Saving History

Carmela Leal pores over documents left under layers of dust in local government storage rooms.

Saving History

UTSA’s Historical Resources Center gets to work preserving records for local governments

[ This article was originally published in the UTSA newsletter The Discourse in April 1975 ]

A program is being developed by UTSA and the Texas State Library to establish San Antonio’s first local archives. It is the Regional Historical Resources Depository Program, created by the Texas Legislature in 1971 to preserve local government documents. Seventeen universities, including UTSA, have been designated as regional depositories for records that otherwise might lie unidentified and unused in neglected corners.

Carmela Leal is the archivist for the UTSA depository program. Wearing blue jeans and an old shirt, Leal has been going through dusty boxes of yellowed records that tell the history of San Antonio and surrounding counties.

Leal is currently contacting local government officials to seek their cooperation. Although the archives project is voluntary, most officials are more than willing to designate their records to her for safekeeping. They give her the freedom to “snoop” around forgotten closets and basement rooms where she looks through the time-worn volumes.

For the time being the depository will be located in the Institute of Texan Cultures. It eventually will be open to the public. All kinds of public records will be kept there, according to Leal. Although some of the records are recent, a few date back to 1736. They have held up well despite their age.

There are now 837 boxes of records in storage at the institute. They were moved from the old county jail, where they were randomly stacked in unused rooms. Other records soon will be moved to the institute, but not until more room is available and the transfer has been approved by proper authorities.

When it is completed, the depository will be a key to the past for today’s scholars.