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.” 
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
- MS 454 Jovita de la Rosa papers. This small collection is comprised of photographs and related items that belonged to a family that lived in San Antonio’s “Laredito” neighborhood. The collection has been added to the photographic holdings.
- MS 421 Brown and Lane Family papers. An addition of genealogy notebooks and scrapbooks.
- MS 003 Pan American Round Table of San Antonio. The addition is comprised of yearbooks, reports, photographs, and directories.
- MS 144 Israel Worsham papers. New addition contains correspondence and documents from Israel Worsham, 1840s-1860s.
- UA 99.0003 UTSA. Papers of Faculty and Staff: Quirarte Jacinto. New items include correspondence, memos, committee files, course notes.
- UA 99.0022 UTSA. Papers of Faculty and Staff: Cantú, Norma E. Included in the addition are course notes and correspondence related to the career of Norma Cantú, Professor Emeritus in the College of English.
- 8 new additions: Rare Books Purchases May 2015
Contents include: Rowdy beginnings, Civil War and Reconstruction, Sweet revenge, Heights House of Horrors, The Roaring Twenties fade, Bonnie and Clyde in Houston- or not, The Beatnik Killers gun-torch murders, Beaver Cleaver’s America, Stacy and Bunni, Two Candy Men, The Todville Murder Mansion, and The Wig Shop murder
A small collection of photographs and related material that belonged to a family that lived in San Antonio’s “Laredito” neighborhood has been added to the photographic holdings. The gift was made by Esther Ortiz Lozano, daughter of Jovita de la Rosa Ortiz.
Jovita de la Rosa Ortiz (1916-1994) was the only child of Magdaleno and Francisca (Villacobos) de la Rosa. The family, from Matehuala, Mexico, settled in Texas in 1922. At first, Magdaleno worked for a railway company in the Texas Panhandle. But by 1927, he had opened his own business, a soda water stand in San Antonio. Two year later, he moved to a new location at 621 South Laredo Street, in Laredito. The family living quarters were attached to the rear of the business. Within a few years, the drink stand became “De la Rosa Café,” serving Mexican food. The café was well-known for its gorditas and enchiladas.
Jovita was the only daughter of Magdaleno and Francisca. She attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic School, located only two blocks away from her home. Afterward, she studied and graduated from Lanier High School.
Jovita’s collection consists of both family snapshots and the work of commercial photographers. The photos provide insights into the lives of the people that lived in the West Side neighborhood of Laredito in the 1920s to 1940s.
During the month of June, LGBTI Pride festivities abound. The three Pride p’s–parades, picnics, and panel discussions–ubiquitous manifestations of queer visibility, play out across the U.S. and beyond. As floats glide down city streets and drag divas wave to adoring, celebrating throngs; as same-sex parents with children and doggies sporting rainbow scarves in tow enjoy family friendly Pride picnics; as panelists discuss coming out and homophobia–how many recall the brave moments of activism that paved the way for today’s Pride panoply?
While the Stonewall  riots of 1969 served as a catalyst for gay liberation, activists and activism that came in its wake waged incremental skirmishes against homophobia and discrimination. In 1978, members of San Antonio’s gay community entered into the fray, taking on Anita Bryant, beauty queen, singer, and prominent anti-homosexual spokesperson.  When Bryant was invited to speak at a rally in San Antonio, gay business entrepreneur Hap Veltman sent out a community call-to-action.
Veltman’s plea fell on responsive ears and many of San Antonio’s citizens openly proclaimed their opposition to Bryant and what she represented. Veltman raised the funds needed to take out a full page ad in the Express-News condemning Bryant’s actions but validating the importance of free speech.
The image in the advertisement, originally published in Time magazine in 1977, shows a protest march against Anita Bryant in San Francisco. For members of the gay and lesbian community, Bryant’s homophobic rhetoric echoed that of past ruthless dictators and hate groups and thus she was depicted alongside Hitler, Stalin, and others. Veltman secured the rights to use the image as part of the SA Express-News advertisement. Many who helped pay for the ad allowed their names to be published while others who could not afford to be openly identified, chose to remain anonymous.
Gene Elder, artist and activist, took the local protest a step further. He created the “Anita Bryant Prayer” which he passed out at the venue where Bryant was speaking. Elder explains:
I felt this was a very brave act on my part, being 28 at that time, acting alone, and I chose to protest Anita’s march across America in this fashion. I was promptly escorted out by security who saw my passing the flyers down the rows as disruptive. (I guess “praying for those that persecute you” must be unchristian at religious rallies.)
This local protest may have seemed like a minor effort launched by a small segment of the queer community. However, the action combined with other protests across the U.S. thrust gay rights into the national spotlight and fortified calls for equality and an end to discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Many of UTSA Libraries Special Collections LGBTQ materials originate from the work of local activists. The collections offer opportunities for researches to investigate often-underrepresented facets of local history.
LGBTQ collections of interest include:
 LGBT Pride celebrations are rooted in an annual commemoration of the Stonewall Riots that occurred in June of 1969 in Greenwich Village, N.Y. The square-off between members of the queer community and police ignited tense interactions over several days. This event is heralded as the beginning of the gay rights movement–a seminal moment marked by annual Pride celebrations.
 Anita Bryant, a former Miss Oklahoma, became an outspoken opponent of gay rights and homosexuality. She campaigned to repeal a non-discrimination ordinance in Dade County, Florida. Her “Save Our Children” coalition promoted the ideology that homosexuality was sinful and homosexuals were child predators. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_Bryant], accessed June 4, 2015.
Digging in – Archives Acquisitions from Start to Finish – Southwest Voter Registration Education Project/Willie C. Velasquez Records
Did you ever wonder how archival collections go from someone’s garage, attic, or storage unit to being available in one of UTSA Libraries Special Collections’ reading rooms? In the months to come, we will reveal how the process of acquiring, appraising, processing, and describing a collection unfolds. Photographs of site visits and archives work spaces will offer a visual chronicle behind-the-scenes at UTSA Special Collections as we take custody of our largest collection ever–the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project/Willie C. Velasquez records.
On our first visit to the storage facility, the task in front of us seemed a little daunting! How do you go from a mountainous pile of boxes to record cartons neatly places on shelves? There is only one way to handle this challenge–one box at a time. Before we began the process of digging in, we needed to take a few precautions–we set insect traps, purchased flashlights, goggles, masks, and gloves. We had to be prepared for the possibility of mold or insect activity–certain types of spiders love dark, undisturbed spaces. Having prepared sufficiently for such contingencies, we forged ahead with great enthusiasm!
Our plan of tackling one box of records at a time seemed pretty straight forward. However, there were certain things we needed to consider as we sifted through this mountain of materials. One of the prime directives of archives is maintaining the original order of records creators whenever possible. This imperative can be challenging when faced with the volume of records such as those encountered at the SVREP/WCVI site. Within this space, there were records of multiple creators-the delineation between individuals was not always clear. While some original boxes were labeled with the creator, others were not. While some boxes were organized, other were not. We just had to do our best to maintain any order we encountered.
As we transferred materials into record cartons for transport, we included small insect traps in each box to capture any unwanted critters that love to feast on paper. Loose materials such as maps needed to be bagged and traps included. Items that had sustained water damage were sealed in oversize Ziploc bags. They would need to be closely examined for active mold.
After several exhilarating hours, we loaded up our vehicles and headed out to secure the boxes in our quarantine space. Quarantining materials is a vital step in the process of long-term preservation. Until new collections are checked for pest activity and mold, they remain separated from existing collections.
Our first day of work at the site was a success. Each of us felt fortunate to be part of this exciting opportunity. We looked forward to our next visit wondering what we would encounter. Our next blog about our adventure will include descriptions of the types of materials we discovered and will explain how we determine the archival value of collections.