October observes both Hispanic Heritage Month and Archives Month, so I’m highlighting a recently completed project that speaks to both celebrations. The University of California at San Diego digitized the Herman Baca collection and, in the process, made some really great contacts with its outreach efforts.
First some information about the Herman Baca and the collection he donated. He organized the San Diego chapter of MAPA (Mexican-American Political Association) in 1968 and served as its president through 1974. In the 1970s he organized the San Diego County chapter of La Raza Unida Party, a national third-party effort to increase the participation of the Chicano community as both registered voters and political candidates. Also in the early 1970s, Baca chaired San Diego’s Mexican American Advisory Committee (now the Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee), a program of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, and NEPSI, a narcotics education and prevention program. Baca also organized and served as the chairman of the board of Casa Justicia, a community-based social service agency providing support for undocumented persons dealing with immigration issues. In 1975, Baca founded the Committee on Chicano Rights (CCR), a non-profit corporation organized to develop and improve the educational, social, and economic conditions of Chicanos by encouraging participation in educational, community, and civic affairs. CCR took on local and national issues like the fight for Chicano Park, police brutality, zoning, farm workers’ rights, the KKK, and even President Jimmy Carter’s immigration plan.
The collection documents his grassroots activities and events of the Chicano movement and includes correspondence; organizational documents (articles of incorporation and bylaws, membership documents, public relations materials, meeting minutes, fundraising materials, etc.) for the Committee on Chicano Rights, the Mexican-American Political Association (MAPA), and La Raza Unida Political Party; interviews; court case files; writings of others; newspaper clippings; video recordings; Chicano artworks; and photographs. The Baca collection, including a license to digitize and make the collection available on the internet, was donated to UCSD in 2004, becoming the first Chicano Activism archival collection in the special collections library. UCSD digitized more than 42,000 pages of documents, posters, photographs and slides as well as approximately 25 hours of audio interviews from the collection.
During the project to digitize this collection, staff at UC San Diego’s Geisel Library engaged in a number of outreach activities to publicize the work and the collection. They promoted the project through the usual means, such as press releases – which were picked up by local newspapers including La Prensa, and newer outlets like Tumblr (http://hermanbacapapers.tumblr.com).
They also created buttons, bookmarks and postcards using images in the collection. These were distributed on campus and at local festivals – notably at the Cesar Chavez Celebration Kick-Off Luncheon, at Chicano Park Day, and at the Palomar College Civil Rights Festival – where they also provided live demonstrations of the digital collection using iPads and a MiFi connection. This is the first time I know of that one of our grantees went into the community and did live demonstrations to encourage use of a collection. I don’t think it would work for all of the digitization projects we fund, but it’s an interesting idea that can be used to great effect.
It’s a great collection and I encourage you to check it out.