Preserving Local History: A&M-Corpus Christi Hosts First Public History Harvest

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – What are the first images that pop into your head when you think of “history”? Maybe it’s the art created during the Italian Renaissance, the invention of the Model T or the first moon landing. With such monumental moments in world history, it is easy to overlook the importance of local history, which is created every day by ordinary people, and is arguably just as significant.

In hopes of preserving local history, the Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi hosted its first public History Harvest on June 8-9, at the Art Museum of South Texas, an affiliate of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The History Harvest was open to all residents of the Coastal Bend with the goal of collecting items such as letters, photographs, videos and other documents from everyday citizens. With their permission, these items would then be placed in the Bell Library’s archives and be made available to anyone interested in learning more about our local history.

“The community is made up of families, and each family’s story blends to together with all the other stories to make up the history of Corpus Christi and the surrounding area,” said Ann Hodges, special collections librarian and university archivist at A&M-Corpus Christi.

Alfonso Gomez, a fourth generation Corpus Christi resident, was the first person to stop by the History Harvest. His donation included photographs of his grandfather, who owned a pharmacy on Leopard Street in the 1940s and was an active member of the Knights of Columbus, a religious fraternal organization.

“I came here today to bring the history of my family to the University because if you don’t preserve history, you lose it,” Gomez said. “And once you lose it, you’ll never have it back.”

During the two-day History Harvest, the Bell Library collected 45 photographs, eight programs of community events, two newspaper clippings and one birth announcement. Many of the items will be digitized for easy access by the public.

“You forget,” said Gomez. “You forget that your grandfather served in the second World War, or in Vietnam or in Desert Storm. Those are the things we should be stressing to our children. Not just letting them play video games. That’s the sad part. Once it’s gone, you can’t go back.”

The Bell Library plans to host two more History Harvests this year – one in September during Hispanic Heritage Month, and one in November to gather the history of local veterans.

“Collecting our history helps people remember the past,” said Hodges. “And with these History Harvests, we aren’t locking history away, we’re preserving it, protecting it and sharing it with the community for generations to come.”

Attending a History Harvest is not the only way to donate materials to the Bell Library archives. Members of the community and leaders of local nonprofits are encouraged to contact the Bell Library’s Special Collections and Archives department to set up private appointments to go over materials they wish to donate. Call 361.825.4500; or email to learn more.