Unexpected and Still Historic

People expect the archives to be a serious place filled with staunch academic research. While it is that, it is also so much more. For the staff of Special Collections and Archives sometimes the unexpected is the most exciting part of our collections. The Charles F.H. von Blucher papers are historic, they document the settling of South Texas. These papers start in the mid-1800s and follow the Blucher family through several generations. The Bluchers were surveyors and engineers which makes this collect vital for urban historians who seek to research the built environment. These papers also have a strong female perspective that is often lost in this time period because the matriarch of the Bluchers, Maria, was a prolific letter writer that captured the lived experience of the early years in Nueces County.

Researchers can capture so many important themes from these papers. The land and how it was surveyed highlights how the area was incorporated and grew beyond the small trading post town to the urban city we currently live in. This is all very much in the vein of what people expect from Special Collections and Archives. They expect that we hold records that record history, and history is built from the actions of individuals. These recorded actions help city planners, academic historians, cultural historians, and so many other professionals to conduct research and present their theories, thoughts, and other very amazing works. But what is great is the moment when you are looking for something, in this case looking for letters and information for a researcher about the 1918 Influenza Pandemic and you stumble across a photo of an adorable dog, and then another photo of an adorable dog. Yes, even serious archival professionals can fall down a rabbit hole and spend and entire afternoon looking at puppy photos.

Much to my delight, and I hope now yours, Charles F.H. von Blucher whom the Blucher family papers are named for loved his pets. He took many photos of his dogs. This clearly could be made into a very serious academic research project about early 20th century pets. After all, history is made of the actions of individuals and owning and caring for pets are certainly actions that have cultural significance. But it can also be an unexpected discovery filled with nothing but the simple joy of looking at puppy photos.

Some of these photos are being digitized as part of our 2022 Texas Treasures Grant that continues our previous grant that helped reprocess the Blucher collection in 2021. There will be 2000 items digitized in this grant process.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and Texas State Library and Archives Commission (Grant #LS-249990-OLS-21). (2021)

Logo for the Institute of Museum and Library Services
Logo for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission

Amanda Kowalski

Special Collections and Archives-Library Information Specialist

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