Blucher: A Family, a Legacy, and a Research Resource at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – History is built through archives. The hidden work in archival process and preservation is highlighted in a new manuscript published by Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

“Blucher: A Family, a Legacy, and a Research Resource at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi,” by Dr. Tom Kreneck, highlights the tremendous impact the Charles F.H. von Blucher Family papers have made on the university and the behind-the-scenes work that went into making this asset accessible for the future. Kreneck was the head of Special Collection at Archives at the Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi for 22 years before he retired in 2012.

“This manuscript is something I personally owed to many people, not the least of whom are the good folks to whom the volume is dedicated as well as to the truth of what actually transpired in getting those materials in house and why,” Kreneck said. 

This summer, the Bell Library and the TAMU-CC Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science hosted a celebration in the library where Blucher family artifacts, documents, records, and maps were displayed. The event drew nearly 100 attendees, including members of the Blucher family but also community members who wished to learn about the impact that one family held.

“This book does more than account for the history in this collection, but it also highlights the importance of collections like this and those who work on them,” said Dr. Catherine Rudowsky, TAMU-CC Dean of Libraries. “In the book, Dr. Kreneck mentions not only the big names that typically are included but also our student employees who do much of the leg work in processing collections. This highlights the university’s dedication to not only preserving history but teaching through real world applications.”

The collection holds many early accounts of the Coastal Bend as Felix von Blucher, the family’s patriarch, moved to the community in the 1840s. Corpus Christi was founded in 1839, so the Blucher account truly captures the beginning of the city’s creation.

“The Charles F.H. von Blucher Family papers are a historical treasure trove of letters, photographs, and land documents from a German family that settled in Corpus Christi in 1849 when the population was 550 people,” said Lori Atkins, Director of Special Collections and Archives.

Surveying and engineering were key components for the Blucher family. A later generation donated the funds to begin the Conrad Blucher Institute in the late 1980s.

Doctor Thomas H. Kreneck“While the Blucher Institute does many things, surveying has always been at its core,” said Dr. Rick Smith, CBI Director. “This collection is important in current applications and the work that went into preserving the collection is vital. The surveying series of the Blucher family papers holds over 4,000 maps and other materials alone. The work done in this collection allows for those records to be accessed and used in new surveying opportunities.”

The manuscript tackles what it takes for one collection to be accessioned, processed, and preserved. Kreneck notes that while surveying is at the forefront, this collection would not exist if it were not for the unsung heroes of history, including the Blucher women. They wrote scores of letters and kept them. A woman’s perspective is often difficult to capture in historic records, but this collection is full of them, he said.

Kreneck’s manuscript covered the immense task in organizing and preserving this important collection, which he described as a “passion project,” and he gives gratitude for the tireless work of Bell Library and other university staff who worked on the collection to organize, describe, and preserve these items for historical impact.

“The work needed to be documented because many more works will doubtless be produced as access to the collection expands and scholars increasing focus their attention to the vast range of ethnic diversity in South Texas,” Kreneck said. “My focus is not on the past but how the past can shape the future.”

In 2021, Special Collections and Archives was awarded a TexTreasures grant to process the collection and create more detailed cataloging records for better access. The following year, Special Collections and Archives obtained a second TexTreasures grant to finish the processing and to digitize a selection of items from the collection.

As the TexTreasures grant wraps up this this August, there are now over 2,500 new items that have been digitized and uploaded to the Institutional Repository. These new records include many snapshots of the family through generations. The connections throughout the community will establish an important repository of history for the Corpus Christi area.

Copies of “Blucher: A Family, a Legacy, and a Research Resource at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi,” can be obtained, free of charge, on a first come first serve basis at the Bell Library or at the CBI. There is also an open access copy available at this link: The book was funded by the Bell Library and CBI.

Note: The Blucher cataloging and digitization project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services through a grant to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (Grant #LS-249990-OLS-21). (2021)