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Drag Divas (and some dudes) of Corpus Christi, 1990s style!

August 21, 2017

RuPaul’s ladies have nothing on these Drag Divas of the fabulous 90s! The hair, the nails, the gowns that shimmer!!!

Miss Corpus Christi America pageant, 1994 and undated


Female impersonators from across the state of Texas flocked to these pageants to secure a place among the royalty of the Miss Gay Texas America pageant circuit which was and is the oldest and largest pageant for female impersonators in the state. After winning at the local level, contestants went on to compete at the state level. Judging by the expression on this lovely lady’s face, snagging a crown was a big deal!


Miss Nueces County pageant, undated

The Miss Corpus Christi America pageant and related pageants were put on by Texas Crown Productions owned by Rudy Cardona and his partner, Victor Lopez. This past fall,  Victor donated the photographs to UTSA Special Collections. All photographs have been digitized and can be viewed via the online guide for the Victor Lopez and Rudy Cardona Photograph Collection.



The gals weren’t the only competitors on the pageant circuit. The guys came out to compete in the Mr. Corpus Christi pageant and offered an interesting array of talent-nothing says 90s like the fashion especially the performers in the leotards!


Rosemary Kowalski Papers Open for Research

August 14, 2017

Special Collections is pleased to announce that the Rosemary Kowalski Papers have been processed and are now open for research. Additionally, select photos from the collection are available to view online.

Young Rosemary practicing her dance skills

Rosemary Hughes Kowalski was born in San Antonio, Texas on September 27, 1924; she is the only child of Virginia Mergele Hughes and William Upton Hughes. As a child she took dance lessons and attended Blessed Sacrament Academy. She then attended Incarnate Word High School and graduated in 1941. In 1945 she married Henry “Hank” Kowalski. They have two children: Mary Kowalski Carrington and Greg Kowalski.

Rosemary and Henry opened Uncle Ben’s Barbecue Restaurant at 2414 N. Zarzamora Street together in 1946. Rosemary had her first off-site catering event at St. Peter’s Prince of the Apostles Church in 1949, and in 1961 the name officially changed to Catering by Rosemary. In 1968 the business was named the official caterer for HemisFair ’68, the World’s Fair held in San Antonio. In 1972 the business won an exclusive catering contract for the San Antonio Convention Center, a contract that is still maintained today.

Rosemary stands next to an impressive early table display, 1960

Rosemary hard at work in the kitchen, 1968

By the early 1980’s the company had long outgrown the kitchen of Uncle Ben’s Barbecue. As the business continued to grow, it moved to a larger space near St. Paul’s Square, where the business is headquartered today. In 1989, The RK Group was launched, and Rosemary’s son Greg was named President and CEO. Greg further diversified the company to include floral design, a specialized destination management company, a full-service nationwide meeting planning group, emergency management support, and a PR and marketing design component.

Ready for an elegant evening on Alamo Plaza

Rosemary celebrates the opening of Rosemary’s Delivery Service by making the first delivery via motorcycle, 2002

Throughout its history, the company has served Pope John Paul II, their Royal Highnesses Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, U.S. Ambassador to England Henry Catto, numerous U.S. Presidents, and countless celebrities. Rosemary attributes her success to her long-established reputation for caring about fine details. Despite her success, she is known for her humility, dedication to service, positive outlook, and her courtesy and caring for others. Amongst her favorite sayings are “Say please and thank-you, always,” and “Attitude is everything.”

The RK Group really does it all! Pictured above is the massive catering setup for Valero Corporation’s 25th anniversary celebration held at the Alamodome in 2005.

Rosemary retired from The RK Group in 1997, though she remains Chairman and CEO Emeritus. She is actively involved in the community and is well known for her philanthropic efforts in San Antonio’s cultural, arts, human service, religious, and educational organizations. Her numerous awards and honors include San Antonio Entrepeneur of the Year (1988), Grande Dame of Les Dames d’Escoffier International (2003),  induction into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame (1998) and the Texas Business Hall of Fame (2004).

Rosemary poses for a photo with her children and their spouses at her 70th birthday party, 1994. L-R: Greg and Bekki Kowalski, Rosemary Kowalski, Mary Kowalski Carrington, John Carrington

The Rosemary Kowalski Papers contain paper files, photograph prints, newspaper clippings, appointment calendars, two of Rosemary’s school yearbooks, a childhood scrapbook, VHS and Betacam tapes, CDs, DVDs, and born-digital records. The collection also contains electronic records that were once traditional paper files and photos, but were scanned by RK Group staff and donated to UTSA Special Collections as electronic records.

The Rosemary Kowalski Papers are housed at UTSA’s Main Campus and can be viewed by appointment in the John Peace Library Special Collections Reading Room. The complete collection guide is available online. Additionally, select photos are available to view online.

A Month in Special Collections: July

August 7, 2017
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Suite Treats!

July 24, 2017

Blog post written by archives student assistant, Christina Frasier.

Recently, Kristin Law and I finished processing a collection newly available to Special Collections patrons entitled Department of Art and Art History Printmaking Collection, 1983-2012.

The collection, which was transferred to the University Archives by the UTSA Department of Art and Art History, brings together five different print suites and represents the many different techniques and styles that printmaking allows. Although my predecessor, Kira Sandoval, was the one to compile background information about this collection, I was able to look through all the prints when we arranged them into folders. I snuck a couple snaps of my favorite prints so that I could offer Top Shelf readers some examples.

Stairway of Circles lithograph print

Stairway of Circles by Jene Highstein, 2003. Printed by Neal Cox. Department of Art and Art History Printmaking Collection, UA 10.01.02.

The first print that caught my eye was from the Collaborative Editions suite, which was a long-term project dating from 1983 to 2003. Faculty and visiting artists would collaborate with students in the printmaking process in order to increase students’ technical experience. Thus, the styles and processes represented in the suite vary widely. This particular 2003 print is called Stairway of Circles by Jene Highstein and is a black and white lithograph with watercolor.

There’s also a Judy Baca print in this suite, so it’s definitely a must-see!

Exquisite Corpse #10 lithograph print

Exquisite Corpse #10 by Mila Castro, Gary Nichols, and Greg Pickens, 1994. Department of Art and Art History Printmaking Collection, UA 10.01.02.

Although I loved the print suite Exquisite Corpse in its entirety, I thought Exquisite Corpse #10 was one of those that best represented the ethos of the project. The suite consists of 18 lithographs; three artists worked on each print. The concept was to create composite “bodies” from the work of three different artists, none of whom knew what the other artists’ “parts” would look like. The result is a surrealist mélange of different styles ranging widely in formal elements but united by color. The Hare and Hound Press, a local collaborative printmaking studio run by UTSA alumni Janet Flohr and Gary Nichols, initiated the project in 1994 as a fundraiser for UTSA’s Satellite Space gallery, an off-campus gallery located in the Blue Star Arts Complex.

Tinaco Naco linocut print

Tinaco Naco by Juan de Dios Mora, 2009. Department of Art and Art History Printmaking Collection, UA 10.01.02.

The last print I want to highlight comes from the Veinticinco print suite. These twenty-five prints are all by Latino and Latina artists and use various printing techniques. This 2009 print, called Tinaco Naco, is a linocut by Juan de Dios Mora. UTSA Special Collections liked this one so much we used it on one of our promotional brochures!

Mora is a member of the UTSA Department of Art and Art History faculty, and currently has an exhibition running until August 13th at the McNay Art Museum here in San Antonio called Culture Clash. Here’s the link: I heartily recommend it!

The Department of Art and Art History Printmaking Collection is available for viewing in the Special Collections reading room on the 4th floor of the John Peace Library.

Introducing our SRT Mexican Manuscripts Collection Digitization Specialist

July 18, 2017

Special Collections received exciting news last semester regarding the Sons of the Republic of Texas Kathryn Stoner O’Connor Mexican Manuscript Collection: the Summerlee Foundation awarded the Sons of the Republic of Texas (SRT) funding that will ensure the complete digitization of this collection.  The grant allowed Special Collections to hire a digitization specialist who will manage the entire project, including scanning all of the historical manuscripts and uploading them into our digital library portal.  Currently, a portion is available for online use.

So who gets to work with these documents and complete this large-scale digitization project?  We’re delighted to introduce Alyssa Franklin, our SRT Digitization Specialist!


Alyssa reads through a bound manuscript in the vault before taking it to the digitization lab.

She’s no stranger to the Mexican Manuscript Collection: as a UTSA graduate student she’d been assisting us with scanning, creating metadata, and uploading digitized folders since Fall 2015.  Now that she’s graduated and is working for us full time, she’ll have a lot on her plate!  Stay tuned for future posts from Alyssa about this project and the challenges (and fun) she’ll have delivering high quality metadata and scans to our online researchers.

Alyssa has the following to say about herself and her new position:

Hello all! I’m happy to evolve in my role within Special Collections as the new Digitization Specialist for the SRT Mexican Manuscript Collection. This collection contains thousands of documents encompassing several centuries of Mexico’s history that cover a vast array of subjects (from land disputes to personal correspondence). In this role, I will be facilitating the online accessibility of these valuable materials which will improve researchers’ access to the collection from all over the world.

I have been a part of the UTSA community since 2010, when I began my undergraduate degree here. I received my B.A. in psychology and art history in 2014. This past May, I received my M.A. in art history from UTSA. My thesis focused on the posthumous revival of an influential seventeenth-century bishop at the behest of an eighteenth-century Bourbon monarch.

I am putting my knowledge of Colonial Mexico into practice in my new role with Special Collections. While pursuing my M.A., I taught introductory art history courses for one year and joined the Special Collections team in September 2015. I worked on the digitization of the SRT Collection, which continues to be my modus operandi in the grant-funded role of Digitization Specialist. I am elated to continue and grow with Special Collections, and to see this long-running project come to fruition.

Welcome, Alyssa, and good luck!

Images recovered from damaged acetate negatives

July 6, 2017

Special Collections recently sent 50 damaged negatives, from the San Antonio Light Photograph Collection, to Chicago Albumen Company for repair.  The negatives are 4×5 inch cellulose acetate film that deteriorates easily in fluctuating humidity levels and warm temperatures.  The unstable film base shrinks causing the stable gelatin emulsion layer to separate in meandering channels with small gas bubbles.  A damaged negative is brittle and cannot be fattened for scanning.  Conservators strip the image pellicle (the emulsion layer) from the decayed acetate base.  The pellicle can then be scanned by a conservator trained in handling this extremely fragile un-supported image layer.

These are examples of some of the images that were recovered and scanned by Chicago Albumen Company.  Most were damaged when they were accessioned into the collection in 1988.  At last, they are available for use by the public.

Scan from recovered image pellicle showing television stars Nanette Fabray and Carl Reiner arriving at San Antonio International Airport, March 31, 1955. (MS 359: L-4767-F)


The deteriorated negative of Fabray and Reiner, prior to repair, showing channeling and blister-like bubbles that marred the image to the point that the subjects were not recognizable.


The image pellicle after removal from the damaged acetate film base.



Recovered image of Mike Souchak, shortly before winning the Texas Open and setting a new world competive record, Brackenridge Park Golf Course, February 1955. (MS 359: L-4829-G)


Recovered image of two contestants in the Fiesta Children’s Costume Frolic at Municipal Auditorium, April 16, 1955. (MS 359: L-4787-I)


Recovered image of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor touring the Alamo, February 3, 1950. (MS 359: L-3902-E)


Recovered image of Sigma Phi sorority pledges, from San Antonio College, performing outside store on E. Houston Street, February 1955. (MS 359: L-4804-I)

A Month in Special Collections: June

July 5, 2017
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