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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 (http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/) 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.

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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.

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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:

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San Antonio River in King William neighborhood, 1968

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Kalteyer House, 425 King William St., 1968

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Olmos Dam construction progress, 1926.

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Olmos Dam construction progress, 1927

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

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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.

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