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San Anto Zine Fest and Alumni Tour

October 23, 2017

On October 7th Special Collections participated in the first–ever San Anto Zine Fest. We showed off examples of zines, poetry chapbooks, and underground publications from our collections. We also made our own mini-zines to hand out, and made sure to purchase even more zines to add to our growing collection. We were honored and excited to participate! Check out the San Anto Zine Fest Facebook page, Tumblr, Twitter, or Instagram to see more from the event.

Katie Rojas and Amy Rushing tabling at San Anto Zine Fest. Image credit: Donna Guerra

Additionally, this past Thursday UTSA Special Collections held a private tour and pop-up exhibition of select items from our collections. The tour was a silent auction item at the UTSA Alumi Gala, and the winner of the auction had the option of selecting a theme for the exhibit. The selected theme was “Latinos in San Antonio.” UTSA Special Collections has a rich array of resources to choose from on this topic, and the exhibit featured items from collections such as the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Mexican American Democrats of Texas, the Jacinto Quirarte papers, the Francisco Chapa family papers, and the Bárbara Renaud González papers.

Southwest Voter Registration Education Project materials on display for the Alumni Tour

Mexican American Democrats of Texas materials on display for the Alumni Tour

Having done several pop-up exhibits and other outreach events similar to these, I must confess that a lot of work goes in to curating these exhibits. Looking through long collection inventories and rifling through box after box to find just the right items to display and share is a time consuming process. We know it’s important to put thought and care into the items we select, even if the exhibit is only for one day or night.

Ballet Folklorico de San Antonio materials (left) and Rosita Fernandez collection materials (right) on display at the Alumni Tour

Sharing these resources with others, whether at a private tour or a large community event, highlights some of the Core Values of Archivists that give purpose to our professional work, such as access to and use of resources, advocacy for archives, preserving history and memory, service to others, and fulfillment of social responsibility. Ultimately, all the effort is well worth it when the materials are finally on display and people are interacting and engaged. Seeing people’s faces light up when they make meaningful connections to the collection material is a great reward that helps us remember why we love what we do!

LGBTQ History Month-Preserving Queer History Through T-shirts

October 16, 2017

T-shirts as historical objects? When it comes to LGBTQ tees-yes! A recent donation of lesbian and feminist t-shirts by Lucy E. Duncan and Jill Zimmerman tells the story of queer activism and feminism Fistacross several decades. T-shirts depicting woman power, Ladie’s Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society, and Women’s March on Austin recall the early days of feminism as women shaped new identities, shed the yoke of patriarchy, and came together in spaces they called their own.

The central space for feminists in San Antonio, as in other cities across the U.S., was the women’s bookstore. Las Mujeres, located near downtown San Antonio, served as the nexus for the city’s women’s collective. Duncan and Zimmerman were founding members of Las Mujeres and put in many hours voluntarily staffing the store.

If the purpose of the Second Wave was to empower women through knowledge, feminist bookstore were key sites in that process.

Diane Spain in Constructing Feminism: Women’s Spaces and Women’s Rights in the American City


In addition to their contributions to Las Mujeres, Duncan and Zimmerman belonged to the WomanSpace Collective. The collective published a community newsletter also called WomanSpace which provided an open forum for the women’s community to exchange ideas, tackle issues, and communicate topics of interest. WomanSpace was the longest continuously published women’s community newsletter in San Antonio running from 1986 to 2007.




Duncan and Zimmerman were involved in organizations that fought for women’s and gay rights. As professional librarians, they were members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Round Table of the Texas Library  Association and the American Library Association. They attended the Texas Lesbian Conference annually and participated in the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation in 1993. At these events, they made sure to purchase t-shirts and other memorabilia-a way to mark the important moments in their personal and community histories.



Statement t-shirts critiqued the assault on women’s reproductive rights, and identified cats as a lesbian’s best friend, celebrated Pride in San Antonio. The Lucy E. Duncan and Jill Zimmerman Lesbian and Feminist T-Shirt Collection can be viewed at Wearing Gay History. The collection is housed at UTSA’s main campus and can be accessed by submitting a visit request form

Gelatin Dry-Plate Glass negatives in the San Antonio Light Photograph Collection

October 6, 2017

Shortly after purchasing the San Antonio Light in 1924, Hearst newspapers hired Jack Specht to be their first full-time staff photographer for the daily paper. Specht used a Graflex camera with 4×5 inch glass negatives to capture the image. The negatives were ordered from photographic supply companies. Since the camera was bulky and the glass negatives somewhat expensive, Specht often took only one photograph to accompany most news stories. Specht and the other staff photographers processed approximately 23,500 glass plates before switching to film negatives in 1936. The Hearst Corporation donated the glass negatives to our collection in 1979.

Specht established a routine that was followed by subsequent photographers. The photographer returned from the assignment and immediately developed and fixed the glass plate in chemical solutions. Once the plate was dry, he wrote the names of the subjects in graphite in the margins on the emulsion side—a procedure that often confuses viewers because the inscriptions appear in reverse.  After the negative was printed, it was given to the San Antonio Light librarian to be stored for possible use at a later time.


Gelatin dry-plate glass negative showing boy scouts posing outside their headquarters at 2519 Broadway. Photograph by Jack Specht, February 1930. (MS 359: L-0073-C)


Emulsion side of a glass negative, inscribed with subject’s name and file box number.


Jack Specht uses his Graflex camera, with glass-plate holder, to photograph a rattlesnake, ca. 1928. (MS 359: L-0072-H)


Boxes for glass negatives manufactured by Gevaert Photo-Producten, Mortsel, Belgium.


Box for glass negatives by Thomas Illingworth & Co. Ltd., photographic materials manufacturers, London, U.K.


Box for glass negatives by Wellington & Ward Ltd., photographic materials manufacturers, Elstree, Hertfordshire, U.K. and purchased from Medo Photo Supply Corp., New York.


Empty boxes that were numbered and used as permanent storage boxes for the negatives.  With them are the index cards used to access the images in the library at the San Antonio Light.


Scan of a glass negative of the excavation of the San Antonio River cutoff channel, circa 1929 (MS 359: L-0562-D). This important negative was stained due to the emulsion-side being stored long-term in direct contact with the lid of the acidic cardboard box. While most of the negatives remained in good condition, some were permanently damaged before rehousing in individual archival sleeves.

A Month in Special Collections: September

October 2, 2017
  • Please click image to enlarge and access links.


National Voter Registration Day 2017

September 29, 2017

In honor of the work of Willie Velasquez and The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), UTSA Library Special Collections set up a display and registered students and staff on Nation Voter Registration Day. Over the last year and a half, we’ve had a chance to show parts of the collection at events, but registering students ourselves has brought our work full circle.

Photo courtesy of MOVE San Antonio.

National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) is a yearly national holiday that began in 2012. Since then UTSA student organizations and the UTSA Engaged program have participated by setting up tables, talking to students in classrooms and actively registering voters. With a collection as critical to voter registration efforts as SVREP, Leah and I both thought it would be an honor to continue their work in observance of NVRD. This is what we learned.

  1. Voter registration is a hands on event. In the 1980’s SVREP volunteers went door to door asking residents to register to vote. They methodically plotted neighborhoods and kept hand written records of neighborhoods they had visited. For our event, we set up a table in the lobby of JPL to reach as many students as possible in a short amount of time. While you may have seen a table set up with clip boards and pens, asking busy students to stop for a few minutes to register meant getting out from behind the table and starting conversations with strangers…. many, many, strangers (see #2).
  2. Voter Registration is a numbers game. For every 10 people you ask, “Can I get you registered to vote,” ONE may stop to actually think about the question… (Am I registered to vote? Have I moved? Where is my voter registration card?) and then get registered. SVREP volunteers had voter registration drives in communities all over the Southwest, some were more successful than others. What that meant for Leah and I was repeatedly making eye contact, smiling and starting conversations with students rushing in and out of the library. The trick to high traffic voter registration is understanding that the more people you talk to the more you will get registered.

In the two hours that we were set up, we registered over 40 students, but because we had coordinated with students organizations like the Student Government Association, Texas Freedom Network, and MOVE SA, our numbers were included in a campus wide total of 591 new voters registered on National Voter Registration Day this year. That is a great number and took the hard work of so many student volunteers, but with a campus population of almost 30,000, we’ve got some work ahead of us.

In my year and a half of sorting through SVREP documents, one thing has been made clear, without automatic or an online voter registration system, getting every citizen registered and prepared to vote is long term work. Luckily, because of the work SVREP already accomplished, we know if can be done.


If you are a student or staff member that would like to get involved with voter registration on campus contact the UTSA Engaged Office @ 210-458-2660.

***This project is generously funded by the NHPRC**


#WeAreSpecialCollections: Volunteer Edition

September 18, 2017

Every so often we like to pull back the curtain and give readers a behind-the-scenes look at the work that we do here in Special Collections. A few months ago we posted Part I of this series about our Main Campus students.  In Part II, we’re spotlighting some of the hidden but invaluable labor that our volunteers contribute at our HemisFair Park/ITC location.

Part II: ITC Photographs Volunteers Spotlight

We’ve all heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words;” but an undescribed, unfindable picture is essentially worthless until someone dedicates time to giving it (at least a few) words of description, then makes the image and the description findable to people who might be looking for it.  And then, one must dedicate time and resources to preserving it so it will last long into the future…  It’s a big task, but we have a key resource to help us—our valiant photograph volunteers!

At UTSA’s HemisFair Park campus, on the third floor of the ITC building, there’s a workroom just behind the reading room that is often abuzz with activity.  In this space, under the direction of our Photographs Curator, dozens of volunteers contribute their time every week to a seemingly Herculean task—cataloging, describing, preserving, digitizing, and uploading scans of the 3 million+ images that make up our historical photograph collections.  These images, which span 6 major collections, are an invaluable resource for visualizing San Antonio’s history through the lenses of prominent commercial photographers, as well as from the private collections of Texas communities and families who generously chose to donate to the Institute of Texan Cultures’ photograph collection.  These images are frequently consulted, from research here at UTSA to international researchers who contact us with requests or people who view the digitized portions of our collections online from several different countries.  Below is an overview of the kinds of things our volunteers do that helps with our mission to make these photograph collections more accessible.


Volunteers Jane Whitaker (left) and Shirley Bass (right) re-sleeving negatives from the original acidic photographer assignment sheets and precisely transcribing descriptive information.

It all begins with description, and this is where our volunteers really shine.  Some of them have been working with the photograph collections for almost 40 years, and the current crew averages about 15 years of service per person.  Many of them have lived here in San Antonio or neighboring communities for decades, if not their lifetime.  They are experts at identifying street scenes, events, places and notable people who are found in the collections.  They also painstakingly transcribe any available information images may have, such as notes from photographers on old assignment sheets, carefully writing this down as negatives, slides and prints are transferred to new preservation sleeves.  The volunteers also note the image’s call number (a unique identifier we assign) and file and store the originals in preservation storage environments.


Volunteers Peggy (left) and Bill Jameson (right) sorting negatives and prints from two collections.  Peggy Jameson holds the current record for length-of-service at 39 years!

In addition to physically handling original images, our volunteers also help us add descriptive information into our photographs database so that these can be more easily searched for reference requests.  They enter new information, but also tirelessly work to edit the typos and inconsistencies that are an impediment to searching (and are always found in databases that have been migrated multiple times!).


Volunteer Tillie Cortez types descriptive information into the Express-News collection names database for easier searching.

Another major task our volunteers contribute to is the digitization of selected images, both for patron requests and for adding to our digital library.  When images have been selected for digitization, they handle the necessary sub-tasks for us with amazing speed and accuracy.  They retrieve the images from cold storage, digitize the negatives or prints according to our detailed technical guidelines, and add in both administrative and descriptive information about each image to the photographs database.  During the 2016 calendar year alone, a group of 5 volunteers digitized 4,133 images, helping us grow our digitized holdings substantially.  Hundreds of patrons who requested images not yet scanned were able to quickly get their requests fulfilled because of this hard work.


Volunteers Phil Holts (left) and Jeanie Kwan (right) at scanning stations, where they digitize originals, update information in the photographs database, and repeat…thousands of times a year!

Post-scanning, a volunteer (Judy Sauter, called out here for her remarkable 1-person work!) does an initial quality control review of the scans, then prepares archival packaging for fragile negatives in need of freezer storage.  Digitized images are again prioritized for upload to our digital collections library.  These represent just a sliver of our photographs holdings, but the additional descriptive detail meticulously applied to these images means that these photos are findable by anyone using major search engines.  In just the past year, online views from these photograph collections surpassed 70,000 views.


Volunteer Peggy Durack meticulously enters additional descriptive information to images prioritized for upload to our digital library.

The photograph volunteers also contribute in many other ways, from helping us keep the reading room photograph catalog orderly, to even washing the cotton gloves used to handle prints and negatives.  The quality of their work is undeniably high, and we’re in awe of the dedication and enthusiasm that they have while completing tasks that aren’t exactly glamorous or easy.  The photograph volunteers have been working in this space with these collections since 1976, with nearly 100 different people generously giving their time through the years.  We owe an immense debt of gratitude to those who have enabled us to process these images faster, allowing us to connect more and more people with photographs that will help them envision our region’s rich history.

With additional thanks to our reading room supervisor Carlos Cortez for taking photos of our less camera-shy volunteers.


Go Roadrunners!

September 11, 2017

Ticket stub, December 11, 1981.

I don’t play favorites with the collections under my care in the University Archives, but if I did, the publications from UTSA’s Center for Archaeological Research (CAR) would be a strong contender. This collection includes more than 500 reports from archaeological projects, mostly in South Texas, that offer an intriguing perspective on the history of our region. Further, I’m not the first archivist to observe that archaeology and archives can be thought of as cousin disciplines, since both involve carefully cataloging and analyzing evidence from past activities, and both highly value context in understanding historic materials.

With this in mind, I was delighted when the University Archives received a load of boxes from Thomas Hester, the first director of CAR back in the early 1970s. These boxes, which now comprise the Thomas R. Hester Papers (UA 99.0030), span the years 1973-1999 and include manuscript drafts, correspondence, committee files, grant files, lectures, conference files, and other materials related to Hester’s career as an archaeologist and a professor of anthropology. The bulk of the materials date from 1973-1987, and document Hester’s role in creating UTSA’s cultural resource management program at CAR. The archive also includes information about his research, which focuses on lithics in the American Southwest and the Mayan zone in Belize.

The student assistant who processed the collection, Christina Frasier (an anthropology PhD candidate herself), uncovered a stash of sports memorabilia from the early 1980s. Tucked among the folders of syllabi, reports, and correspondence, these materials offer a broader picture of what life was like here at UTSA in its first decades.

Men's Basketball Program, December 11, 1981.

The UTSA Basketball teams played their inaugural season in 1981-1982. I get the feeling that many faculty and staff were avid fans, because this is not the first time I’ve found athletics items in a collection. In Dr. Hester’s case, he kept several ticket stubs and a few programs, including one from December 1981 when UTSA played Sul Ross in the Convocation Center. It’s always entertaining to see how haircuts, uniforms, and mascots have evolved over time.

Men's Basketball Schedule, 1986-1987.

Dr. Hester also included a typed copy of the 1986-87 Men’s Basketball Schedule. I find this item particularly fascinating since he meticulously recorded the score from each game and updated the team’s win-loss record as the season progressed. This fits with my impression of an archaeologist’s temperament, methodically gathering data about a situation.

Basketball fans, 1982

Basketball fans, 1982. UTSA Office of University Communications Photographs, UA 16.01.01.

There’s a picture in our photo archives showing fans in the crowd at a basketball game holding “Go Road Runners” signs. We’ve used the photo in slide shows and promotional materials to demonstrate how school spirit has a long history at UTSA. I was delighted to see an actual one of these posters, and to discover that there was a team roster on the back.

Go Road Runners! poster (front)Go Road Runners! poster (back) showing basketball roster.

Finally, Dr. Hester gave us a round UTSA patch and an orange felt pennant. The shape of the patch calls attention to the connected curves of UTSA’s original logo, while the felt pennant has a hole on one end, which I imagine was the result of pinning the pennant to a bulletin board.

Round UTSA patch.Felt UTSA pennant.

The research value of this collection is concentrated in the academic and administrative materials, but this memorabilia offers us a view of the non-academic side of campus life at UTSA, which is also important. These items add color—both literally and figuratively—to our picture of the first decades of the university’s existence.

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