Tucked away in a corner of the sixth floor of the Central Library is my favorite haunt there, the Texana and Genealogy Department. The stunning blond entry room named in honor of donors Joan and Herb Kelleher welcomes you into a world where often forgotten tales emerge from yellowed pages of precious books.
Research needs have left me hunched over microfiche readers for hours, distracted by fascinating newspaper headlines unrelated to my original quests. So many people from our colorful history, all with their own stories waiting to resurface. Shelves lined with rare books, rare enough to be unavailable for checkout, beg you to linger longer as the librarian announces it is already 15 minutes until closing time. Digging for clues will have to resume another day.
And yet, behind another door, is a more amazing world to explore – the vault. While materials from the vault can be requested for viewing within Texana, the general public does not simply get to wander through what lies locked within.
But this week, the San Antonio Public Library Foundation and the Texana Department shared a few samples of the amazingly varied treasures, most irreplaceable.
“Costumi de Roma e suoi Contorni,” Salvatore Marroni, 1820
pop-up illustration from “Peepshow Pictures: A Novel Picture Book for Children,” 1895, Rosengren Collection
leaf from a French Bible, 1240
“The Alameda,” one of five Hermann Lungwitz paintings of San Antonio from the 1850s, donated by Louis Ulrich
photograph of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, circa 1892
“The Life and Letters of Captain John Brown,” edited by Richard D. Webb, 1861, donated by J.R. Keach
Casino Club program from 1868
“Lucinda, The Orphan,”1812
“Wake Up, America!,” part of Harry Hertzberg’s collection of posters from World War I
leaf from an Armenian Bible, 1121
“Lucinda, The Orphan,” 1812
“Well-Known Features of Many Creatures,” Emily Harding and E.W. Andrews, donated by Frances Rosengren
Mrs. Eli Hertzberg’s copy of “Megillat Esther” in Hebrew
“Mexican Silhouettes,” Josephina Niggli, 1931
“La Cocinera Poblana,” Herrero Hermanos Sugesores
1861 letter from Joseph Wood
San Antonio’s original Carnegie Library opened June 15, 1903
“Officers Training Camp: Camp Funston 1917”
“Indian Tribes of North America,” Thomas L. McKenney, Hertzberg Collection
“Les Fleurs Animees,” J.J. Grandville, 1847
These riches all require special care and extremely knowledgeable librarians to assist with access, a budget-stretcher for the Library. The Library Foundation wants your help in preserving the collections in Texana for generations to come.
Hoping for another show-and-tell session in the future, and sure wish the ongoing celebration of the 150th anniversary of the San Antonio Express-News included digitalizing the first century of newspapers for the Library before some of us become microfiche hunchbacks.
If you didn’t meander through the streets from the Central Library to the Tobin Center last night, this evening brings another opportunity to experience the art, lights and sounds of Luminaria San Antonio 2014. Los Angeles-based La Santa Cecilia plays the main stage tonight. Had the opportunity to enjoy this group performing at the International Accordion Festival a couple of years ago. For a preview, watch the Tiny Desk Concert provided by National Public Radio.