Photographing Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relacion

Erin and I have had a blast visiting the Wittliff Collections on the 7th floor of Alkek Library while we photographed Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación this week.

Digital & Web Services is partnering with the Wittliff Collections for a forthcoming update to the current online exhibit.

Here are a few behind-the-scenes photos I made while we worked today.

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The National Tour of Texas



This unique project brought together specialists in GIS, web development, and digitization to create an interactive website based on Dick J. Reavis ’s 1987 year long journey driving every highway in Texas.

Dick J. Reavis is the award-winning author of seven books, including The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation; If White Kids Die: Memories of a Civil Rights Movement Volunteer; Catching Out: The Secret World of Day Laborers and more. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, a Senior Editor at Texas Monthly, and a finalist for a National Magazine Award. He is now Emeritus Associate Professor of English at North Carolina State University.  While on assignment for Texas Monthly in the late 1980s, Mr. Reavis got lost and pulled from his glove box his official Texas Highway map. Looking at the map, the thought occurred to him, “there sure are a lot of roads on that map … I wonder if anyone has ever driven them all.” He decided he would try.

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And the earth did not swallow him

dvd-coverWe recently completed a fun project that is notable for a few reasons. The first is because the subject of the project was creating on online exhibit on the making of Severo Perez’s beautiful film, … and the earth did not swallow him, based on Tomás Rivera’s classic 1971 Chicano novel, …y no se lo tragó la tierra, which is a semi-autobiographical novel that recounts the life of workers and families of the migrant camps where his family stayed while doing farm work. In 1995 Severo Perez wrote an English screenplay, using his own translation, produced, and directed a film version of the novel. The film was well received and received critical acclaim and several film awards.

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Library Exhibit

Digital & Web Services Exhibit

Digital & Web Services Exhibit

The Digital & Web Services Department has mounted a physical exhibit in the Alkek Library to showcase digitization at the Library. It is scheduled to be displayed from September through December 18, 2015. Located on the 1st floor of the Alkek Library and entitled From Paper to Pixels: Digitization at the Alkek Library, it uses samples from recent projects to provide a look at some of the equipment and procedures used for digitization.

Front page of the 1929 San Marcos Record


Included are over-sized prints including the Taffola Manuscript, the restored Sallie Beretta Painting and older issues of the school newspaper.




The exhibit also features a step by step photo breakdown of the dis-binding process used in preparation for scanning the Pedagogs, the student yearbook.

interferenceAlthough the title of the exhibit only mentions paper, it also features work on digitizing audio and video. Physical examples of open reel, cassette, Betacam and Hi-8 tapes are on display and screens-shots demonstrating the capture of audio are shown.

Selected photographs printed from the unlabeled negative project are also on display including a large print of Dana Jean Smith and Gloria Odoms, taken on the day Southwest Texas State College was officially integrated in February 1963.


Tafolla Manuscript


A recently completed project for the Digital & Web Services department is the digitization and online exhibit creation for the recently acquired Santiago Tafolla manuscript. A description of the history of the manuscript and its acquisition by The Wittliff Collections is contained in a press release on The Wittliff Collections web site.

It is the handwritten personal memoir of Santiago Tafolla recounting the first 39 years of his life. It is a fascinating document and includes first hand observations during the U.S.- Mexico war, the Texas Indian Wars, and recounts his experiences as a Mexican-American Confederate soldier during the U.S. Civil War.

cover1_750_wm Page_view_750_wm

The manuscript consists of two legal sized pads and the paper has become brittle with age. It was decided that conservation and digital photography would have to happen at the same time. Each page was digitally captured and then carefully removed and placed in a protective Mylar sleeve, revealing the next page to be photographed.


The manuscript was photographed using the PhaseOne iQ180 digital back using Capture One version 8.  Images of individual pages were saved as 400ppi 8-bit RGB tiffs and composite PDF versions of each manuscript were also created.


split_view_300 B&W versions of the manuscript were created to make it easier to decipher the text.







The online exhibit was created and is hosted on the Omeka open source software. Our new programmer Jason Long, first created a new launching page where this and future Wittliff Collections exhibits will live. Using the open source  JQuery plugin Justified Gallery, he created an image-based linking page. There are already a number of Wittliff Collections exhibits on other platforms and they were also  incorporated into the gallery.

The Tafolla exhibit itself uses the open source Unite Gallery JQuery plugin. The exhibit builder theme first had to be customized to conform the data to the plugin’s requirements.

The complete manuscript, Part 1 and Part 2, are available for research use in the Alkek Library Digital Collections Repository.