UTSA Libraries Calls for MLK and Women’s March Artifacts

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Thousands of people march up MLK Drive as part of the 2.75 mile march.

Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / Rivard Report

Thousands of people march up MLK Drive as part of the 2.75 mile march.

UTSA Libraries is calling on the community to contribute signs, posters, buttons, stickers, and other non-digital items from this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. March and San Antonio Women’s March to its special collections.

UTSA will preserve donated materials in its archives, which, among other featured items, specialize in preserving the history of activism in San Antonio.

“It’s a way of documenting activism in the city so that researchers 10, 20, or 50 years from now can come see the documents that were created to promote these movements,” UTSA Libraries Director of Communications Anne Peters said.

Considering the wide range of demonstrations recently sweeping the country, Peters said physical artifacts from this year’s marches could someday play a vital role in telling the city’s story.

“These items are often thrown away or discarded, and while they aren’t what we traditionally think of as historical documents, they can serve as a platform for voicing issues important to individuals in our community,” head of UTSA Libraries Special Collections Amy Rushing stated in a news release.

Items can be submitted from now until Feb. 12 to UTSA Main Campus’ John Peace Library, UTSA’s Downtown Campus Library, U.S. Rep. Diego Bernal’s district office, or the Friendly Spot Ice House. Donors are asked to write their name and email address (or “anonymous”), the location and date of the march, date of the donation, and “For UTSA Special Collections” on the back of the materials.

Items will be digitized, preserved in a climate-controlled room on the 4th floor of UTSA’s John Peace Library, and used in course curricula.

Though blacks only make up about 7% of the city’s total population, San Antonio’s MLK March is one of the largest in the nation, drawing an estimated 300,000 people this year. Since Mayor Henry Cisneros initiated the march in 1987, it has transformed into a major event for the city, providing a rare opportunity for different racial and socioeconomic groups to meet in solidarity.

Though it only attracted 1,500 people, San Antonio’s Women’s March is historically significant because it was one of hundreds of larger marches that swept the nation on Jan. 21.

UTSA Libraries has been collecting artifacts since the 1970s. It has 25 collections dedicated to documenting activism in the LGBTQIA, Mexican-American, and African-American communities, among others. Archives include photos from the Rio Grande Valley Farm Workers March in 1966, Chicano and Latin American political posters, and publications from San Antonio’s first official Gay Pride Week in 1982, documenting San Antonio’s “rich activist history,” Peters said.

“If you’re actually putting your hand on a flier from 1965 that was used as part of a sit in,” she said, “that’s a very different thing than reading about it in a book.”

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