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SVREP Update: Promoting the Collection

November 28, 2016

As our team continues to process the SVREP collection, next year our focus will be geared towards completing the finding aid and promoting the collection. Luckily, we have had a head start by working with the communications team here at UTSA to be featured in a video segment that highlights the SVREP Collection. This video will be featured on the USTA website sometime in the near future in order for students, faculty and the community to have an inside look into our process for archiving the collection, and why SVREP and the work of Willie Velasquez are worth preserving.

Working exclusively with UTSA’s Sombrilla Magazine under the direction of Michelle Mondo, senior editor and Vanessa Davila, associate editor and videographer, we collaborated for over 3 months to obtain the necessary footage. Michelle and Vanessa shadowed and interviewed Jennifer, Karina, and myself processing material, completing daily tasks, and documenting our map flattening process. They were also able to conduct interviews with many important individuals that have been involved or featured in the collection including Amy Rushing, Dean Hendrix, and Lydia Camarillo.

I found the entire process of documenting our method both interesting and challenging. I wanted to ensure that the viewer was able to understand the purpose of an archive, but also why the collection was significant. I found it challenging during my interviews to articulate my thoughts without sounding or appearing nervous, or starring into the camera. I discovered that I preferred a “working interview” in which the camera documented our team completing tasks while we simultaneously answered questions. By the end, I did feel more comfortable in front of the camera, and I was able to gain a valuable insight into the amount of hard work that goes into creating such a video.

When the collection is complete, we hope that students, researchers, and the community will be able to access the SVREP collection to their full ability. This includes creating publications from original research, contributing to relevant exhibitions, and attracting additional activism collections to be housed at UTSA Special Collections. We also plan to host activities within the community and participate in conference presentations in order to further promote the collection when it becomes available to the public.

We are excited to unveil the finished product so please look back for updates both on our blog and on the UTSA website. A special thanks to Michelle Mondo and Vanessa Davila for their amazing hard work!

Check out this preview of a full-length feature on Special Collections’ activism archives.

**UPDATE** The full length video was recently posted and can be viewed below on both links:

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



UTSA’s Stonehenge

November 21, 2016

This month we continue “Names and Places of UTSA,” a blog series on university history, with a post co-written by archives student assistant, Kira Sandoval.


UTSA Stonehenge with a 5’5″ Kira for scale. Photo by Kristin Law.


Have you ever wondered what that thing is? That large concrete mass that sits on the east side of main campus, in the undeveloped acres just west of Bauerle Road? It is a strange composite of rectangular segments displaying a mixture of textures, ridges, nooks and crannies, with a large negative space that allows the Texas sky to be seen in between panels of beige concrete. Is it an abstract sculpture, or some kind of fragment of a wall?

There is no name, no plaque, no identifying information attached to it, making this concrete mass an enigma on campus. Here in the University Archives, we have received numerous inquiries, which piqued our curiosity and jump-started our research. During our investigation, we nicknamed the unnamed structure UTSA Stonehenge.

Detail view of UTSA Stonehenge.

Detail view of UTSA Stonehenge. Photo by Kristin Law.

As we dug in, we looked in the usual places. We searched thorough university publications from the last 40+ years, and checked through records from the UTSA Art Collection. We contacted a recently retired professor from the Art History department who had been here since the 1970s. But even she had little information to contribute. We kept hitting roadblocks.

One afternoon, after some tenacious Google image searching, we finally got the slightest lead in the form of a small feature in the Summer 2015 Sombrilla. The article suggested that UTSA Stonehenge was a remnant from the initial phase of campus construction in the 1970s. With this lead, we were able to find evidence of Stonehenge’s origins in the archives.

The core of the UTSA campus was designed by Ford, Powell & Carson in collaboration with Bartlett Cocke & Associates, with the legendary architect O’Neil Ford taking the lead. The designers chose light beige concrete made from local materials in order to complement the surrounding Texas landscape.

In order to ensure that the completed buildings would live up to their artistic vision, the architects produced exhaustively detailed guidelines for the contractors. In the Office of Facilities Records (UA 04.02.02), we located copies of these specifications, which date from 1972 and span three volumes. In Building Construction: Volume I, page 3D-2 in the Arch[itectural] Cast-In-Place Conc[rete] section, we found these Pre-Construction Requirements:

Excerpt from Building Construction: Volume I.

Excerpt from Building Construction: Volume I, 1972, UA 04.02.02, UTSA: Office of Facilities Records.

These are instructions for creating a “full-scale mock-up” the size of a typical exterior portion of a building (30 feet):

“5.4 Contractor shall construct a full-scale mock-up, using materials, forming system, reinforcing, and construction methods proposed for use in the project. Mock-up shop drawings shall be completed prior to first construction conference. Size of mock-up shall be at least equal to a typical exterior portion 30’ long of HUMANITIES/BUSINESS BLDG., south elevation, at Level 4. It shall include spandrel beams at Levels 3 & 4 and precast tee support beam at level 4 as well as one complete column and roof coping. One of the half openings so framed shall be left open as though for glass. The other opening shall be filled with one half of a typical precast wall panel as detailed. Approved mock-up shall be the guide as to quality, acceptability of permanent Architectural concrete work.”

Among the requirements for the mock-up is the specification of a half opening to be left where a window would exist. The other half of the opening was to be filled with a pre-cast wall panel detail. The gap on the right side of the sculpture and the ridged panel to its left, similar to concrete panels on the McKinney Humanities building, align closely with this description. Further, the large size of UTSA Stonehenge certainly meets the specifications required of the mock-up.

So that’s what Stonehenge is, right? A full-scale construction model made to test the color and quality of the concrete? Case closed, mystery solved.

Not quite. Later, while looking at early aerial photos of campus, we noticed that Stonehenge wasn’t where it should be. Actually, it was on the opposite side of campus, southwest of the Convocation Center. Had it moved? Or were there two? As it would not make sense to move a concrete structure across campus simply for artistic display, we believe that UTSA actually had two Stonehenges.

Aerial photograph of UTSA's campus, as viewed from the west, 1976

Aerial photograph of UTSA’s campus, as viewed from the west, 1976. UA 16.01.01, UTSA: Office of University Communications Photographs.

Our theory is that Stonehenge One was built during the first phase of construction (1972-1976), which included the Library, Convocation Center, and Science, Humanities, and Arts buildings. On the west side of campus, Stonehenge One was located on what had been colloquially dubbed Rattlesnake Hill, named for the number of rattlesnakes encountered during construction. As originally intended, Stonehenge One was demolished after it served its purpose as a materials test.

We believe that Stonehenge Two is from a later phase of construction, perhaps when the Multidisciplinary Studies building was built or the Arts building was expanded (1978-1982). Stonehenge Two was necessary to ensure that the color and quality of the concrete would match the earlier buildings. For whatever reason, it has remained decades after it was needed.

We view this to be a plausible explanation of the origin and purpose of UTSA Stonehenge, and we were glad to find concrete evidence to support the stories we’d heard. We hope that in the future, the university will install an explanatory plaque for this unique and aesthetically interesting piece of UTSA’s history.

Special Collections Student Clerks – Three Positions Available for Spring 2017

November 13, 2016

UTSA Libraries Special Collections is seeking 3 student clerks for the spring

UTSA Main Campus Library 11-25-15

semester. Positions are located at both UTSA’s main campus and the HemisFair Park/Institute of Texan Cultures Campus downtown.

Interested students may apply by submitting a resume and cover letter indicating which position(s) they wish to be considered for to



Job Title: Southwest Voter Registration Education Project Student Clerk (Reporting to Project Archivist)

Location: Main Campus; ITC occasionally

Start Date: January 2017

Student employees must be enrolled on a half-time or greater basis during the current or next scheduled semester.

Job Description: With training from the Project Archivist the student will carry out tasks relating to the processing, digitization, and paper conservation of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project Records. Activities include uploading digitized audio and video to digital collections portal; editing and creating descriptions for audio and video; assisting with map flattening; and other duties as determined. Student may work on other collections if needed.

Qualifications: Graduate student preferred. May consider undergraduates with demonstrated relevant library or museum experience. Strong attention to detail and willingness to perform repetitive tasks. Ability to work under minimal supervision. Willingness and ability to work in conditions with occasional exposure to dust and mold. Familiarity with Microsoft Excel, scanners and image editing software a plus. Spanish language literacy preferred.

Work Schedule: Flexible during office hours, Monday-Friday.

Hours per Week: 15

Wage: $10/hr.

How to Apply: Submit resume and cover letter or any questions regarding the position to Special Collections at


Job Title: Student Clerk (Reporting to Digital Archivist)

Location: Main Campus, GSR building Library Annex

Start Date: January 2017

Student employees must be enrolled on a half-time or greater basis during the current or next scheduled semester.

Job Description:  With training from the Digital Archivist the student will carry out tasks relating to preservation and access of digital archival materials. Activities may include editing and creating descriptive and/or technical metadata; uploading digital objects to our online access system; creating inventories of digital collections; managing project documentation; copying content from computer media using our digital media ingest workstation; and other duties as determined.  Occasional duties may involve basic processing of paper collections under co-supervision of the Manuscripts Archivist. This position will also be involved in creating descriptive information for our San Antonio Light Photographs Collection.

Qualifications: Strong attention to detail and willingness to perform repetitive tasks, especially with data entry, in a computer environment. Willingness and ability to work in conditions with occasional exposure to dust and mold. Demonstrated ability to work under minimal supervision. Experience with Microsoft Excel, other spreadsheet management programs or data entry systems preferred.

Work Schedule: Flexible during office hours, Monday-Friday.

Hours per Week: 10-15

Wage: $10/hr.

How to Apply: Submit resume and cover letter or any questions regarding the position to Special Collections at


Job Title: Student Clerk (reporting to Manuscripts Archivist)

Locations: 1) Main Campus, GSR building Library Annex and

2) Hemisfair Campus/ITC (downtown San Antonio)

Start Date:  January 2017

Student employees must be enrolled on a half-time or greater basis during the semester of employment.

Duties and Responsibilities: With training from the Manuscripts Archivist, carry out basic tasks in the Special Collections department. Activities may include re-housing and creating inventories of collections, photocopying and scanning, creating and entering metadata for digital collections, assisting with exhibit preparations, and other duties as determined.

Qualifications: Graduate student preferred. May consider undergraduates with demonstrated relevant experience. Strong attention to detail and willingness to perform repetitive tasks. Ability to work under minimal supervision. Some lifting of boxes required. Willingness and ability to work in conditions with occasional exposure to dust and mold. Familiarity with scanners, image editing software, and Microsoft Excel a plus. Ability to handwrite neatly is required.

Work will primarily be performed at Main Campus, but availability to work occasional hours at Hemisfair Campus/ITC (801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd.) in downtown San Antonio is desirable.

Work Schedule: Flexible during office hours, Monday-Friday

Hours per Week: 15

Wage: $10/hr

How to Apply: Submit resume and cover letter or any questions regarding the position to Special Collections at

A Month in Special Collections: October

November 7, 2016
  • Please click on image to enlarge and access links.


SVREP Collection: Student Clerk Experience

October 31, 2016

This post was written by Karina Franco, our student clerk for the SVREP Collection. 

While Jenn and Leah have updated on our progress for Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, I would like to share my experience as the student clerk working on this amazing collection. I am a senior at UTSA set to graduate with a BA in History this fall semester. I know I love history but I was not sure where I would go with it as a profession until I found out about archives through my professor John Reynolds when he took us on a trip to Special Collections. Melissa Gohlke spoke to our class as to what they do and the rare books and historical documents they have in their possession. I thought to myself, “Wow you can organize history that is so cool! I want to be that person!” Once I heard through a professor there were student positions available I jumped at the chance to apply for it. I received an email from Kristin Law requesting an interview and I was so excited! Three student clerk positions were open so for my interview I would meet with Kristin, Jenn, Julianna Barrera-Gomez and Katie Rojas. It was intimidating walking into that room with such impressionable women but once I sat down and conversed with them it was not as daunting as I thought because they were so warm and receptive to me.

A few weeks after my interview the email arrived and it was from Jenn notifying me that they would like to move forward with my application and instructed me on the hiring process. During my interview I was so caught up with excitement that I did not grasp what collection she was working on until I arrived for my first day at work. She showed me around the facility, my desk, and the area where the collection is stored, which were two large rows of boxes full of office documents and folders. As she began to open one of the boxes she started talking about Southwest Voter Education and Willie. As much as I was trying to keep composure by simply nodding and smiling while she was talking to me, on the inside I was going nuts in the realization that I got chosen to work on Willie Velasquez’s papers! He is a man whom I have always admired and interested to study when I would be reading about the Chicano movement, and now I get to personally work on his documents; that is truly remarkable. I have been fortunate to work with such a great team. Jenn is an awesome boss who has been so thoughtful towards me and knowledgeable about Willie and how his organization worked. Leah arrived as our project archivist a few weeks after I began there and she has been just as incredible to work with. She has given us greater sense and insight as to how to properly sort and analyze documents. Both have become mentors for me and I feel lucky to be part of such an amazing team.

We have been working diligently on the collection. First it was the inventory process, followed by flattening maps and separating the documents to their proper categories, and now we are in the foldering process. We also had the pleasure of the UTSA Magazine “Sombrilla” follow us around with their cameras throughout this time. They are doing a video piece highlighting what an archivist’s role entails featuring our collection. It is set to premiere in November. In addition, as Jenn mentioned in our last update, PBS recently premiered a documentary called Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz and we had the distinct honor to attend a screening at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. Since then we have participated in a pair of screenings where we exhibited material from the collection. One was at St. Mary’s University, Willie’s Alma mater, and UTSA as well, which was my personal favorite. It gave me the chance to proudly demonstrate what I do to my fellow classmates.

I tell everyone how blessed I am to be a part of this experience. A kid like me rarely gets an opportunity like this one. As a first generation college student who comes from a working class family, we tend to do what is needed in order to simply put food on the table. We seldom get the chance to be employed in whatever we are passionate about, yet UTSA and Special Collections have given me the great chance to experience first-hand what it will be like to be an archivist, and for that I will always be grateful. Now I have realized this is my path. To my fellow classmates, I advise you to take full use of the resources we have available at our school, such as the work-study positions and programs offered to us. Also, pay a visit to our Library including Special Collections for your research needs. The librarians and archivists are your greatest allies!


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

Newly Discovered Pamphlets Feature Heroic Historical Figures from Mexico

October 24, 2016

This post was written by Alyssa Franklin, our student employee who is responsible for digitization of this collection.

A pair of intriguing pamphlets are hidden within the depths of the Kathryn Stoner O’Conner Sons of the Republic of Texas Mexican Manuscript Collection. They were created by the same author/illustrator in summer of 1948, and each features a heroic historical figure from nineteenth-century Mexico. These documents have been meticulously assembled with great care and attention to detail. Each includes an endearing hand drawn illustration as its frontispiece. Interestingly, these illustrations seem to be based off of well-circulated source images. The artist was drawing from popular images of famous historical figures, and placed them as cover vignettes for his documents.


Historical photograph and corresponding illustration by Rafael Garcés Velásquez of Juan Antonio de la Fuente


Engraving and corresponding illustration of Ingacio López Rayón

The subjects of these two works are general Ignacio López Rayón and lawyer Juan Antonio de la Fuente. Interestingly the pamphlets emphasize the state where each of these figures are from: López Rayón hails from the state of Michoacán, and de la Fuente from Coahuila. The opening passage of both documents gives an overview of the states themselves: including major metropolises, demographics, principal crops, and economic activity. These documents appear to be part of a larger series. Perhaps they once belonged to a series in which with a hero from Mexican history, from each individual state, was featured.

After the geographic overview, each document features a detailed biography of its subject. López Rayón was a general who was instrumental in Mexico’s fight for independence from Spain between 1810 and 1828. De la Fuente was a lawyer turned politician, who fought for the creation of laws improving the lives of everyday Mexicans. Both figures are treated in a reverent manner by the author, Rafael Garcés Velásquez.

Although only two of these fascinating documents have been found in the SRT collection thus far, they offer an intimate glimpse into mid-20th century life and concerns in Mexico City. It appears their creator made these as his profession, as prices and days spent laboring are clearly laid out in both pamphlets. Perhaps Rafael Garcés Velásquez was a specialist in creating informative booklets on historical figures and events, who took commissions based on various clients’ requests.

Rafael Garcés Velásquez credits Don Salvador Cordero as the source of his information in this pamphlet. He also states that he created this document from Monday, the 21st to Wednesday the 23rd of June, 1948 in three days. The author charged $3.75 for the pamphlet.

Rafael Garcés Velásquez credits Don Salvador Cordero as the source of his information in this pamphlet. He also states that he created this document from Monday, the 21st to Wednesday the 23rd of June, 1948 in three days. The author charged $3.75 for the pamphlet.

The presence of these two documents with the SRT collection raises more questions than it answers. They are catalogued under the birth and death dates of their subjects, López Rayón and de la Fuente, and not under the year in which they were actually produced, 1948. Although it does not appear that any other pieces by this creator are present in the collection, the formulaic nature of the two examples discussed here leads to the assumption that they were part of a larger series. The dates of production, price charged, and location of their delivery are all meticulously recorded on their closing pages.

Whoever the creator of these documents, Rafael Garcés Velásquez, was- he clearly had a vested personal interest Mexico’s nineteenth-century past. These handmade creations offer glimpses at the industry surrounding a proliferation of history; they exhibit veneration for a century gone by.

Both booklets have been digitized and can be viewed in their entirety in our online digital collections.

For a complete collection inventory, please see the finding aid.

On Otomí Magic and Paper Making

October 17, 2016

This post was written by our rare books cataloger, Stephen Dingler.

On Otomí Magic and Paper Making

by Stephen Dingler

Making paper from fibers of the inner bark of certain trees is a craft that has been practiced by Otomí Indians of Mexico since pre-Hispanic times.  Called āmatl in the Nahuatl language, today it is known by its Hispanicized form as amate paper.  Curanderos (healers) and brujos (witches or sorcerers) used the paper to make cutout “magic” figures of benevolent and malevolent spirits and deities for use in rituals such as rain-making, agricultural fertility rites, and for chasing away evil spirits.  Before cutting, the paper was folded so that when unfolded after a cutout figure was made, both sides were symmetrical.

In more recent times this traditional paper handicraft was adapted for commercial use, centered in the Otomí village of San Pablito in the Sierra Norte de Puebla, Mexico.  It is the only remaining major center of indigenous paper making in Mexico.  Small handmade books using amate paper began to appear in tourist markets in the 1970s.  Light colored amate paper was used as the background surface on which were glued the spirit cutouts made from dark brown amate paper.  The cutout figures were accompanied by manuscript text in Spanish, written with felt-tipped or ink pens.  Three Otomí from San Pablito are known to have produced amate manuscripts for the commercial market.  A copy of one of these, by Antonio López M., has recently been added to the UTSA Libraries’ Special Collections rare book holdings.

Antonio López M. produced what are referred to as “The López Manuscripts” which were amate manuscript books for the tourist market imitating those first created by another San Pablito Otomí, Alfonso García Tellez, whose Tratamiento de una ofrenda para pedir la lluvia : San Pablito Pahuatlan puebla is also also part of UTSA Special Collections.

Our Special Collections amate manuscript, Gran Libro de los Cantos Otomies de la sierra de Puebla de San Pablito Pahuatlán Pue., describes songs used in Otomí rituals, such as a ritual for getting rid of sickness by sprinkling the blood of a chicken over paper cutouts, as well as rituals associated with the earth and water.  The book consists of 17 numbered leaves of light amate paper.  Fifteen cutouts of dark brown amate paper, some of which are for named spirits, are glued on six of the pages.  Three additional cutouts are glued onto the cover.  The book also includes some cutouts made using plastic-coated glossy colored commercial paper.  The front and back endpapers are dark brown amate.  Although not dated, it was probably produced in the late 1970s or early 1980s, since Alfonso García Tellez’s amate manuscripts and later Antonio López M. imitations are believed to have been produced in that time period.

Pages from Gran libro de los cantos Otomies de la sierra de Puebla de San Pablito Pahuatlán Pue by Sr. Antonio Lopez M :

Pages from Tratamiento de una ofrenda para pedir la lluvia : San Pablito Pahuatlan puebla by Alfonso Garcia Tellez, the original creator of the amate manuscript books:

Our López M. amate manuscript book is part of a recent donation to the UTSA Libraries’ Special Collections of about 200 books and serials from the collection of Dr. Mauricio Charpenel.  Dr. Charpenel was affiliated with UTSA’s Div. of Bicultural Bilingual Studies in the 1970s.  He was the author of several children’s books and books about Mexican popular culture.  His donated books and serials reflect his interests in juvenile literature and in Mexican civilization and culture.


Karl Herbert Mayer, “Cover: Amate Manuscripts of the Otomí of San Pablito, Puebla,” Mexicon 34, no. 6 (2012): 129-35.

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