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SVREP: A Look Into the Audiovisual Materials

June 25, 2017



The SVREP Collection contains a large portion of documents, but also audiovisual material as well. Our team was especially excited about the public service announcements from Freddie Fender and Lou Rawls, and the videos documenting their trips to Nicaragua and training sessions around the country. A large portion of the media were not capable of being played on devices readily available, which presented a challenge. We knew we wanted these audio recordings and video footage to be shared with the public and accessible online, so the task was to search through the boxes and select the material that would most benefit from being digitized.

Sorting through these boxes was very nostalgic for me. It was nice to see technology that I was familiar with as a kid, especially the VHS and cassette tapes. I remembered my extensive Disney film collection and renting movies at Blockbuster.VIDEOS

I often forget that the youth of today have never seen a VHS tape since online streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu have become their norm. It brought back memories of trying to record songs on the radio with cassette tapes and being accustomed to hearing the DJ’s before the song played to ensure no part of the song was cut-off.

After taking a stroll down memory lane, it was back to business as UTSA had to decide to digitize the material in-house or outsource the job. Our team decided to send it to George Blood L.P., a well-known provider that specializes in digitizing obsolete and deteriorating media. We found the cost and trouble it would save us in the end was worth it, than investing in the necessary equipment. Even though we would not be responsible for digitizing the media, certain steps were necessary in order to prepare the material for shipment. This involved creating a detailed excel spreadsheet that clearly identified each item and their corresponding information, as well as packing the items so that they would survive transit and arrive safety to their destination.

Here are a few of the many different formats we found in the collection, some of which I have never used, and some I am very familiar with. For now, we chose not to digitize the VHS and cassette tapes in order to save the digitization process for media that was less stable.

Currently, the SVREP team has received the digitized files back from George Blood and are now working on the metadata in order to upload the material to CONTENTdm, a digital management system which allows us to store and manage the files so that they are accessible to the public. We are excited that this material is available now!  Click here to explore the digitized content!

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




June 19, 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. This week we’d like to spotlight some of the hidden but invaluable labor that we get from our student workers at our Main Campus location.  Stay tuned for a Part II post on the additional amazing work our volunteers contribute at our HemisFair Park/ITC Campus location.

Part I: Main Campus Student Spotlight

In a building on the north side of UTSA’s main campus, there’s a quiet hallway with just a few doors. Occasionally people come in and out wearing sweaters and maybe pushing carts full of boxes.  This is the Library Collections Annex, which, along with the reading room and cold storage vault on the 4th floor of the John Peace Library, make up the main campus workspaces for UTSA Libraries Special Collections.  In these cold spaces you’ll find tables covered with boxes of papers, shelves full of archival material and books, dozens of computers and digitization stations buzzing along, and preservation supplies tucked in every available corner.  And in the midst of these things you’ll find the people who tirelessly work—often in sweaters—to make sure archival collections, rare books, and historical photographs are connected to students and the broader community in their research quests.  Here are a few highlights on the kinds of things we do, with a special emphasis on the students who help us along the way.

Before a collection is ready to be requested and used in our reading room it has to be processed, meaning it needs at least a folder level inventory and a basic collection guide produced to help researchers understand what the collection is about, where it came from, and what kind of content they might find in it.


UTSA grad student Christina Frasier removing rusty old fasteners from a collection she’s processing

Depending on what we know about it and the size and shape of the collection when we receive it, this can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years (such as our Southwest Voter Registration Education Project Collection, which is generously funded by the National Archives!).  This is where our students really help us push through.  With training, they sort through often chaotic paper stacks to find intellectual order, while removing rusty fasteners, replacing aging acidic office folders and encountering all sorts of dust, mold and bugs that find their way into old boxes before donors give them to Special Collections.

In addition to physically processing materials, our students are highly adept at researching information about records creators and assembling descriptive information about collections that we incorporate into our collection guides, also called “finding aids.”  Armed with this carefully-reviewed content, archives staff are able to encode these guides into an XML schema following the Encoded Archival Description (EAD) standard—basically, this is where we invest a little extra time assembling text into a complex system of tags that allows users to more easily find and understand our material online.  After a few cranks in an XML editor, we get the collection guide online and it can be found in search engines and library catalogs.  Here’s a sample collection guide students have had a huge part in producing: “A Guide to the San Antonio River Authority Records, 1920-2014”  (click on Administrative Information to see the names of people who have had a hand in processing this huge collection).


UTSA student Paige Hayhurst, making protective book sleeves for our rare books. Measuring, measuring & measuring before cutting, bending and assembling.

Our students have a knack for performing repetitive, mundane, and highly detailed tasks.  They’re able to handle fragile rare books and documents and take extreme care in creating preservation enclosures that keep the materials protected.  They’re also able to stare at massive spreadsheets to help us sort through inventories, and they’re our go-to people for creating metadata (titles, descriptions, subject terms) for things like photographs (which would be practically un-findable without description!).  And when we need materials digitized, they’re able get through the highly detailed process of scanning according to key parameters, keeping up with progress and creating descriptions for items along the way.  Sometimes, we get really lucky and find out that they have additional talents, like photography skills that help us capture content too big for our scanners!  Then when it’s time to get those scans uploaded into our digital library—a painstaking process that involves spreadsheets, text conversion, finicky software and waiting on status bars—you’ll find them calmly sitting at their computers, delivering content our researchers need amid the sounds of mouse clicks, key strokes, and occasional humming along to music.


Helen Stevens-Martin, graduate intern from Johns Hopkins University, wowing us with her photography skills (and MacGuyver-like ingenuity) as we sought a way to digitize a large trifold presentation board.

We’ve been fortunate enough to have more than a dozen students work in Special Collections in just the past 4 years.  They’ve worked for us as UTSA student clerks or as interns from UTSA and other schools.  We’ve loved having them be a part of our workflow because they’re able to share their unique student perspective, which helps us present information about our collections in a way that others (especially students) can understand better.  Some of them have gone on to work in other libraries, archives and museums, which we delight in knowing, because we’ve helped them develop a passion for connecting the public with the valuable historical materials that they can learn from and use to create new knowledge.  Simply put, our students are rock stars, and we literally couldn’t do the things we’ve been able to do without them.


See our Instagram tag #WeAreSpecialCollections for more behind-the-scenes fun.

LGBT History is San Antonio History

June 13, 2017

On June 10, 2017 in celebration of LGBTQ+ Pride month, the Rainbow Inclusion Committee at First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio hosted an event showcasing items from the city’s lesbian, gay, and trans past. I was invited to present on LGBTQ collecting and collections at UTSA Special Collections. I was in very distinguished company.

Nickie and Deb

Nickie Valdez and Deb Myers

Community activists and organizers exhibited LGBTQ historical documents and artifacts. Among the participants were long-time San Antonio activists Nickie Valdez and Deb Myers. They have been preserving the community’s history over the decades and many items in their collection were on display at the First UU event. Valdez–revered by SA’s gay and lesbian community as one of its most iconic activists–spoke to those assembled about the importance of being out and involved.

Another exhibit included photographs and print materials memorializing the life and activism of Chuck Jordan. Jordan helped organize San Antonio’s first Human Rights Campaign dinner, later going on to serve HRC at the national level. Nancy Russell displayed many items from her personal collection that chronicles her tireless work on behalf of gay women and men in the military and veterans locally, regionally, and nationally.

The Rainbow Inclusion Committee created exhibits highlighting several different LGBTQ collections held by UTSA Special Collections. Event participants browsed facsimiles of items from the Lollie Johnson papers, the Sterling Houston papers, Pierre Duval Hair Studio collection, Transgender publications, and many more.


By the time I gave my presentation, the fellowship hall was packed. I was delighted to see so many people take time on a Saturday afternoon during Pride month to attend this well-organized and informative event. Many thanks to Carol, Elke, Kevin, and Dorothy for inviting me to speak and for putting on this wonderful Pride event!


WomanSpace, UTSA Center for the Study of Women and Gender, Las Mujeres bookstore t-shirts

Several community members brought collections to donate to UTSA Special Collections. Lucy Duncan donated her LGBT/Feminist t-shirt collection which will be photographed and added to the UTSA Special Collections page on Wearing Gay History. An addition to the Texas Lesbian Conference records will broaden the scope of the existing collection.


A Month in Special Collections: May

June 6, 2017
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Consistency Creates Community

May 29, 2017

I have been working on The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project Collection for almost a year now and everyday I find out more about the organization and the people who worked so hard to make it a success. After sorting and foldering over 20 boxes of Administrative and Financial records,  I finally began unpacking and examining the Voter Registration series that I have been so looking forward to. This is the heart of the collection; the real work that SVREP set out to do, and it totals upwards of 70 boxes of documentation from voter registration events all across the Southwestern United States.

SVREP registration project files for 1982, still in original order and ready to be re-foldered in acid free folders.

The first thing that I noticed about the voter registration boxes is that there was clearly a system in place to keep track of all of the projects happening at once. [Insert Hallelujah emoji here]. While the boxes themselves were out of order, presumably from moves to and from storage, each box was pretty well organized and in it’s original condition, which is what every archives assistant hopes to see when opening a box for the first time. Most of the folders still had their original hand typed labels and were still in numerical order. I was ready to jump in.

As with my previous series, processing these folders means removing staples or rusty paper clips, skimming over them to check for sensitive information and looking for and containing any documents that are showing signs of discoloration. Once a folder is completely skimmed, I can transfer it to its forever home, an acid free legal sized folder, labeled clearly in penciled print. It didn’t take long at all to see that each folder was a work of concise order and purpose. No matter how many folders I transferred, they all followed the same steps and each form was carefully place in the exact same order. The pattern went on for hundreds of folders. Each folder began with a summary of the project stapled to the front inside cover, it described the city, year and coordinator of the registration drive to be carried out. In each case a coordinator or volunteer from the targeted community was chosen to gather other volunteers to go door to door in their town registering voters over a one month period. A careful list of volunteers, houses visited and an expenses had to be reported and documented in each folder in order for the project to be deemed a success. Time and time again each folder was completed.

Of all of the contents of the folders two things still strike me as amazing; the first is the frequency at which people in the 70’s and 80’s wrote down their Social Security numbers. So much so that it has created an entire side project itself: redacting all of the sensitive info.

The second thing is the final page in each folder. Clasped on the back cover of every project folder is a list of community members, friends, (compadres), who volunteered their time to help register citizens in their city. This is the document I find myself staring at the longest each time I flip through a folder. Each one reminds me of the pages of a census. They are pages that list participants in a national journey and they make me swoon. I was giddy at the sight of members of my own hometown church, El Buen Pastor, listed in a folder titled Hidalgo, ’82. and I was beyond excited to recognize names of people who, 30 years later, are still registering voters here in San Antonio.

I still have about 35 Voter registration boxes to re-folder, but because of the consistency of the previous boxes, I know what to look forward to. SVREP organizers created a system that could be duplicated and scaled up with ease, but when I see their ability to coordinate hundreds of month long voter registration projects across five states, with minimal central man power and even less funding, I am in awe. To have such a clear road map in these folders of how they pulled it off was never luck, it was by design.

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

Changing Building Facades

May 19, 2017

During the mid-twentieth century, many property owners decided to update their older buildings to reflect the styles of the modern era. Victorian detailing was removed to simplify the design. Companies began producing prefabricated metal panels for installation over the exteriors of nineteenth century facades to give them the appearance of an entirely new building.  By the late 1970s, there was a noticeable increase in awareness and appreciation for historic structures. Aided by favorable tax treatments for rehabilitation, owners began restoring the same structures that had been altered in previous decades.

In observance of National Preservation Month, we call attention to the value of archival photographs in the restoration process. Often, the original architectural drawings are no longer available. Photographs document the appearance of missing elements and provide a record of the changes to a structure. Our collections contain a large number of architectural portraits by professionals, some taken shortly after the building was completed. But also of value are photographs taken of other subjects, such as a parade with the building in the background.

National Bank of Commerce, north side of Main Plaza at Soledad Street. Photograph by A.S. Masterson, circa 1928. (General Photograph Collection, MS 362: 101-0148)

National Bank of Commerce transformed into a modern building by the addition of aluminum and porcelain coverings in 1961 by new owner and occupant, San Antonio Savings Association (SASA). Photograph circa 1962. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-2217-C-02)

Original bricks of the National Bank of Commerce Building are revealed after removal of the façade by a subsequent owner who hoped to restore the former appearance of the building. But the bricks had been severely damaged by the addition of the metal facings, necessitating replacement with modern bricks. Photograph by Daryl Engle, circa 1982. (General Photograph Collection, MS 362: 107-1680)

Kirkpatrick Building, 123 Alamo Plaza. Photograph taken during Labor Day Parade, 1893. (General Photograph Collection, MS 362: 086-0401)

Kirkpatrick Building with modern metal covering over the brick façade. Photograph November 1957. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-1599-7954)

George Maverick Building, designed by Alfred Giles, on southwest corner of St. Mary’s and Houston Street. Photograph, by S.W. Masterson, circa 1930, shows only slight alterations to the 1899 building. (General Photograph Collection, MS 362: 092-0011)

George Maverick Building after owners removed the bay windows and concealed the brick walls with stucco. Photograph circa 1940. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-2126-A-35)

George Maverick Building with a metal slipcover over the entire second floor. Photographed during Stock Show Parade, February 1963. In 2001, the covering was removed and original façade restored.  (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-2126-A-35)

Dullnig Building, designed by James Murphy and built about 1883, East Commerce Street, between Alamo and Losoya Streets. Photograph circa 1910. (Harvey Belgin Photograph Collection, MS 353: B-13-C-1)

Dullnig Building with stucco covering the brick walls and minus towers, but retaining the original cornice. Photograph 1940. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-2126.001-3-5)

Dullnig Building with Victorian façade minimized by painting the walls and adding a modern parapet, with space for advertising. Photograph early 1970s. (General Photograph Collection, MS 362: 107-1337)

Crockett Block, designed by Alfred Giles, 317-323 Alamo Plaza. Photograph, circa 1940, shows only slight alterations to the 1882-83 group of buildings with common façade and cornice. (General Photograph Collection, MS 362: 083-0480)

Crockett Block with various false fronts, though retaining the original cornice. Photograph May 1967. (Zintgraff Studio Photograph Collection, MS 355: Z-0066-B-00632)

Crockett Block after restoration of the façade. Photograph, by Daryl Engle, circa 1985. (General Photograph Collection, MS 362: 107-1861)


Ven A Comer Supports Cookbook Collection

May 15, 2017

Recipes from Special Collections’ Mexican Cookbook Collection inspired a lively menu at Ven a Comer, held Sunday, May 7th at Hotel Emma. Proceeds from the event will support the development and preservation of this extensive collection, which contains 1,800 items and dates back to 1789. The Sunday event was part of a larger weekend festival, which also included a Friday screening of the documentary film “Vivia Mezcal” at the Mexican Cultural Institute, and Mexican street food from the Culinary Institute of the Americas served at the Saturday Pearl Farmer’s Market.

The evening began with hors d’oeuvres and a mezcal tasting with expert Pedro Jiménez Gurría. Music from a duo of acoustic guitarists filtered in from the patio as guests mingled and perused examples from the cookbook collection. A variety of cookbooks were on display throughout the evening for guests to see, including manuscript cookbooks, artists’ books, and cookbooks from the queen of Mexican cooking, Josefina Velásquez de León. The cookbooks were displayed in a food and drink-free area to ensure that they remain in the best condition possible for continued preservation.

The reception was followed by a six-course family-style meal, created by a team of talented chefs from San Antonio and Mexico, including Fabián Delgado, Diego Galicia, Jaime Gonzalez, Jenn Riesman, and Rico Torres. Guests enjoyed dishes inspired by recipes in the collection, such as Ensalada de Nopales (Nopal cactus salad) and Braised Wild Boar over Garbanzos and Pipián. Each course revealed a unique balance of familiar and fresh flavors, both comforting and exciting to the palate. Dinner was followed by an impressive and delectable array of desserts, which were complemented by a cozy horchata mezcal nightcap.


A most sincere thank you to our sponsors, staff, chefs, collaborators, and to all who attended! Your support and hard work helps us keep these culinary treasures alive and available for generations to come.

You can view more photos and read more about the event on the UTSA Libraries Facebook page, Special Collections’ Instagram, our website, and the Rivard Report.

The Mexican Cookbook Collection is open to casual researchers, aspiring cooks, and professional chefs alike. A selection of cookbooks are available to view online, but most books must be explored in person. The cookbooks can be viewed by appointment in our reading room on the fourth floor of the John Peace Library on Main Campus.

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