Object: Boots


Rocky Carroll
Materials: Leather

The boots pictured above are made from leather, dyed black, and have the State of Texas on them with the Texas Rangers‘ logo as well. These cowboy boots belonged to George W Bush, former Governor of Texas and the 43rd President of the United States. The boots were designed and made by Rocky Carroll.

George W Bush was born on July 6, 1946 in New Haven, Connecticut to parents George HW Bush and Barbara Pierce Bush. After attending school in Texas, Bush enrolled in at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, from 1961 to 1964. When he graduated he went on to study at  Yale University where he completed a Bachelor’s degree in History in 1968. After college, Bush enlisted in the Air National Guard, serving in both Texas and Alabama until he was discharged in November 1974. He then completed a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Harvard University in 1975. Bush was elected Governor of Texas in 1994 and served as Governor until 2000, when he was elected as the 43rd President of the United States. Bush served two terms as President and after his second term was done he returned to Texas as a private citizen.

Rocky Carroll, who made the boots pictured above, is a Texas boot maker that handcrafts custom leather boots. He has made boots for every President of the USA from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, the Queen of England, and several other high profile people. Carroll is the son and grandson of boot cobblers and has also helped his children open boot shops. He opened his first shop when he was 18 and has been making boots ever since. In 1964 he joined the Harris County Sheriff‘s Reserves and would work the graveyard shift, then turn around and open is store in the morning. He retired in 1996 and has been working at his store ever since. [Abby Goode, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:

Burgan, Michael. 2004. George W. Bush. Minneapolis, Minn: Compass Point Books.

Bush, George W. 2010. Decision points. New York: Crown Publishers.

Carlson, Paul Howard. 2000. The cowboy way: an exploration of history and culture. Lubbock, Tex: Texas Tech University Press.

Johnson, Frank W., Eugene C. Barker, and Ernest William Winkler. 1916. A history of Texas and Texans. Chicago: American Historical Society.


Photo Quiz

The answer to last months quiz is….Mexico! This ensemble was collected from the Trique (or Triqui) tribe in Oaxaca, Mexico.


Photo via: Summer Institute of Linguistics in Mexico, http://www-01.sil.org/mexico/mixteca/triqui-copala/00i-triquicopala-trc.htm

Can you guess what this is?

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We’ll post the answer on January 21st. Good luck!

Object: Ring


Finger Ring
Mexican American
United States
Materials: Metal, rhinestones, synthetic emeralds

When visiting the San Antonio Riverwalk you might see the occasional teenage girl dressed in a ball gown. Usually she will be with other young boys and girls, also dressed in formal attire. Unless you happen to be visiting during prom season, you have likely stumbled into a celebration called a quinceañera, or a girl’s fifteenth birthday party. The birthday girl is also referred to as the quinceañera. During the quinceañera the young girl will usually wear a ball gown, a tiara, and other forms of jewelry. This object is a 10ct gold birthstone ring; it has 2 rhinestone and 5 synthetic emeralds.

A quinceañera is an elaborate celebration marking a girl’s 15th birthday. This birthday party is a milestone in the young girl’s life. The celebration involves a mass and an extravagant party afterwards. Throughout the mass and party different traditions are performed. The tradition of the quinceañera is practiced in the Mexican culture but also seen in Central and South America, as well as places like Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The origin of the quinceañera is not known, but has been associated with ancient Aztec, Maya, and Toltec traditions. In the Aztec culture a girl turning 15 meant she was ready for marriage. During this time, different ceremonies were performed to ensure the young woman was prepared for her duties in society. When Maximilian I and Carlota occupied Mexico, it is said that the court atmosphere influenced the tradition of the quinceañera and aspects of a traditional European debutantecoming out” were incorporated into this coming of age event.

Qunice Gown

Just one type of dress that could be worn during a quincaenera. Image from merledress.com

In the Mexican culture a quinceañera is planned months in advance. Things like the reception hall, music, food, and decorations must be picked out early. The young girl and her mother will pick out the dress that she is to wear far in advance of the event, so that it can be specially tailored to the girl’s figure, if needed. The dress is typically a solid color ball gown. The color of the dress depends on the girl’s preference. The ball gown is supposed to be the first adult gown worn. However, in the modern world, most girls will have probably already worn adult style dresses.

The first event to take place on the day of the quinceañera is a Catholic mass in which friends and family accompany the girl to renew her baptismal vows. This is meant to show that the girl is committed to God by her own free will. During the mass she also takes a bouquet of flowers to the Virgin Mary and asks for guidance. A quinceañera mass has evolved over time. In earlier traditions the whole ceremony would only consist of the saying of the rosary, a prayer and meditation session.

There are other items the girl receives for her quinceañera. For example a birthstone ring like the one shown here is often given to the girl by padrinos (godfather) and madrinas (godmother) or sponsors. The birthstone ring symbolizes the girl’s commitment to her community and to God. The family of the girl anticipates the ring eventually being replaced by a wedding band during her next stage in life.

Quinceanera Sarah Doll in Black & Fuchsia

A Quincaenera Doll. Image from quinceanera-boutique.com

After the mass, a party or fiesta is held in honor of the young girl. During the party the girl has a first dance with her father, or a father figure. The girl also dances with her court of damas (dames) and chambelanes (chamberlains). A toast is made in honor of the young girl and her accomplishments up until this point in her life. The birthday girl also makes a small speech to thank everyone for accompanying her on the special day. Some traditional activities performed during the party involve the changing of the shoes. This is where the father gives the girl her first pair of high heels. In this event the father takes the girls flats off and replaces them with heels. Another tradition involves giving the quinceañera her last doll. The doll represents the girl leaving childhood and entering a new stage in her life, which is basically what the whole celebration is about.


Bullet ant “glove.” Image from odditycentral.com.

A quinceañera is one of many coming of age traditions practiced in different cultures. For example in the Jewish tradition a Bar and Bat Mitzvah is celebrated when a boy turns 13 and a girl 12. In this tradition a young man or woman demonstrates their commitment to their faith and recognize Jewish law. In places like the Brazilian Amazon the Satere-Mawe Tribe have a coming of age ritual in which a boy places his hands inside bullet ant lined mittens. This ritual is said to transform young boys into men. The young boy must leave his hands inside the mittens for 10 minutes and repeat the ritual a total of 20 times. The ant bite is said to be as painful as being shot by a gun, which is where the name bullet ant comes from. In Amish communities a period called Rumspringa is practiced. This is a time between the ages of 14-16 in which a young boy or girl are allowed certain freedoms. These freedoms vary by community, but often include being allowed to dress like a non-Amish person, going to the movies, or buying electronic devices. At the end of Rumspringa the young boy or girl must decide to either get baptized and stay in the Amish community, or leave the community altogether.

The celebration of a quinceañera has evolved and continues to evolve as the years go by. Many young girls who live in the United States have even changed the year and celebrate a “sweet sixteen” with the traditions of the quinceañera. For a young girl, her quinceañera is one of the most special events in her life and a day she will never forget. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:
Alvarez, Julia. 2007. Once upon a quinceañera: coming of age in the USA. New York: Viking.

Lopez, Adriana. 2007. Fifteen candles: 15 tales of taffeta, hairspray, drunk uncles, and other Quinceañera stories : an anthology. New York: Rayo.

Hilton, Michael. 2014. Bar mitzvah: a history.

Stevick, Richard A. 2007. Growing up Amish: the teenage years. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Museum FAQ: Temperature

The last time you visited a museum you may have noticed that the temperature in the galleries was a bit cooler than you’d like it.  Museum visitors often ask “Why is it so cold in here?” While every museum wants you to enjoy your visit, we also have to do everything we can to help preserve and protect our artifacts.

temperature devicesSo, why are museums cool?

Temperature, along with humidity, plays a major role in object preservation. As temperatures change, the amount of moisture in the air changes. These changes will cause some types of materials to swell or shrink, trigger mold growth, cause corrosion, or cause certain types of chemicals break down. Rapid changes in temperature cause the most damage. While objects are in storage they are often kept inside boxes and cabinets to help insulate them from rapid changes. Each type of material (wood, metal, glass, leather, plastic, etc.) has a different ideal temperature range. Ivory is best stored around 70° F, while films are better off near freezing temperatures. However, most museums house a wide variety of artifacts and have to settle on a temperature that is both comfortable for their guests and minimally damaging to the objects. This means that most museums keep their exhibit spaces at around 68° F, and try to maintain that temperature as much as possible. Especially sensitive artifacts must be kept in separate storage areas that are better suited to their needs, and can only be displayed for short periods of time (often with specially designed cases).

In order to maintain these conditions, museum must closely monitor the temperature and humidity throughout the building, so that any unexpected changes can be addressed quickly. Museums use a number of different tools to help track these changes, including: hygrothermographs, environmental data loggers, humidity indicator papers, and thermometers. The photo on the left shows some examples of these types of tools. Did you spot some of these in your last museum visit?

Learn more about this topic here….

Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute

National Parks Service Conserve O Grams

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Canadian Conservation Institute

Ellen Carrlee Conservation

Object: Photos & letter

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Photographs and letter
Materials: Paper, ink

The objects shown above are a photo of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, and a letter from the Queen’s staff to the Institute of Texan Cultures. The photos and letter were sent as a thank you from Her Majesty for her tour of the Institute of Texan Cultures and for a copy of the book “English Texans.” The Queen visited the Institute during her May 14-17, 1991 tour of the United States, which included San Antonio and several other Texas cities. The Queen has visited the United States five times since she came to the throne. This was the first time that a British Monarch had set foot on Texas soil.

UK Map

Map of the United Kingdom from Maps.com

Queen Elizabeth II has many official titles. She is the Queen of England and Head of State for the United Kingdom, along with fifteen other Commonwealth countries. The United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The Commonwealth includes more than 50 countries which have either been part of the old British Empire or were ruled over at one time by Britain. The Queen is the Sovereign of only 15 of these countries, but she is the recognized as the Head of the Commonwealth by all member nations. She was born in 1926 and became Queen of England when she was 25 years old.  Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were married on November 20, 1947 and have four children, eight grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.

Great Britain has a constitutional monarchy. This type of monarchy is different than an absolute monarchy in several ways, the most important difference is that the monarch does not have the right to make and pass legislation. Legislation is left to an elected Parliament and the Prime Minister, who is chosen from the majority party in Parliament. The monarch has many important duties both ceremonial and official, focusing on national identity, providing stability in times of change, recognizing excellence, and encouraging voluntary service.

english royal family

Prince George’s christening. Photo from BBC.

The position of the monarch is usually hereditary and there is a specific line of succession, usually associated with birth sequence. In many countries, the title passes to the eldest son born to the king and queen, this type of succession is known as primogeniture. In this type of succession daughters can only take the throne if the king and queen didn’t have any sons. This was the case with Queen Elizabeth II, who only has a younger sister. Primogeniture succession was only recently changed in the Commonwealth. The current line of succession is The Prince of Wales (Charles), his son The Duke of Cambridge (William), and then his son Prince George of Cambridge. Titles change as one is born, married, and then crowned. [Abby Goode, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Resources:
Hilliam, David. 1998. Kings, queens, bones, and bastards: who’s who in the English monarchy from Egbert to Elizabeth II. Phoenix Mill, Thrupp, Stroud: Sutton.

McGiffert, John, and McGiffert, Pat. 1991. Interview with John McGiffert, 1991-05-21. University of Texas at San Antonio. http://server16018.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p15125coll4,1701.

Pimlott, Ben. 1997. The Queen: a biography of Elizabeth II. New York: Wiley.

Smith, Goldwin. 1899. The United Kingdom; a political history. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Object: Coprolite


Native American
Hinds Cave, Texas
4000 BC – 200 AD
Materials: Fossilized feces


Photo via: Eleazar Hernández, UTSA Sombrilla

Archaeologists study ancient and recent human history through material remains that are left behind. These materials could be from trash piles, buildings, burials, etc. Archeologists look for both man-made objects like pottery, jewelry, weapons, etc. and organic materials, such as plants, bones, and human or animal waste. These materials are generally referred to as artifacts. Archaeologists systematically collect these artifacts while carefully recording where and how each piece was found. After recording all of this information they can use it to help decipher the story of the people who came before. The artifact above was located in West Texas at Hinds Cave.

Val Verde Texas map

Val Verde county is highlighted, this is where Hinds Cave is located.

Research began in Hinds Cave to gather more knowledge and data about the people who had lived in the area during the Archaic period, which was from 8,000 to around 2,000 B.C.E. They are believed to have been hunter-gatherers, and may have been nomadic. Nomadic people travel from site to site rather than live in permanent settlement, like a city. They move based on the seasons, their food sources (e.g. bison or other animals), or the availability of water. As the archaeologists excavated (systematically remove layers of soil) and analyzed the objects that were found in the cave; they were able to discover information about the people that lived there.

These individuals utilized the resources in the area to survive. Among the items found were plant remains; fiber sandals, netting and beds; and human coprolites. Coprolites are fossilized fecal matter. Coprolites provide evidence of what the people in the area ate and give hints as to what the environment would have been like. These items also provided evidence of when these people were living in the cave.

The people of Hinds Cave lived very differently than people do today. These peoples lived off what they could forage or hunt. They tended to live in family groups consisting of about 10 to 25 people. These individuals would move throughout the land in search of better resources depending on the season. In some areas of the Lower Pecos Canyon-lands there is evidence of rock art made by the ancient people who lived there. [Abby Goode, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

The following video discusses how archaeologists excavate sites to recover historical objects.

Additional Resources:
Bryant, Vaughn M. 1974. Prehistoric diet in Southwest Texas the coprolite evidence. Menasha, Wis: Society for American Archaeology.

Bryant, Vaughn M., and Glenna W. Dean. 2006. “Archaeological coprolite science: the legacy of Eric O. Callen (1912-1970)”. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 237: 51-66.

Dean, G.W. 2006. “The science of coprolite analysis: The view from Hinds cave”. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 237 (1): 67-79.

Reinhard, Karl J, and Bryant, Vaughn M., Jr. 1992. Coprolite Analysis: A Biological Perspective on Archaeology. DigitalCommons@University of Nebraska – Lincoln. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/natrespapers/46.

Riley, Tim. 2012. “Assessing diet and seasonality in the Lower Pecos canyonlands: an evaluation of coprolite specimens as records of individual dietary decisions”. Journal of Archaeological Science. 39 (1): 145-162.

Sobolik, Kristin D. 1988. “The Importance of Pollen Concentration Values from Coprolites: An Analysis of Southwest Texas Samples”. Palynology. 12: 201-214.

ITC is on Amazon Smile

With the holiday season on its way, and Cyber Monday just around the corner, we have some great news! The Institute of Texan Cultures has recently partnered with Amazon Smile, one of Amazon.com’s charitable giving programs. By selecting the “University of Texas Foundation” as your charitable beneficiary, the Institute of Texan Cultures can earn 0.5% of your purchase price to use towards funding our great programs and exhibits. This program doesn’t cost you, the Amazon customer anything, and helps to support great community organizations like the ITC.

amazon smile logo

Click here to learn more!.

Object: Bleeding Cup

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Bleeding Cup
Date: 1820-1900
Material: Glass

The average human adult contains about 10 pints of blood. Loss of blood due to an injury, car accident, surgery or any other reason can lead to shock, or worse, death. Which is why blood donors are always needed.  However, throughout history bloodletting, a type of procedure in which blood is removed from the body, was said to benefit one’s health. The object pictured above is a bleeding cup used from around 1820-1900. The cup is made out of clear blown glass. Bleeding cups were one of many tools used during the practice of bloodletting.


Slide via: Hatam A. Shomilie , Medical Science at University of Sharjah

Removing blood from the body, or bloodletting, can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks. It was believed that the body contained four humors. The humors consisted of blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile and they needed to be balanced or else a person would fall ill. At this time it was also believed that blood did not circulate, but stayed in one place. As a result when a person got ill the remedy would be to remove the excess blood. Bloodletting was prescribed as a remedy to things like fever, back pain, headaches, acne, and even bone fractures.

Getting bled was common and many people chose the practice because it was thought to be preventative medicine. Some of the tools used for bloodletting included were scarificators, syringes, spring loaded lancets, leeches, and a glass cup. The cup would be heated and placed over the skin. As the air inside the cup cools it creates a vacuum and causes a blood filled blister. An object called a scarificator would be used and the cup would be used again to collect the blood. Bloodletting using a bleeding cup is also called cupping. Cupping can also be done without removing blood and is said to help blood flow and treat pain. There are different kinds of cupping therapy and certain cultures still practice it today to treat and prevent disease. However, cupping therapy has not been proven effective by scientific research studies.

The following video discusses some of the tools used for bloodletting.


Photo via: Kappersproducten.nl, Wikimedia Commons

During the Middle Ages bloodletting was performed by barbers rather than doctors. The barbers became known as barber surgeons and would perform surgery on people. The barber surgeons would not only cut hair but also perform minor surgeries,  bloodletting, enemas and tooth extraction. Customers could easily find barber surgeons by looking for the red, white, and blue pole outside the shop. Some of these barber poles can still be seen today and it is said that the colors represent the blood, bandages, and veins during bloodletting.

Bloodletting was practiced in different parts of the world in including the United States. George Washington was a firm believer in bloodletting, an may have even died due to excessive bloodletting. After getting sick from being out in the rain and snow, Washington complained of a sore throat and could not swallow. When doctors were called he was bled of 3.75 liters of blood in 9-10 hours. Although, he did feel better for a short while he did not make it and passed away. Whether bloodletting played a role in his death is often debated.

Today removing blood from the human body is called phlebotomy and it is only done for diagnostic purposes or when donating blood. [Joscelynn Garcia, edited by Jennifer McPhail]

Additional Sources:

Brain, Peter, and Galen. 1986. Galen on bloodletting: a study of the origins, development, and validity of his opinions, with a translation of the three works. Cambridge [Cambridgeshire]: Cambridge University Press.

Davis, Audrey B., and Toby A. Appel. 1979. Bloodletting instruments in the National Museum of History and Technology. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Garrison, Fielding H. 1916. The history of bloodletting.

McCann, Henry. 2014. Pricking the vessels: bloodletting therapy in Chinese medicine.

Stern, Heinrich. 1915. Theory and practice of bloodletting. New York: Rebman Company.

Photo Quiz

The answer to last months quiz is…Cod Liver Oil!

cod liver oil

Can you guess where this ensemble comes from?

I-0226c_e_g front

We’ll post the answer on December 17th. Good luck!

Institute of Texan Cultures Collections Blog

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Experimenting with collections access since 2013

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Exploring the digital humanities

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experimenting with social microexhibitions since 2007


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