Dear readers, we wanted to make you aware of a great interactive feature that author and photographer Krista Schyler and her team at Borderlands Project have created. It’s called, “Embattled Borderlands: Will the border wall strike a fatal blow to one of the most imperiled wild regions in North America?”
The feature is a beautiful story map with striking imagery of the flora and fauna of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and the impact wall building is having on the landscape. It includes numerous maps and other fine details. Along with describing the region’s environmental history, it tells the story of the diverse communities that live along the border and are daily affected by Washington’s policies. Together, this work is a memorable and often heartbreaking narrative.
“Embattled Borderlands” comes out of Schyler’s book, Continental Divide: Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall, which Texas A&M University Press published in 2012. To view the story map, follow this link. It’s also available in Spanish.
This week the El Paso Herald-Post online featured University of Texas at El Paso, Assistant Professor Amy Reed-Sandoval’s Philosophy for Children program. Reed-Sandoval began the Philosophy for Children program on both sides of the border in 2014; working with children in Oaxaca, Mexico, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and El Paso.
“One of the primary goals of this documentary is to explore the ways in which the social, linguistic, political and historical contexts of the Mexico-U.S. border–and particularly El Paso and Ciudad Juarez–impact the sorts of philosophical questions that local children and community partners seek to answer,” Reed-Sandoval said.
Dear readers, for those of you who will be in the area, we wanted to let you know about a major new exhibit opening. Starting on April 29, and running until September 4, 2016, the Witte Museum in San Antonio, Texas, will be displaying forty rare maps. These documents cover 300 years of Texas history, which are made available for public viewing by the collections of the Texas General Land Office, the Witte Museum, and the private collection of Frank and Carol Holcomb of Houston. From the exhibit announcement:
Many of these maps will be on display for the first time. The fragile nature of several of the items make this a once-in-a-generation exhibit for visitors. This curated collection, dating from the sixteenth through the nineteenth century, traces the changing physical and political boundaries of Texas. It also includes artifacts and original documents relating to the creation of the selected maps…
Also put on display for the first time ever, the exhibition features the manuscript drafts of the surveys of the Texas-U.S. Joint Boundary Commission. Three different sheets, more than 14-feet wide, trace the Sabine River from its mouth in the Gulf of Mexico to Logan’s Ferry in the north, near present-day Logansport, Louisiana. A second set of maps follows the Boundary Commission survey in a straight line due north from west of Logan’s Ferry on the Sabine to the Red River. The boundaries established by these surveys were recognized when Texas entered the Union in 1845.
Installation work, from the Witte Museum website.
It is an impressive undertaking by the exhibit organizers, and a great collaborative work drawing on multiple, important historical collections. For more information, visit the Witte Museum, online.
When fellow contributor Dr. Michael Bess inquired as to my interest in writing an essay about why the Oscar Castillo exhibit was organized as part of the Western History Association, I wholeheartedly accepted his offer. One of the reasons we organized the exhibit was to show that the study of history is not separate from engaging with communities we are researching and writing about. Secondly, we felt organizing the exhibit would add another dimension to a 55th Annual WHA Conference in Portland, October 21-24, 2015. Having had the experience of attending numerous conferences over the years as an academic librarian and archivist, I feel it is important to engage with the communities where we hold our conferences and what better way than via an exhibit. I want to preface my essay by acknowledging that the exhibit was the product of a 10-month process and a group effort. Also, if not for the intervention of Dr. John W. Heaton, Executive Director of the Western History Association, it probably would not have been included in the conference program at all.
Organizing the Exhibit
On December 20, 2014, my paper titled “The 1972 Raza Unida Party Convention,” was accepted for the 55th Annual Western History Association as part of the panel “The Chicano/a Movement as Western History Emerging Scholars.” I had the idea to organize a parallel event in the community to accompany the panel. I approached the photographer Oscar R. Castillo, a Los Angeles-based photographer whose archive is housed at the Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) at UCLA where I was employed in 2008, to see if he would be interested in exhibiting his photography in Portland, as part of the WHA. I had organized events remotely before. In 2008-2009, I was chair of the Southwest Oral History Association (SOHA) conference and working with a group of volunteer oral historians, faculty members and librarians, we organized a regional meeting at the University of Southern California, via e-mail and phone calls. For the Castillo exhibit, I felt all I had to do was locate a venue, perhaps a university or community college gallery in Portland willing to host the exhibit.