TAMU-CC Awarded Grant to Digitize Important Piece of Local Mexican American History

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Nearly 800 VHS tapes with historical ties to the local Mexican American community will receive a new lease on life thanks to students and staff at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Experts from the TAMU-CC Mary and Jeff Bell Library Special Collections and Archives recently received a $17,952 grant courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s (TSLAC) TexTreasures Grant program to support the digitization of 739 VHS tapes featuring the Corpus Christi Coffee Club – a Mexican American political forum broadcast from 1991 to 2003. The collection, which spans nearly 20 linear feet and includes approximately 739 hours of recorded content, was donated to the university by Rey Madrigal, who filmed the show.

The Corpus Christi Coffee Club was a mostly English speaking popular civic forum for the local Hispanic community to remain informed on the important political topics and issues. It was recorded in Rosita’s Restaurant, a family-owned establishment, and later aired on Univision Cable TV. Some of the speakers that visited the Corpus Christi Coffee Club were former Senator Carlos Truan, former President George W. Bush, and former United States Representative Solomon P. Ortiz. Many of the other guests were local community leaders such as sheriffs, constables, city council members, and school district leaders that were eager to share their knowledge and to listen to concerns from their constituents. 

Lori Atkins, TAMU-CC Director of Special Collections and Archives, says the one goal of the project is not only to preserve history, but to ensure it is told in its entirety.

“Over the past century and a half, diverse Latino communities have mobilized to demand civic and political inclusion, however they have been left out of much of the telling of American history and our state histories,” Atkins said. “These recordings capture the local Latino community in South Texas and their grassroots participation in government.”

The digitization project, which began this fall, is scheduled to be completed in two phases, the first being the digitization/conversion of VHS tapes into mp4 standard format files. The second phase will focus on the creation of closed captions for each recording. Experts expect the project to wrap up in fall 2023.

“By transcribing the collection, we provide access for the millions of users who are deaf or hard of hearing, enhancing understanding for academic and local community members from diverse populations,” said Amanda Kowalski, TAMU-CC Digital Archivist at the Bell Library.    

Bell Library staff hope the project will enhance the partnership between the TAMU-CC archives and the Hispanic local community and act as a resource to students, professors, and community members with interest in local civil rights.

Islander theatre major Malorie Mosley ’23 was hired by the Bell Library to digitize the collection.

“Some of the issues the Mexican American community was fighting then, are still happening today,” Mosely said. “I think it’s important for the community to see just how long people have been fighting for and how far as a community we’ve come.”

This digitization project is just one of 43 made possible this year by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.

To learn more about the Bell Library Special Collections and Archives, click here.

This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (Grant# LS-252486-OLS-22*) to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act. (2022)