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A Month in Special Collections: June

July 5, 2016
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Introducing our Southwest Voter Archivist and Archives Assistant

June 26, 2016

Earlier this year we announced the exciting news that we were awarded $145,650 by the National Archives to process the archives of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP). With those grant funds we were able to hire an archivist and an archives assistant to process the collection. We are delighted to introduce Project Archivist, Leah Rios, and Archives Assistant, Jenn Longoria.



Leah Rios, SVREP Archivist

Leah Rios comes to us from Tucson, Arizona. She was most recently a Project Archivist at the Western Archaeological and Conservation Center. Leah received her master’s degree from the University of Arizona’s School of Information and while there was a Knowledge River Institute Scholar.





Jenn Longoria SVREP Archives Assistant

Jenn Longoria has been working in libraries since 2006, including most recently UTSA Libraries Downtown Campus. Jenn has extensive experience working as both a volunteer and full-time employee for Battleground Texas.




I sat down with Leah and Jenn recently to hear what they have to say about working on this important collection.

What excites you most about this collection?

(LR) Although a majority of the work was completed in Texas, I have already seen documents pertaining to Pima County, which is where I am originally from. It touches close to home to think that such important work was being conducted in my own neighborhood and I am grateful I have the opportunity to play a vital part in preserving this material and making it accessible to the public.

(JL) Seeing the organization start from scratch, grow organically and create the strategies that voter registration organizations still use today has been really informative. The scope of what Southwest Voters was tackling was immense. As an archives assistant I get to see that history unfold and see how this one organization shaped the culture of voting in Texas.

 Why is this collection so important?

(LR) This collection is an integral part of our nation’s political history. As a Latina, I feel honored to be working so closely with material created by determined individuals who were responsible for actively building a political voice for Hispanic Americans. Willie’s work continues to resonate even more today, as we see how important the Hispanic vote will prove to be for this upcoming and future presidential elections.

(JL) Willie began SVREP in San Antonio, surrounded by a population that he knew was not being represented fairly. It was this community that inspired him to act. Now more than ever Latino engagement in the political arena is a topic that researchers want to know more about, and the records in this collection are the beginning of that story. Researchers, organizers, and historians can now trace the steps that SVREP took to register thousands of voters across the country. We can see what worked, what didn’t and most amazingly we get to interact with all of the historical organizations and activists that helped along the way.

This collection serves as a record of how much work goes in to changing political climates. It took activism, research and litigation to make sure the Mexican American Community was represented and I believe our collection showcases some of that work.

What ideas do you have for outreach and promotion of the collection?

(LR) Utilizing social media is a great way to entice both researchers and the public. I look forward to posting regularly on The Top Shelf to document our process, posting images on Instagram to highlight interesting documents and artifacts, and interacting with social media of related community organizations to increase our exposure.

A way to further promote the collection would be to feature an exhibition of documents and materials found throughout the collection. Planning the exhibit to coincide with Willie Velásquez Day would be especially exciting.

This collection can also serve as a gateway for high school students to learn about government policy, history, and an individual that has a direct connection to their community. It would be an amazing opportunity to reach out to as many schools as possible in order to introduce the students to archives and how they can enrich their educational experience now and in the future.

(JL) In addition to social media, I think other promotion venues and opportunities are showcasing the collection in conjunction with National Voter Registration Day and with other voter rights organizations. I echo Leah’s comments about reaching the younger generation. Area high school civic engagement semesters would be a perfect opportunity for that.


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


We Have Always Loved Cats

June 20, 2016

This post is written by former archives student assistant, Alex Iacono.

In February of 1941, The San Antonio Light published an article titled “Cat, 12, Eats Birthday Cake,” a surprising addition to news coverage at the time. With World War II already underway overseas, and national anxieties high, San Antonians turned to our feline friends for a small break from such tension. The short article remarks on the notoriety of local favorite Bob Magee, the cat, who was often seen in the windows of the Perry-Magee flower shop.

Cake-Eater: Bob the Cat celebrates twelfth birthday.

Cake-Eater: Bob the Cat celebrates twelfth birthday. Feline likes to smell the flowers at floral home. Printed in the February 28, 1941 issue of the San Antonio Light.

Photograph of Bob the cat.

Photograph of Bob the cat. Circa 1941. San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-1673HH-132.

This was not the first time The San Antonio Light gave its readers a chance to turn to the relaxing power of cat pictures. In November of 1937, the Light ran a short, whimsical narrative of a cat named “Inky” with photographs of his escapade when he stole milk left sitting on a doorstep.

Red-Handed: "Inky" pilfers some milk

Red-Handed: “Inky” pilfers some milk, but evidence is all against him what with the camera being right on the job during “crime.” Printed in the November 3, 1937 issue of the San Antonio Light.

Lighthearted, silly, and cute, we still seek out cats to take breaks from the humdrum of our daily lives. Indeed, it seems we always have. The Light was definitely no stranger to cat photos, where stories of women and their feline companions appeared frequently. Newspapers often employed this trope because of the gendered connotations it represented. If a woman was portrayed with a cat it reinforced the idea of domesticity and motherly qualities.

Portrait of Eulalie Foster.

Portrait of Eulalie Foster. Circa 1937-1939. San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-1828-K.

Portrait of Mrs. L.G. Siebrecht and Cecil (Cat).

Portrait of Mrs. L.G. Siebrecht and Cecil (Cat). Circa 1937-1939. San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-1594-N.

Not all of these photographs were part of lighthearted stories, but they still show our attachment to pets. In 1939, San Antonio read the story of Mrs. M. E. Candall as she visited the gravesite of her cat who once saved her life from a home intruder.

Mrs. M.E. Crandall kneeling at grave of her cat

Gone Are The Nine Lives: Mrs. M.E. Crandall observes first anniversary of kitty’s death. Once it saved her life and met sad demise in the maze of city traffic. Printed in the March 12, 1939 issue of the San Antonio Sunday Light. San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-2055-F.

Clearly our pets mean a lot to us as individuals, and can bring us joy, laughter, comfort, and even grief. The way that we as a society interact with them says something about the ideas and feelings of our time. As a genre, these photographs give a unique insight into our own culture and attitudes about the way we live.

Introducing our summer interns!

June 13, 2016

SARAInterns1I’m happy to introduce our San Antonio River Authority (SARA) Records Summer Graduate Interns! Abra Schnur and Gina Watts will work together over the summer months to arrange, rehouse, and describe SARA collection additions totaling approximately 170 boxes! The additions to the collection were donated in 2011 and 2014 and include material from the San Antonio Channel Improvement Mission Reach Project, engineering photographs, the Salatrillo Reuse Improvement Projects, among others.

The internship provides current archives graduate students with practical, hands-on archives experience and the opportunity to learn from professional academic archivists.


Abra Schnur is currently enrolled in the University of North Texas’ master’s program in information & library science with a focus on archival management. Her expected graduation date is summer 2017. When asked what interests her about this internship, Abra says, “I’m excited to gain hands-on experience in making the SARA collection available to users. The collection also provides the opportunity to gain — through a historical perspective– insight into how an organization with a very specific charge , such as managing a watershed, can over time incorporate itself into the community through partnerships, education, and development of a region.” Upon graduation, Abra will pursue a job as an oral history or audiovisual archivist. When she’s not studying, she works on an ongoing oral history project and fostering her love of mid-century modern and kitsch design.


Gina-2cropGina Watts is currently enrolled in the School of Information at the University of Texas, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in information science with a concentration on archives. Her expected graduation date is December 2017. When asked what interests her about this internship, Gina says, “I’m very excited to work with such a large collection from an organization that seems to have a lot of community ties. I also can’t wait to get to the historical photographs!” Upon graduation, Gina will pursue a job as an archivist at a research library or special collections. She would particularly like to be involved in social justice/community archives. When she’s not studying, she really enjoys listening to blues music and is “looking forward to checking out the San Antonio music scene this summer.”

Welcome, Abra and Gina!

UTSA Libraries Special Collections exhibits celebrate LGBTQ Pride month

June 6, 2016

To commemorate LGBTQ Pride month during June 2016, UTSA Special Collections staff have created two exhibits that give patrons a glimpse into some of the amazing LGBTQ collections held by the repository and offer a portal to San Antonio Pride celebrations of the past.

DTL exhibit June Pride 2016

LGBTQ Pride Special Collections exhibit at the UTSA Downtown Library

Located in the UTSA Downtown library and the John Peace Library Faculty Center, the exhibits highlight t-shirts with Pride motifs, local queer publications, and images from San Antonio Pride events of the 1990s.

T-shirts as Historical Objects

Ever think that well-worn t-shirt stuffed in the bottom of a drawer should be thrown out one day? Think again! Some t-shirts and textiles shine light on cultural trends and local history! The t-shirts on exhibit for Pride 2016 were donated along with more traditional archival materials such as photographs and organization records. Fortunately, donors had the foresight to recognize the historical value of these textiles. In 2015, UTSA Special Collections participated in a project named Wearing Gay History, a digital archive of historical LGBT t-shirts. UTSA Special Collections contributed digital images of 16 t-shirts, caps, and other wearables.

In addition to textiles and print materials, the JPL Faculty Center exhibit features items from the Sterling Houston Papers. Houston, a native son of San Antonio, had a thirty-year career in professional theater as an actor, musician and writer in San Antonio, New York and San Francisco. The Sterling Houston Papers primarily document Houston’s involvement in San Antonio theater through scripts, screenplays, programs, and press materials. Also included are correspondence, research materials, project files, photographs, and audiovisual materials. The bulk of the collection has been digitized and can be accessed online.

Sterling Houston and the Fleshtones, circa 1970s

Sterling Houston and the Fleshtones, circa 1970s

For more on the history of Pride in San Antonio, check out these related posts:

LGBTQ Pride Month-Remembering Queer Activism in SA-1978

Out and Proud in San Antonio-Retracing the History of Pride Celebrations in the Alamo City

San Antonio Lesbian Gay Assembly Records 1990-1998: a glimpse into LGBTQ community dynamics now available digitally

A Month in Special Collections: May

June 3, 2016

may infographic

Flora and Fauna

May 31, 2016
Mountain laurel in bloom, March 1992.

Mountain laurel in bloom, March 1992. Photo source: Office of University Communications Photographs, UA 16.01.01, UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

Every May, as classes end and students graduate or head off on summer adventures, I’m shocked to realize how quiet the university becomes—especially after the persistently frenzied feeling that signals the end of the spring semester. The vibe on campus settles into its summer rhythm, allowing a greater opportunity to notice the beauty of the outdoor spaces we inhabit in our daily working lives.

Tomato plants in the garden of the Back 40 at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures.

Tomato plants in the garden of the Back 40 at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures. Photo source: Kristin Law.

Tall corn in the garden of the Back 40 at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures.

Tall corn in the garden of the Back 40 at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures. Photo source: Kristin Law.

Spending time on UTSA’s campuses offers many chances to experience the flora and fauna of our region, whether that includes stopping to smell the plants in the pioneer garden at the ITC’s Back 40, hearing the blue jays at Bill Miller Plaza downtown, or pausing to watch the lizards speed through the grass by my favorite lunch spot.

One recent morning, I spotted a furry gray creature blending into the gray concrete of Ximenes garage. At first glance, I mistakenly thought it was one of the campus cats, but soon realized it was actually a possum. Over the past year, I’ve learned that if I stay especially late in the evening, I might get to see one of the rabbits that resides near my office.

A possum snuggled into the concrete of the Ximenes garage.

A possum snuggled into the concrete of the Ximenes garage. Photo source: Kristin Law.

Nestled at the foot of the Texas Hill Country in one direction, and easily accessible to the rest of the city in the other, UTSA’s main campus is situated in a unique spot. Because of our location, the variety of wildlife is particularly entertaining and captivating. I’m grateful for the landscaping that integrates native plants in the spaces between buildings and I believe that staff from previous decades shared my appreciation for campus wildlife. Numerous scenic views show up in the Office of University Communications Photographs collection, proving that campus is a lively and colorful place to be, even when class is not in session.

Redbud trees in the central courtyard, February 1992.

Redbud trees in the central courtyard, February 1992. Photo source: Office of University Communications Photographs, UA 16.01.01, UTSA Libraries Special Collections.

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