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.

Jeremy Moore

Old Main as seen from the 7th floor of Alkek Library. Photograph by Jeremy Moore

Old Main as seen from the 7th floor of Alkek Library

Erin Mazzei photographing Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación.

Erin Mazzei photographing Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación.

Photographing Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación.

Photographing Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación.

Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación

Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relación

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.

He proposed to Texas Monthly that he spend a year driving every single road on the map and write a series of articles for the magazine about his experiences. Mr. Reavis divided Texas into 48 Regions and drove over 117,000 miles in a Chevy Suburban. The Dick J. Reavis Papers at the Wittliff Collections contain thousands of photographs, postcards, notes and even a logbook chronicling each day’s driving. Mr. Reavis published fourteen articles in Texas Monthly throughout his tour.

Our exhibit contains digitized photographs, postcards, notes and copies of the articles as they appeared in Texas Monthly. We decided to digitize his original hand-shaded map, overlay it on Google Maps, and use that as the foundation for navigating the online exhibit.  The exhibit also features a new video interview with Mr. Reavis and a collection of photographs from 1987 matched with corresponding images from Google Maps demonstrating the changing landscape of rural Texas during the last three decades.

We decided to use Omeka as the primary platform and use the Google Maps API and JavaScript to integrate the geospatial  features. The first part of the process was digitizing Reavis’s 67 x 90 cm Texas Highway map with the RCAM and Phase One digital back. Nathaniel Dede-Bamfo, GIS Specialist, used this to create KML layers. The difficulty in this part of the project is that Reavis created his own regions. Although they often followed county boundaries and rivers, they often included only parts of counties. Nathaniel pulled data from the US Census Bureau and the Texas Natural Resources Information System (TNRIS) into ArcGIS to perform Geo referencing, Editing & Dissolving, and Symbolizing. Nathaniel then converted the layers to KML files.


Geo referencing




Our programmer Jason Long, then used two KML files created by Nathaniel to create a custom page in Omeka using the Google Maps API. The first KML was an image overlay of Reavis’s digitized shaded map and the second KML was a series of polygons for Reavis’s regions.Since the Google API does not generate a mouse over event for polygons when loading a KML layer, Jason used the geoxml3 extension as a KML processor for use with Version 3 of the Google Maps JavaScript APS. First he generated a map with the Google API with javascript. Next he parsed the KML polygon layer with geoxml3 and finally used AJAX to create links to items in the Omeka Exhibit based on mouse events.

Putting it all together, Jason created a custom theme in Omeka and used the Unite Gallery javascript for the slide shows.

We thought it would be interesting to try to show some of the changes since Reavis’s tour. We pulled some excerpts from his tour notes and added links to photos he took at the time and also links to current Google Maps Street Views of the same locations.

notesOne of Dick Reavis’s motivations for making the tour was to try to view a part of Texas that he knew would soon disappear. The then and now photos show that he was unfortunately correct in his prediction.


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.

Severo Perez

Severo Perez – 2014

In 2014 Severo Perez donated the production archives from the film to the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. The Severo Perez Archive is a comprehensive collection that traces the development of all of his major works, from the first drafts to the finished productions. Included are scripts, correspondence, location photos, storyboards, animation cells, casting photos, production forms, continuity photos, rough cuts, outtakes, master reels, sound reels, editing logs, artifacts, and publicity materials.

The second reason the project is notable is the participation of the donor and filmmaker in the project. During the Fall 2015 semester, Severo Perez was an artist-in-residence at Texas State, sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Southwest and its director, Dr. Frank de la Teja. Severo Perez’s presence on campus coincided with the university’s 2015-2016 Common Experience theme: “Bridged Through Stories: Shared Heritage of the United States and Mexico, an Homage to Dr. Tomás Rivera.”

He offered his time to help with the online exhibit and went through his archives with Steve Davis, the curator of the Southwestern Writer’s Collection.

The third and possibly most interesting feature of the exhibit is its arrangement. We were able to create a unique web resource which not only provides information on the making of this film but also explores the film making process in general process from beginning to finish, drawing from the extensive materials in the Severo Perez collection. With the assistance of the Texas State Instructional Technology Services Video Production team, we conducted a new video interview of Mr. Perez talking about the making of the film. Steve Davis reviewed the video and took notes and included time codes with each note.

notesThe next step is probably the most important part of the process. Mr. Davis rearranged his notes by topic and added topic headings based on his knowledge of the content and arrangement of the collection. These rearranged notes then became an outline which was used to construct the framework for the exhibit in Omeka by our programmer, Jason Long.
Todd Peters used the outline with time codes to create 109 short video clips from the 2.5hr interview and Jeremy Moore, the Digital Media Specialist, digitized objects selected by the Curator. Jason put everything together into the site and we went live in late Spring 2016.

We hope you enjoy the site.

Omeka site

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.