New Mexico Political
Archive brings history to life
brown and white boxes disguise the treasures inside. Lift the
lid and the smell of history rises from within. Look closely and
see lively debate, conflict and controversy come to life in photographs
and papers that stop time in its tracks and give researchers firsthand
information about New Mexicos colorful past.
For two decades,
the idea brewed in the UNM General Library about creating a political
papers program. So many collections were in hand papers
of Governors Toney Anaya and Jerry Apodaca and those of Representative
Steve Schiff and Senator Harrison Schmitt, and more, but the library
had limited resources and personnel to provide oversight or to
process collections. Until now.
Díaz, research historian for the UNM General Library, is
charged to care for, maintain, track and process an array of collections
in the newly created UNM New Mexico Political Archive (NMPA).
NMPA operates out of the old Elks Building on University Blvd.,
next to Continuing Education, because of the need for space to
house, organize and process such extensive collections.
have 4,200 cubic feet of materials from elected or appointed officials
that currently represent individual political participation in
20th century national, state and local politics, she says
of collections that are a part of the Center for Southwest Research
(CSWR), but not accessible or available for use by researchers.
President of the United States and executive branch officials
whose records are federal property, U.S. senators and representatives
personally own and control records created and maintained in their
offices. Libraries and public policy centers around the country
vie for ownership of the original documents.
were concerned about what would happen to congressional papers
if we didnt get them, Díaz says. She says they,
Díaz and student workers, created a manuscript inventory.
We pulled out those collections that had been processed,
including the papers of such luminaries as Senators Dennis Chavez
and Clinton Anderson. Inventories for those are on file in the
CSWR and on the Online Archive of New Mexico (OANM). The materials
themselves are available at the center, she says.
then looked at unprocessed collections. Many were in storage,
representing hundreds of boxes of documents chronicling the careers
of the likes of Joseph Montoya and Pete Domenici. We identified
the collections and determined the size, she says. Most
collections consist of box after box filling up a range of shelving.
also created a list to match what we have against whats
out there that we might need to acquire to fill in gaps historically,
Díaz says. They also questioned how they were going to
define the collection. We decided to include not just elected
and appointed officials, but also those prominent in political
circles, such as Franz Huning, she says. He exerted
influence and was well connected politically.
With a goal
to preserve basic information necessary for research on economic,
social and political issues, Díaz recognizes that personal
papers document historical discussions and context while remaining
important to the cultural memory of New Mexicans. And not all
political papers are from individuals.
government spent a lot of money in New Mexico through the years
and it was channeled into the state through Indian Affairs. Collections
from Indian Affairs, the U.S. Pueblo Lands Board, oral histories,
and more chronicle politics, economics and even personal histories.
have five boxes from Glenn Emmons, superintendent of the Bureau
of Indian Affairs. The Indian records are tied to political periods.
We may not have everything, but what we have is representative
historically, Díaz says.
histories, files from the League of Women Voters and the New Mexico
Democratic State Central Committee are included. Two years
ago, we didnt see the complete picture there were
gaps we are looking for collections to answer many questions,
Díaz soon realized that in order to make the collection
manageable, she needed to focus. Twentieth century New Mexico
is well represented by state and federal officials. We decided
to focus on them and the modern political period, she says.
developed a proposal so that people could see the potential in
working on these papers as a collective unit. Materials were in
three remote storage facilities as well as in the Zimmerman Library
basement and the old annex. Díaz learned that the librarys
annex, located at the old Volkswagen building, was to be demolished
to put up a building for health sciences, and the Elks Building
was identified as a site for the collection. Adequate temporary
storage space, security, good environmental controls, and areas
to process the collections were all there.
the focus is on poltical papers, other projects or portions of
three collections can be processed at one time, she says.
One such collection being processed is the Hal Dean architectural
collection. In addition to 92 boxes of materials, drawings and
other unboxed items are part of the collection. We also
have 600 tubes of architectural drawings, Díaz says.
Those require special handling because they have been rolled up
for so long. They are flattened and damage is repaired and theyre
documented in terms of what building the drawing represents, time
frame and other detail. Such unique collections require
a large space allocation to adequately prepare and handle the
materials, she adds.
says Díaz, is to provide a first-rate program to meet the
instructional and curriculum needs of UNM while promoting advanced
and sophisticated research on the national political process.
archives traditionally have a history of neglect,
says Díaz. Ours is an aggressive project to create
a model program for other agencies and institutions to follow
regarding the official and personal papers of elected and appointed
the collections will once again be housed and accessible through
the librarys Center for Southwest Research and promoted
through OANM, Díaz says.
in oral history offered
to archival work, Díaz provides groups with workshops and
training. As an oral historian, she recently trained a group of
50 Albuquerque High School students to conduct oral history interviews.
Their school project is to interview World War II veterans. I
also teach them how to do research and how to place oral histories
in their context.
funded by the Center for Regional Studies, will allow her to train
budding oral historians. One group is collecting information from
Bataan veterans, another group from the New Mexico Jewish Historical
Society, received training for their Pioneer Oral Video Project.
The New Mexico
Historical Society came recently to look at the collections. We
provide a unique community outreach opportunity. People love to
come visit and learn about UNMs projects and programs,