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The Evolution of an Idea

July 27, 2015

In two earlier posts I’ve provided a sneak peek at materials found in the newest addition to the Jacinto Quirarte Papers. In that same vein, I’d like to share two sets of records which demonstrate the wide range of work Quirarte was involved in, particularly in his role as Director of the Research Center of the Arts.

Quirarte was engaged in many activities as he laid the foundation for the RCA, a multidisciplinary outreach initiative dedicated to the study of Latin American art and culture. After writing a proposal for the establishment of the Center, he solicited advice and feedback from colleagues at NYU, Harvard, Yale, University of Chicago, The University of Texas at Austin, and the Smithsonian. Evidence of this activity remains in the form of correspondence dating from 1976-1977 between Quirarte and his fellow academics. It is especially helpful that he kept copies of his outgoing letters, in addition to the original incoming letters. This way, researchers get a full view of the conversation and not just one-way messages. This correspondence shows just a hint of the writing and strategic planning that was critical to Quirarte’s work as a dean and RCA Director.

An adjacent folder includes a stack of sketches for a logo for the RCA, which may illustrate his involvement in a more creative endeavor. While I can only assume that these are Quirarte’s own drawings, there are also no clues that would attribute the sketches to someone else. In general, Quirarte comes across as a very hands-on person, not a distant, remote administrator. Further, although we remember him primarily as an art historian, he was a visual artist before concentrating his education on art history.

Either way, this collection of sketches is fascinating as visual evidence of the evolution of idea. The artist is playing with an assortment of different aesthetic directions, and later, different iterations of the same seed of an idea. Over the course of the drawings, only some of which are included here, you can see how one concept starts to prevail.

It was satisfying to discover in a subsequent folder which logo was ultimately selected. Quirarte’s papers include issues of the Review, the RCA’s newsletter, spanning 1978-1983. In addition to scholarly articles and mentions of upcoming events, each issue includes the RCA logo.

In my view, this set of logo sketches demonstrates one of the most compelling aspects of working with archival materials. Because we collect the unpublished, the background papers, the intermediate drafts, a researcher can study the choices being made in the process of the creation of something, whether that is designing a course curriculum, establishing an academic research center, or crafting a logo.

Special Collections Photographs in new Elections and Purchasing Building

July 16, 2015

On July 10th the Bexar County Commissioners Court hosted a grand opening celebration for the new Bexar County Elections and Purchasing Building.  The $8 million building, located a short distance south of UTSA’s downtown campus, has separate areas for the county elections and purchasing departments.  Guests viewed murals of historic images and interpretive panels relating to local political campaigns and elections that are on display in the elections department.

Thirty four images from Special Collections are among those in the permanent exhibit, curated and designed by Toxey/McMillan Design Associates.  Many are from the San Antonio Light Photograph Collection and include views illustrating the electoral process from the 1920s to the 1970s.

These photographs, by Special Collections volunteer Judy Sauter, were taken during the grand opening.


Panel showing photographs of Pappy Lee O’Daniel and Maury Maverick campaigning in San Antonio during the 1930s.

Interpretive panel with photographs of Pappy Lee O’Daniel and Maury Maverick campaigning in the 1930s.



















Visitor looks at murals and interpretive panels in corridor of purchasing department.

Visitor looks at murals and interpretive panels in corridor of the elections department.

Crowd gathers for the grand opening.

Guests arrive for the opening program.

Exhibit designers Dr. Anne Toxey and Patrick McMillan of Toxey /McMillan Design Associates.

Exhibit designers Dr. Anne Toxey and Patrick McMillan stand in front of a San Antonio Light Photograph of a rally in Alamo Plaza during the 1952 presidential campaign.

Margo Millard, author of the historical text panels.

Margo Millard, who wrote the text for the panels.

Entrance to the Elections Department, 1103 S. Frio Street.

Entrance to the Elections Department, 1103 S. Frio Street, shortly before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

New Acquisitions for June 2015

July 16, 2015

Manuscript Collections


Rare Books


SVREP: What’s in the box?

July 13, 2015

Assessing the value of a collection is an integral part of what we do in Special Collections. First, we need to determine whether or not the collection falls within our collection development policy. Secondly, we perform an appraisal of the collection to determine the historical value of the materials. According to the Society of American Archivists,

In an archival context, appraisal is the process of determining whether records and other materials have permanent (archival) value. Appraisal may be done at the collection, creator, series, file, or item level. Appraisal can take place prior to donation and prior to physical transfer, at or after accessioning. The basis of appraisal decisions may include a number of factors, including the records’ provenance and content, their authenticity and reliability, their order and completeness, their condition and costs to preserve them, and their intrinsic value. Appraisal often takes place within a larger institutional collecting policy and mission statement.[1]

In the case of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, initial appraisal took place on site at the storage facility where the records were housed. This entailed going through each box, evaluating the contents, and deciding which items were archivally valuable. In Phase I of the project, over 415 linear feet of materials were taken into custody by Special Collections.

5-6-15 (2)

As the largest collection in UTSA Special Collections, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP)/Willie C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) records are a beneficial resource for the UTSA community. The collection contains audio-visual materials, field reports, newspaper clippings, letters, voting district maps, voter results, voter demographics, grant proposals, surveys, correspondence, and a myriad of materials available to the public. Researchers interested in Latino history, Texas history, Southwest history, Latin American history, and quantitative history should make it a point to view the SVREP/WCVI collection.

In order to increase voter registration numbers throughout the Southwest SVREP/WCVI had to collect a myriad of voter statistics. Voter turnout based on racial and ethnic demographics, district maps, and opinion polls helped SVREP/WCVI target a specific area to increase voter registration. Through their research, local SVREP chapters established a bulwark against disenfranchisement.

Administratively, SVREP distributed funds and guidance to local chapters throughout the Southwest. Contained within the collection are numerous documents on funding distribution, field reports, and correspondence with local organizations. These field reports serve as a valuable resource for individuals examining SVREP involvement at the local level.SVREP summary of activities-1

To attract a wide audience SVREP hit the airwaves with commercials featuring prominent Latinos encouraging individuals to get out and vote. One video is of special interest as it features Ricardo Montalbán. The video can be viewed in our Digital Collection.

Lopez v. Del ValleProtecting people’s right to vote, SVREP supported numerous individuals in their right to be fairly represented. In Lopez v Del Valle Independent School District, SVREP assisted Lopez in his quest for equitable representation. SVREP provided legal consul to make a case that the Del Valle School Board was not an actual representation of the people within the school district. SVREP provided legal support to many organizations and individuals fighting for fair elections.

SVREP went beyond the domestic sphere to focus on international issues relevant to the Latino Private Organizations in Guatemalacommunity. One of these issues included the conflict taking place in Central America. SVREP collected extensive documentation on El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. They even went as far as sending delegates to Nicaragua to experience and report on the activities of the Sandinista government. Furthermore, surveys were issued to voters to gain insight into the significance of United States activity in Central America.

SVREP sought to educate voters and potential voters on how to become empowered citizens. Examining the materials contained within the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project/Willie C. Velasquez Institute records provides a wide range of sources to local, regional, and national issues. Through the sources one can unlock the door to many research opportunities.

The records are currently closed to patron use as an initial inventory is created and funds are secured to begin processing and preserving the materials. For questions about the collection, please contact Special Collections staff at


[1] Society of American Archivists (SAA), A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology [], accessed July 8, 2015.

So that we may learn, alter and grow

July 4, 2015

As we celebrate Independence Day, I thought it was appropriate to share something patriotic from our University Archives. While sorting through the recently-received addition to the Jacinto Quirarte Papers, I ran across some letters from a surprising correspondent.

In addition to his duties as Dean of the College of Fine and Applied Arts and professor of Art History, Dr. Quirarte also served on several committees external to the university. In 1976, the United States celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of the American Revolution. ARBA—the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration—was formed and asked to “coordinate, facilitate and aid in the scheduling of events, activities and projects of local, state, national and international entities in commemoration of the American Revolution Bicentennial.” [1]

Dr. Quirarte was one of 25 individuals appointed to ARBA’s Advisory Council. He was in distinguished company—some of his fellow appointees include Lady Bird Johnson, authors Alex Haley and James Michener, and poet Maya Angelou. Angelou, Haley, Michener, Quirarte, and Reverend Joseph L. Bernardin all served on a sub-committee tasked with creating a “declaration for the next 200 years.”

The process of drafting this declaration is revealed through correspondence between Quirarte and Angelou. At her request, on March 3, 1975, Jacinto Quirarte sent a letter to Angelou, sharing his concerns about American life. He concludes the letter with this statement: “An understanding and appreciation of the arts will enable us to function better as human beings.”

Later that month, Maya Angelou responded with a letter and a “very rough draft.” Here is an excerpt:

“Therefore, two hundred years later, in honor of the courage, the purpose, the generosity of the founding fathers, we the undersigned, commit ourselves to these intents.

We intend to examine the portentous aims not yet realized of the signatories to the Declaration of Independence.

We intend to familiarize ourselves with the past. Those aspects which show us in the best lights, so that we may be justly proud and others which do not show us well, so that we may learn, alter and grow.”

A later letter from Angelou is accompanied by another, shorter draft. Unfortunately, records in an archival collection often don’t tell the complete story. In this case, it is unclear if, when, or how Angelou’s declaration was ever delivered in the midst of the bicentennial festivities.

Regardless, it is a delight to read Angelou’s unpublished writings on the topic of America’s bicentennial, and it is gratifying to see evidence of Quirarte’s connections to other influential individuals beyond the UTSA community.

[1] More information about ARBA and the bicentennial celebrations can be found in the Bicentennial Times, available online through the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum.

The Metadata Difference

June 29, 2015

A few weeks ago, we checked our department email and were pleased to read the following message from a patron:

 Doing some family history research I typed the address of the house my great-grandfather lived in as a little boy – 707 North Laredo St – into Google Maps, only to find I-10 running right through the general area.  Bummer.  Google web results turned up something interesting, however:

Your site!

Very, very, WAY cool to see that.

This totally made our day! We’re always happy to hear back from patrons about how they’re able to find or use our material. In this case, we’re especially pleased because this patron didn’t come to Special Collections looking for material—instead, our material made it out to her.  Quite a fortuitous result.

Top Shelf readers may be aware of the numerous messages we post to the blog about newly digitized material—we certainly make an effort to scan and make available as much as we can, given time and resources. But digitization goes well beyond simply scanning an image and posting it online. A substantial amount of time is put into assembling metadata, or descriptive information that provides context for the digitized item (for a discussion on how and why we digitize items, see this blog post). In the case above, it was the metadata that we had provided and associated with the photograph that got indexed by Google, so that the patron was able to find a link with that related address and see the historic image we’d put online.

The collection this photograph comes from has additional information that provides even further context. This photo comes from the Ray Howell Photograph Collection, which dates from 1962-1969. Ray Howell was a commercial photographer in San Antonio who was commissioned to take photographs of this neighborhood as part of the Rosa Verde North Urban Renewal Project.

“Small unpainted houses, 707 and 709 N. Laredo Street, San Antonio, Texas,” Ray Howell Photograph Collection, MS 354, University of Texas San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.

Howell took photographs of the many buildings that were to be removed in an effort to document what was there at that time (today, the only buildings in this neighborhood remaining from this time period are the San Francesco Di Paola Church and Christopher Columbus Italian Society). Our staff, however, had to work through his photographs to match up addresses and buildings so that these could be pinpointed and provided as additional metadata. Much of this involved looking at our Sanborn Insurance Maps of San Antonio (online and in print), so that staff could find the street and address details that the photographs were missing. These maps were created by the Sanborn Map Company to evaluate fire insurance risks in cities and towns across the country.  They include highly detailed information, including building sizes, block numbers, locations of city facilities, and house numbers. Thus, these are a great resource for anyone doing research into urban planning or neighborhood history.

This kind of commitment to metadata creation does come at a high cost in staff time, but for this particular collection it’s been paying off. Without this information, this photograph would just be an image of two houses in an old neighborhood in San Antonio, and would probably never have found its way into the browser of our patron.

A Long Tradition of Welcoming New Roadrunners

June 22, 2015

No doubt you’ve seen some fresh faces on campus this summer. It’s likely that some of those belong to the most recent additions to the Roadrunner flock – incoming undergraduates, here to participate in New Student Orientation in preparation for the fall semester.

The current version of orientation is called Roadrunner Roundup. The program aims to ease the transition to college life by helping students register for classes, have an effective academic advising session, learn more about student support services, and develop UTSA spirit and pride.

UTSA has a long history of hosting programs to welcome and acclimate new students to campus. Originally named New Student Conferences, these were first held in the summer of 1975. An August 1975 article in The Bulletin, a monthly newsletter included in the University Publications collection, shares this description:

One graduate and five undergraduate New Student Conferences in July and August gave students a sneak preview of the new campus, the faculty, and each other. About 1,700 students attended the conferences which included registration, orientation and academic advising.

UTSA President Dr. Peter T. Flawn welcomed participants to the first New Student Conference session. “You share an adventurous spirit with those of us who planned UTSA,” Dr. Flawn told the pioneer class. He added, “We have a good university for you. We ask only that you work and if you encounter problems, come to us.”

The conferences ran smoothly; even an occasionally lengthy line wasn’t an inconvenience. As one passerby explained, “It finally looks like a university.”

Dozens of photographs from the Gil Barrera Photographs collection offer an idea of what these early orientations looked like. These images demonstrate that while fashion and technology may have changed, the goal of orientation has stayed the same.

UTSA President Dr. Peter Flawn addresses a group of New Student Conference attendees.

UTSA President Dr. Peter Flawn addresses a group of New Student Conference attendees.

Graduate student worker Cathy Douglass directs traffic.

Graduate student worker Cathy Douglass directs traffic.

Dr. Wayne Magee discusses academic programs with Lynne Crow during an advising session.

Dr. Wayne Magee discusses academic programs with Lynne Crow during an advising session.

A line of waiting students wraps around an architectural model of the not-quite-finished campus.

A line of waiting students wraps around an architectural model of the not-quite-finished campus.

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