Access Services Librarian Dedicates Herself to Preserving Historical Treasures

© Western New Mexico University

Access Services Librarian Andrea Jaquez fell in love with history when she was a child growing up in California’s San Fernando Valley. There, she would ride her horse along the old stagecoach road that ran between the San Fernando Valley and Simi Valley, wondering about those that traveled the road before her. The passion for history that developed during her childhood rambles has fueled both her professional career and pastimes.

Jaquez came to WNMU J. Cloyd Miller Library in 1998, following a first career as an auditor for Nordstrom. Since then, she has assisted numerous library patrons as they have researched local history, investigated their own personal genealogy, or conducted research in the library’s special collections.

In southwest New Mexico, Jaquez has put down roots that bind her to the region’s history and culture and have made her inquisitive about the area’s past. “There is so much here that people don’t know about or that they take for granted,” she said.

Jaquez’s desire to uncover those hidden dimensions of her adopted home led her to partner with retired teacher and author Neta Pope to research Fort Bayard in Santa Clara, NM. Founded in 1866, Fort Bayard was a United States Army stronghold and later a Veterans Administration hospital specializing in tuberculosis. Today, the site is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jaquez and Pope’s research led them to publish The Fort Bayard Story, 1866-1899, which won the Gaspar Perez de Villagra Award for New Mexico History from the Historical Society of New Mexico, and it was recognized as a Notable Book by the Pima County Public Library’s Southwest Books of the Year in 2011. The book examines the early history of Fort Bayard during its years as an active fort.

As comprehensive as that book is, said, Jaquez, “There are still many more stories to be told” about Fort Bayard. “Its army hospital history needs to be told,” she said, “It was the first army hospital for TB south of Colorado.”

In addition to co-authoring The Fort Bayard Story, Jaquez has dedicated herself to preserving local history by serving for many years as the vice president of the Fort Bayard Historical Preservation Society and by participating in historical re-enactment at the fort.

The story of Fort Bayard, however, is not the only local history that intrigues Jaquez, who spends much of her time working with Miller Library’s archives. Included in those archives, she noted, are extensive local cemetery records, university newspapers, numerous other local historical documents, photographs, maps and the collections associated with the film The Salt of the Earth, including the Juan Chacón Collection and the Jack Cargill Collection.

Jaquez said she especially enjoys uncovering the little “tidbits of history” about the local area, like learning about a massacre that once happened on the slopes of Gomez Peak or finding newspaper coverage of a time when renowned author and environmentalist Edward Abbey spoke on campus.

Like so many other endeavors, said Jaquez, success in research and historical preservation is “all about what you put into it.”

While Jaquez’s interest in history developed in her childhood, her work in WNMU Miller Library has honed her understanding of her own role in uncovering and preserving history. “It was not until I worked here that I found myself with history,” she said, “There is some history in all of us.”

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