Piece of South Texas History Now Preserved Forever Online

October 09, 2014

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CORPUS CHRISTI, TexasOne of the most historically significant collections of maps in the state will soon be available online thanks to a $64,000 grant from the Ed Rachal Foundation and a partnership between Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Mary and Jeff Bell Library and the Conrad Blucher Institute (CBI) for Surveying and Science.

“The Blucher map collection contains thousands of maps, notes, diagrams, charts and related historical documents,” said Dr. Richard Smith, Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Science at A&M-Corpus Christi and Research Scientist at CBI. “Prior to this project, these documents were only available for in-person viewing by the public.”

That is in the process of being changed right now. The grant is being used to hire students to carefully scan all of the documents to be displayed online. The work should be completed by December.

“Hiring students to work on this project provides them with work experience and opportunities to apply their new knowledge and participate in a project that is meaningful to our South Texas community,” said Smith.

The maps and notes, dating back to 1849, were all donated to the University by Conrad Blucher. Blucher, his father, Charles Blucher, and his grandfather, Felix von Blücher, were all professional land surveyors and engineers in South Texas who mapped the area for 160 years.

“The maps include a survey of the King Ranch by Felix von Blücher done in 1871, a map of the Port of Corpus Christi from 1935,” said Smith. “And Ward Island maps from as far back as 1914 showing how Ward Island was going to potentially be developed as a neighborhood.”

Ward Island, instead,  went on to be the home of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, where the historical documents are now stored as the Conrad Blucher Map Collection in the Special Collections and Archives department of the Mary and Jeff Bell Library.   

“The Rachal Foundation is proud to support the preservation and easy access of such important historical documents,” said Paul Altheide, Chief Executive Officer with the Ed Rachal Foundation. “This fits both the science and the education prongs of our mission and helps ensure that future generations maintain a vital link to our shared past through these maps.”

Smith says the partnership on the scanning project, between the Mary and Jeff Bell Library and the CBI, enables both departments to accomplish a common goal --- ensuring preservation of, and public access to the unique and historical Blucher map collection and other surveying collections, such as the William Green collection, housed in the Special Collections and Archives Department of the Mary and Jeff Bell Library.

“Ultimately, this endeavor will support scholarly activity in many subject areas, aid practicing surveyors and geographic information scientists, and attract high caliber students and researchers to the Bell Library, the Blucher Institute and the University,” said Smith.