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Announcing the Cruz Ortiz Collection

September 24, 2018

UTSA Special Collections is excited to announce the recent acquisition of a collection of prints, sketchbooks, and other materials from San Antonio artist Cruz Ortiz. This post was written by Vanessa Brown, a UTSA printmaking student who spent this past summer working with the collection.

My time at UTSA’s Special Collections has been invested in researching and organizing the works of local contemporary artist Cruz Ortiz. This includes gathering relevant articles spanning over a decade, and researching the career of the artist. I also created a detailed inventory of the Cruz Ortiz Collection, which includes a wide array of prints and Snake Hawk Press merchandise. Throughout the process, I discovered the history of Snake Hawk Press, Ortiz’s impact on the community, and was introduced to archival practices.

I am not a student who ever thought about being an Archivist. I am an undergraduate at UTSA planning on graduating in the spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. My concentration is Printmaking, which is why I was ultimately selected for this position. Printmaking is the process of making multiple prints via several processes. It is not a popular concentration and not a well-known subject matter. In San Antonio Printmaker Cruz Ortiz’s case, he mainly utilizes screen printing and letterpress.

Amor 5oz., undated. 3 layer screen print.

Screen prints make up the majority of the collection. To make a screen print or a silk screen, one comes up with a design that is burned onto a mesh screen with a light sensitive emulsion. The screen is a metal or wood frame that is covered with a thin fabric material containing thousands of holes from the threading of the mesh. The finer the mesh count, the smaller the holes are, so more detail can be achieved in the finished product. The emulsion is a chemical that hardens with light, ultimately sealing the little holes. Where ever the design blocks the light, is where the ink will be able to travel through the unclogged holes onto the printing surface, allowing for multiples to be stenciled over and over again. It is by far the fastest printmaking process and one of the most versatile. You can print on wood, paper, T-shirts, and anything you can lay the screen onto.

MALA Gun and Heart, undated. Screen print. This print was created via the cut-paper method of screen printing.

Ortiz has also utilized a screen printing technique involving paper cut stencils, instead of emulsion, which is a quicker method. The paper is cut out and placed against the screen, and the ink is squeezed through. The ink cannot penetrate the paper and will print where the cut outs were made. This process is quick to facilitate a finished product. However, it is impractical for creating large quantities of high quality prints. He uses this technique in interactive installations and shows where he invites the community to create with him. Ortiz exploits the technique in an educational and interactive way to draw viewers into his shows.

The other major portion of the collection is relief prints made on the letterpress. In order to create the print, Ortiz will carve a block of wood into a design and combine it with antique font type. These prints are identifiable to by the wood grain present in every print. These prints are an ode to Ortiz’s love of font. There are words everywhere in his work.

4th Annual Dignowity Hill Pushcart Derby, 2008. 1 layer screen print. Cruz Ortiz is a co-founder of the annual pushcart derby. The collection features several derby posters from 2005-2011.

Through Ortiz’s  prints, I began to see a lot of his quirks and personality. What he makes is a reflection of himself. This is especially true when face to face with Spaztek. Spaztek is his alter-ego, created by Ortiz to act out a never ending love story. He is always love sick, Tex-Mex, alien, throwing up rainbows and lightning, tacos, raspas, chasing a lover to the ends of the Earth. This is a reflection on what it is like for Ortiz living in Texas, and it’s easy to see the whimsy in it all. Then there’s a lot of dark irony too.

Viva la Lucha, 2017. 2 layer letterpress.


Spaztek y el Gato Negro, 2003. Screen print. This print is stored with its corresponding transparency, which is used to burn the design onto the screen.











I saw all of this in over 700 prints, sketches, shirts, stickers, and stuff created over decades. I saw the rise of his young career with prints from his first show in 2001, his first big solo show at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston in 2010, and the birth of Snake Hawk Press in 2014. It is strange to know a person through the breadcrumbs they’ve left throughout their life, and I can only imagine what it’s like for Archivists to get to know so many people through their work who they never knew (in person) every day.


Snake Hawk Press Launch Party, June 7th, 2014. Letterpress.

Grid of images sketch, undated.

Dog sketch, undated.

Man, devil, $ image, undated. Letterpress.

The Cruz Ortiz Collection is currently closed to researchers while the final stages of work are being completed. The collection will be available for research this fall.

Society of American Archivists Conference 2018 Recap

September 18, 2018

This August I was fortunate enough to attend the Society of American Archivists Conference in Washington, D.C. This year it took place in conjunction with the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) and the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), for one of the largest conference gatherings to date with over 2,000 attendees.

As the online communication liaison for the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives (LACCHA), I wanted to attend the section meeting and also take the opportunity to network with colleagues from other universities and institutions. Since I did not give a presentation this year, it allowed me to attend all the sessions that I was interested in that I might have missed prepping for my own. I was also able to fully take advantage of the city thanks to the great public transportation. Here are some highlights from my conference experience:

Session Highlights:                                                                                               

Plenary- Zeynep Tufekci, Associate Professor & Author at University of North Carolina

The opening lecture for the conference featured Zeyynep Tufekci who discussed how comments and other online activity on social media can negatively affect job prospects. Her cautionary tales discussed how “deleted” content can be internet archived and have negative effects towards an individual’s current position or for being considered for a future one. Tufekci also touched on how YouTube’s search algorithm can push users to their limit and to be aware of how our searching tendencies lead us to other content.

Toward Culturally Competent Archival (Re) Description of Marginalized Histories- Annie Tang, Dorothy Berry, Kelly Bolding, Rachel Winston

I was especially interested in this panel because the issue of (re) description seems to be a constant issue within archives. More and more institutions are realizing that previous archive descriptions are problematic because they are culturally insensitive. The case studies brought forth by the four individuals on this panel highlighted culturally competent ways to approach description. Some noteworthy advice given by the panelists included, titling files accurately by proving some sort of context in the description by completing the necessary research, and to include a disclaimer such as, “This title was written by the original owner.”

International Archival Affairs/LACCHA Section Meeting

Similar to last years’ meeting, the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives (LACCHA) section hosted our annual section meeting alongside the International Archival Affairs (IAA) section. To take advantage of our one time slot, both sections decided to have guest speakers in addition to announcing election results and reporting on activities from the previous year. The guest speaker from LACCHA was Hilda Teresa Ayala-Gonzalez from the University of Puerto Rico. Hilda discussed how hurricane Maria affected numerous archives and also the relief efforts they took part in.  IAA’s guest speaker, Montserrat Canela Garayoa from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Archives also spoke about her work involving refugees. The meeting was a success and we were able to gain a lot of feedback from the audience and make connections with new members.

Museum Visit Highlights:

All-Attendee Dessert Reception: National Museum of Natural History

Each conference hosts an all-attendee reception at a note-worthy location so that conference attendees can mingle and network in order to kick-start the conference. This year we were lucky to have it hosted at the National Museum of Natural History. The museum stayed open after hours and we were able to have the entire museum to ourselves, which is special considering how crowded the museum usually becomes during regular hours.

National Portrait Gallery: I was lucky enough to see the new presidential portrait of Barak Obama by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama. In addition, the gallery was also having a special exhibit titled, “Black Out: Silhouettes Then and Now”.  “With both historical and contemporary explorations into the silhouette, Black Out reveals pathways between our past and present, particularly with regard to how we can reassess notions of race, power, individualism and even, our digital assets.” The exhibit featured many artists in a variety of media, and was easily one of my favorite exhibits from my trip.

A glimpse into the luxurious world of Frost Bros. through the illustrations of Max Jordan

September 10, 2018

Decades before customers were inundated with mass media ads, shoppers were treated to illustrated fashion advertisements in local papers. The ads were created by talented fashion illustrators and they conveyed a sense of rich style and sophistication, especially when those ads were from Frost Bros., a high-end South Texas department store anchored in San Antonio. Recently, UTSA Special Collections received a donation of the Max Jordan Papers. The collection consists of conceptual drawings, mock-ups, page proofs, and newspaper advertisements. The majority of the items were produced by Jordan during the 1980s for Frost Bros., Jordan’s illustrations were created for men’s and women’s fashion, fragrance, skincare, and cosmetics advertisements. A small sampling of sketches are from his time at I. Magnin in San Francisco. 

Mock-ups were part of the production process of creating advertisements. Once perfected, the mock-ups were then used for page proofs, and the final product, newspaper advertisements, such as the full page color ad above. Shown here are mock-ups created by Max Jordan for Fros. Bros. ads.


Conceptual sketches created by Jordan for I. Magnin department store in San Francisco are featured below.





Fragments of personal papers reveal details of U.S.-Mexico relations during Revolution.

August 21, 2018

Because the Sons of the Republic of Texas Mexican Manuscript Collection originated from the estate of a book dealer in Mexico City, the nature and arrangement of its contents is often surprising. I recently came across an interesting folder, 5903, containing what appear to be fragments from the personal papers of 20th century Mexico City businessman Antenor Sala. Although lacking clear provenance, this selection of pages represents Sala’s perspective on issues between the U.S. and Mexico during the pivotal decade of 1910-1920 when Mexico was fraught with conflict during Revolution.

The folder originally stood out to me in the metadata because it mentioned U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. When I opened the folder, the first item was a letter addressed to Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. Clearly, Sala had the resources to contact some of the most powerful men in the United States. He was writing prominent American politicians, scholars, and businessmen between 1912 and 1916 when Mexico was descending into a failed presidency, subsequent dictatorship, and inevitably into civil war. He was petitioning for foreign intervention to abate the conflict that was tearing Mexico apart, and in so doing hoped to protect his vast business interests.

Below is a draft of Sala’s letter to the editor of the New York Herald. He requests that the editor read his self-published studies of Mexico’s current state. Sala’s abstract and a draft of the entire paper are included in folder 5903.

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I was curious as to why Sala would be reaching out to these individuals, and how he had the resources to do so. After some research, I discovered he was a prominent businessman, quite wealthy, and had ties to Felix Díaz. Díaz was the nephew of longtime president-turned-dictator Porfirio Díaz (whose eventual overthrow in 1911 led to this decade of conflict). Sala’s vast business network included mining operations across Mexico, and must have been intertwined with his political connections to the ousted Díaz family.

Antenor Sala contacted academics in the U.S., such as Theodore Woolsey, a professor emeritus at Yale. He criticized a recently published article by the professor, which Sala felt inaccurately represented Mexico. Sala makes it clear that he feels Woolsey has misrepresented his homeland, and Latin America as a whole. He is concerned with how this misinformation could adversely affect the intervention he hopes for from the U.S. in abating the Mexican conflict. A reply from Woolsey is also included in the slideshow below:

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After Woodrow Wilson took the office of U.S. President in 1913, American policy towards Mexico shifted. Wilson took a more hands on approach to the conflict in Mexico, and Sala begins pleading his case to the president:

To Wilson

Sala chronicles the effect the U.S. has had on Mexico, and attempts to appeal to Wilson by describing his own views on the relationship between race, socioeconomic status, and democracy.

The fragmentary nature of the folder 5903’s contents leaves the researcher with more questions than answers. However, this combination of documents provides a glimpse into Sala’s coordinated and determined efforts to guide U.S.-Mexico relations in a direction that would benefit himself and his business interests. Metadata on later documents in the SRT Mexican Manuscript Collection provides probable hints that additional fragments of Sala’s personal papers are waiting to be explored.

Much of the collection has been digitized, and can be viewed here:

Theodore S. Woolsey’s article (that Sala references in the above correspondence) is titled “The Administration and Mexico” and was originally published December 11, 1913 in The Independent. 


300 for SA300: Photos celebrating San Antonio’s history on display at ITC

August 13, 2018

As a way to celebrate San Antonio’s 300th anniversary this year, the Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) teamed up with Special Collections to create a new exhibit, “San Antonio: 1860s-1990s A Photographic Chronology from UTSA Special Collections.”  The exhibit, which opened on August 4th, is made up of 300 images selected by Photographs Curator Tom Shelton to span the portion of San Antonio’s history that can be represented with this artistic medium.

The photos are grouped together by decade, enabling visitors to view the city’s past chronologically and get a taste of the spirit of the times.  Visitors are able to move from the 1860s forward through subsequent decades, and observe changes in San Antonio. The images showcase the flow of the city’s growth, as it developed from narrow streets with horses and buggies into the downtown skyline and urban footprint that we know today.  Most importantly, visitors can see the people who inhabited the city, as captured by photographers hired by families, businesses and newspapers in San Antonio.  Photographs on display primarily come from the San Antonio Light Collection, the San Antonio Express-News Collection, the Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, and the General Photograph Collection.  Among some of the most popular images in these collections there are many newly digitized photos that provide fresher perspectives of everyday life in the city.

Adjacent to this noteworthy exhibit at the ITC is space with sample images from the online exhibit created by UTSA Special Collections in celebration of the Tricentennial: “La Puerta: A Photographic Journey of San Antonio.”  Visitors can interact with a special touch screen kiosk to browse images selected from 12 themes (and you can view it online anytime!).

Watching the crowds of attendees walk through the exhibit at the opening reception I was heartened to see how many people were talking to each other, as they looked at images that reminded them of some part of their past or even informed them of previous iterations of places they see every day.  People took their own pictures of the prints and captions to share with their friends and whipped out their smart phones to find out more about the people and places mentioned in the captions (and more than one of us chuckled as we were reminded of the fashions and marketing hype of decades past).  During the opening speeches in the dome the crowd was treated to projections of photos from both exhibits as speakers talked about the City’s history, the significance of its 300th year, and invited the audience to imagine what the next decades will bring to San Antonio’s ever-evolving landscapes and people.

Both exhibits run through March 31, 2019 at the Institute of Texan Cultures.  Photos in the exhibit can also be found online in the UTSA Libraries Digital Collections.

Below are a handful of images from the exhibit’s opening (you can see a few more on our Instagram):

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A Month in Special Collections: July

August 6, 2018
  • Please click below image to enlarge and access links


Room Air Conditioners for the Suburban Family

July 20, 2018

In 1952 the Friedrich Company, on East Commerce Street, began manufacturing room air conditioning units.  By the 1960s, prices for room units, sometimes called window units, had dipped low enough for most middle income people to afford.  It was during this time that the Friedrich Company hired the Zintgraff Photography Studio to take photographs of their various units for newspaper advertisements.

An ad in the San Antonio Light on Sunday, February 16, 1964, features an idealized suburban family enjoying their individual pursuits in comfort beneath a room air conditioner.  The text reads:  “All activities will be centered in your home when you own a new 1964 Friedrich room air conditioner.”  Zintgraff produced several series of images between 1963 and 1965 showing various staged scenes in homes reminiscent of those seen on television sit-coms at that time, such as “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” and “Leave it to Beaver.”   The studio used models to give an idyllic presentation of family life made possible by the cool comforts of air conditioning.  Families could enjoy entertaining friends indoors rather than on the front porch or in the yard.  And they could sleep comfortably in their bedrooms rather than on a sleeping porch.

These are a few of the images from our Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection (MS 355)

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