft tall fountain under the Sombrilla—also designed by Ford, Powell & Carson—was planned for in 1975, but, lacking proper funds, the space for the fountain was excavated from the plaza and used as a planter until construction could begin. The fountain was completed in 1978 and was recently revamped in 2014 with ecological concerns in mind. Thanks to its redesign, the fountain now sustainably runs on solely reclaimed water from the air conditioning systems in nearby campus buildings in order to ease any strain on water supply. The breeze let in by the Sombrilla combined with the sounds of falling water from the environmentally-friendly fountain create an oasis from the Texas heat in the center of campus.

O’Neil Ford’s design for the Sombrilla has endured decades and serves as a communal area for students and staff. It is one of the most popular spots on campus to enjoy your lunch alone or with friends, the location of the first end of semester celebration, of dancing and performances, many a Best Fest and Fiesta celebration, ceremonial events, talks, and much more. It has even lent its name to a university publication. Its native sourced materials, combined with European ideas of city planning which put it at the heart of campus and events, give it a timeless appeal for resting, visiting and lingering.

Fiesta UTSA (OOTSA) under the Sombrilla, April 16, 1982

Fiesta UTSA (OOTSA) under the Sombrilla, April 16, 1982, UA 16.01.01, Office of University Communications Photographs.


UTSA Bulletin, 1974-1975

The Roadrunner, 1976-1978

Sombrilla, 2014

The Significance of Numbers, 43: Cuarenta y Tres.

August 15, 2016

This post was written by our rare books cataloger, Stephen Dingler.

The Significance of Numbers

by Stephen Dingler


Many people have emotional or superstitious attachments to numbers; for example, thirteen is widely viewed as an unlucky number, whereas many think of seven as a lucky number. The number 43 has had particular significance for many people in Mexico for almost two years now. In late September 2014 a group of student teachers commandeered several buses in the town of Iguala, Guerrero State, so that they could attend a rally in Mexico City scheduled to take place on the 26th. Forty-three of the male students disappeared. It was widely reported locally and internationally that the mayor of Iguala and his wife, angry that a planned local event had been disrupted by the students, ordered police to round them up and hand them over to a drug gang. The gang mistook the students for members of a rival gang, killed them, and burned their bodies at a garbage dump. The incident shocked the country, but many people questioned the government’s explanation has to how and why the students went missing.

This event is the subject of a recent UTSA Libraries’ Special Collections acquisition, the artist’s book, 43 : cuarenta y tres, by Lorena Velázquez. The use of the number 43 is not restricted to the title in Ms. Velázquez’s work. Forty-three numbered copies of the book were made; the book, constructed in concertina (accordion) style, has 43 unnumbered pages; the numbers from one to 43 are printed across several pages; on one page the number 43 is produced in braille. There is little text but the book artist’s use of photographs showing demonstrations and rallies, as well as portrait photographs of the 43 missing, convey a sense of outrage and a demand for justice. The book’s pages are colored black, with most splashed or streaked with red paint, which further conveys a sense of horror and tragedy at what happened. On one page, the names of the 43 students are printed. One of the names is highlighted because the remains of this one student have been found, with near certainty.



Under pressure from the families of the missing students, the Mexican government invited a panel of foreign experts, commissioned by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to undertake an independent investigation. The experts released a 608-page report on April 24th, 2016. They found no evidence that the students had been burned at a garbage dump, as the government had said. There were also many other details of the official version of events that the foreign investigators could not substantiate. The panel of experts has not been invited to continue its investigation. Almost two years after the event took place, the public still does not know what really happened. This is no comfort to the families and friends of the 43 student teachers who went missing.

Lorena Velázquez’s 43 is one of a growing collection of artists’ books held by our Special Collections. What exactly is an artist’s book? It is “a medium of artistic expression that uses the form or function of ‘book’ as inspiration…What truly makes an artist’s book is the artist’s intent”[1]. For Lorena Velázquez, the disappearance of 43 student teachers and the ensuing public reaction served as inspiration for her work. For Malini Gupta, using the medium of an artist’s book was a way for her to make public for the first time something very personal, in her work, The fortune teller. In addition to acquiring artists’ books such as these of national and regional interest, Special Collections has also been making an effort to acquire artists’ books and broadsides produced collaboratively by local authors and the Southwest School of Art here in San Antonio.

As mentioned earlier, 43 numbered copies of Lorena Velázquez’s artist’s book were published. So, what number is our Special Collections’ copy? … Thirteen.



“Murder in Mexico : the great mystery.” The Economist 419, no. 8987 (2016): 32-33.


[1] Anne Evenhaugen, “What is an Artist’s Book?” Unbound (blog), Smithsonian Institution, June 01, 2012,

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