CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The papers of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Corpus Christi physician and champion of Mexican American civil rights, will soon be easier to view from around the world as part of a processing and digitization project planned by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
The project will do more than just put the documents online, although that is a huge benefit. It will make the collection more accessible to a wider audience, preserve it for long-term viability and advance the awareness of this unique collection, said Library Director Dr. Catherine Rudowsky.
A contract for the work is expected to be signed this week. The project, which is expected to take one year, is slated to begin this spring with an online exhibit ready in time for the annual celebration of Garcia in September.
The process will help give context to the collection that has 600 linear feet of records, including 300 boxes and drawers full of audio/visual materials and artifacts such as buttons, plaques, medical bags and stethoscopes.
“This process will arrange and describe its contents in a way that will allow people to discover and use the history contained within,” said Ann Hodges, Librarian and University Archivist. “It will create more efficient access to the information in the papers and ensure that delicate formats such as audio/visual materials receive the attention they need to preserve them.”
It will allow for ease of access for historians across the nation, students doing research papers, and the general public who are interested in seeing the documents believed to be the most valuable resources on the Mexican American experience during the last half of the 20th Century.
Garcia (1914-1996) founded the American GI Forum in 1948 to organize veterans to fight for educational and medical benefits. In 1990, Garcia donated to the University the papers that include letters to and from Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
“Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is proud to have the official papers of Dr. Garcia here,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, President and CEO. “His commitment to education and connecting veterans with services they deserve is still a strong focus at A&M-Corpus Christi. Processing the collection for ease of sharing is expected to open new avenues for more people to be inspired by his works.”
Rudowsky said the papers tell the story of Dr. Garcia and his fight for veterans and Mexican Americans.
“It’s important that we remember this time period, the compassion and commitment Dr. Garcia had for his fellow veterans, for his people,” she said. “This project will make this information discoverable and accessible to a much wider audience, sharing and preserving Dr. Garcia’s legacy. That’s something we are very proud to be a part of.”
The processed collection will include a finding aid that describes sections of the collection and will be used by both library staff and researchers to zero in on specific documents.
Some of the photos in the collection have already been digitized, Hodges said, and the library regularly has requests from authors and researchers, including Garcia’s daughter, Cecilia Garcia Akers. The library is hosting a reception and book signing for her new book “The Inspiring Life of Texan Hector P. Garcia,” on Wednesday, April 13, at 1:30 p.m.
Hodges expects the project to result in more research like that of Dr. Anthony Quiroz, Professor of History at A&M-Corpus Christi, and Dr. Pat Carroll, who retired from the Island University in 2014. Both have written books and papers that detail Garcia’s history.
In addition to the official papers, the University also honors Dr. Garcia’s legacy with a statue and plaza in his name. Students have a tradition of touching the statue’s foot before finals and tests for good luck. ROTC students also recently initiated a new tradition of saluting the statue as they pass by when they are in uniform.
Check out more info on Dr. Hector P. Garcia at the Island University online at http://hectorpgarcia.tamucc.edu/.