A Sea of Maps: A Collaborative Project with the Conrad Blucher Institute

Written by Shelby Gonzalez

Every morning the lights of the Archives Workroom come on at 8:00 am, and every morning the first thing (or should I say things) that greet me as I walk in are land surveying records. Not just a few, not just a couple hundred, but thousands of maps waiting to be processed, preserved and prepared for digitization.

As Library Specialist II, in the Special Collections and Archives department, my job is to serve as point of contact with the Conrad Blucher Institute on a massive map digitization project. Responsibilities include conducting appropriate preservation treatments for collection materials, and then examination of these materials and recording information about them in the library catalog or other appropriate locations. This project includes thousands of historical South Texas land records in eleven collections that both departments aim to make available to the public via the internet.

With more than 10 thousand land records demanding my attention, it can be tough to keep afloat in this sea of maps. Day in and day out, hundreds of map pass through my hands yet there is still no sign of a light at the end of this tunnel. It has become apparent that this project is far from a 100-yard dash, it relates more to that of a marathon and every day I am simply preparing for the final race. This collaborative project is about little victories. No longer am I putting pressure on myself or others involved in this project to finish in a timely manner. It is simply impossible. Instead all persons involved are focusing on making forward strides and have started celebrating every single accomplishment no matter how small.  

Although the Conrad Blucher Institute and Special Collections have only scratched the surface, several milestones have been reached and many more are to come. To keep up with our little victories visit the Special Collections department or search online through Spatial {Query} Lab and you too might find yourself lost in a sea of maps.

These images and more can be found in the Fall 2018 Islander Magazine.

Originally published in the Fall 2018 Islander Magazine by Anjanette Jones on May 24, 2019.