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ITC News & Media

A Photographic Chronology from UTSA Special Collections

San Antonio 1860s – 1990s

Jul 24, 2018

The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures continues to celebrate San Antonio’s Tricentennial with a new photo exhibit, “San Antonio 1860s – 1990s: A Photographic Chronology from UTSA Special Collections,” drawing on the treasures of the UTSA Libraries Special Collections to tell San Antonio’s story in photographs.

With an extensive photo archive of 3.5 million images, longtime collection curator Tom Shelton has selected 300 photographs depicting ethnic communities and culture, daily life, street scenes, events, and architecture. The exhibit opens Aug. 4.

Shelton chose a chronological arrangement to give visitors a better idea about the pace with which changes in the city occurred and to make it easy for them to make comparisons between eras.

“They’ll see photographs of the narrow, winding streets of the 19th century and the urban sprawl of the 20th,” said Shelton. “They’ll find jitterbug dancing in 1939 and breakdancing in 1984.”

UTSA Libraries administers the Special Collections and historic photo archive at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures. The extensive photo collection includes the San Antonio Light collection, the San Antonio Express-News collection, the Zintgraff commercial studios collection, the institute’s general photograph collection, and other smaller collections.

“This exhibit demonstrates the depth and breadth of the photograph collection, which is comprised of 3.5 million photos,” said Amy Rushing, head of UTSA Libraries Special Collections. “It illustrates Tom’s familiarity with San Antonio history and his extensive knowledge of the photographs within the collection, particularly those that may never have been seen before. I think visitors will be excited to see the hidden gems Tom has brought to light.”

The historic photo archive sees extensive use, including references for architecture firms and classes, educational programs, news stories, movie productions, genealogy studies and dozens of other projects.

“Photographic records of Texas changed everything,” said Angelica Docog, executive director of the institute. “It adds a visual representation of a moment in time – an indisputable, factual account – that tells so much about a subject and situation. These photographs are windows into our past and opportunities to learn more about ourselves and our ancestors, and what it took to build a life in Texas.”

UTSA Libraries Special Collections oversees the historic photo archive at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures. It is open to the public Monday through Wednesday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., or by appointment, 210-458-2228.

The Institute of Texan Cultures is located on the UTSA Hemisfair Campus, 801 E. César E. Chávez Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Regular hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults (18-64); $8 for seniors (ages 65+) and children (6-17); children 5 and under free; free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300 or visit