The Texas Heritage Project & Coates Library
This post was contributed by Acacia Oyler ‘23, the AIT Intern in Special Collections & Archives for Spring 2023.
As many students know from class visits or research projects, Trinity’s Special Collections and Archives contains materials from rare books to institutional records. Beginning this year, the library also became home to a special collection originating with a local non-profit organization: the American Indians in Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions.
Established in 1994 by the Tap Pilam Coahuiltecan Nation, the AIT works to preserve and protect the culture of the indigenous people who resided in the Spanish Colonial Missions. One of the AIT’s many programs is the Texas Heritage Project, which specifically focuses on documenting the history of indigenous families. Since 2014, the Texas Heritage Project has been developing a collection of archival materials through community-based events called “history harvests.” At these harvests, families gather to share photographs and documents, many of which have never been recorded by an outside organization. Over the years, the Texas Heritage Project has developed quite a collection of unique, but also unpublished, materials.
The AIT provided the Coates Library Special Collections and Archives a hard drive containing thousands of scans from the Texas Heritage Project history harvests. This is where I came in as AIT’s archives intern for the spring. To organize the material, I created a spreadsheet of metadata, describing the images on the hard drive and tagging them with relevant identifiers — weddings, military, etc. — so that future researchers can easily find what they are looking for without examining the whole collection.
These materials are incredibly varied. Many are photographs, which range from casual Polaroids to professional portraits. They depict school dances, confirmations, family gatherings, weddings, church services, and much more. These photographs offer a window into the everyday life and experiences of individuals who, until the AIT’s History Harvests, may have been left out of the historical record.
There are also several scanned documents, including books, hand-written journals, flyers, programs, and more. A particularly fascinating group of newspaper clippings and personal writings come from the Gallardo collection. These documents describe the founding of the first school in what would become Southside Independent School District, a process spearheaded by Julian Gallardo.
Together, these varied documents and photographs showcase the integral ways that indigenous/Latino families contributed to the rich cultural history and heritage of the South-Central Texas region. Whether someone is interested in San Antonio, Texas, the Missions, Indigenous, Catholic, or Latino history (and all combinations thereof), this collection provides an abundant and ever-growing source of information.
Beginning this summer, the collection can be accessed by visiting Special Collections and Archives, either during their drop-in hours or by appointment.