My name is Liz Zepeda and I am one of three archivists/librarians at the Arizona Historical Society – Library and Archives Division in Tucson, Arizona. As a first-generation Chicana, I have always been interested in archives. I have always kept every single document of my life and of those around me. While I was an undergrad at California State University, Long Beach, I was heavily involved in the La Raza Student Association (our MEChA) and was so thrilled to find primary source information in the university’s archive about a Chicana Feminist group from the 1970’s called, Las Hijas de Cuauhtemoc.
Las Hijas de Cuauhtemoc had a Chicana Feminist newspaper by the same name, which spoke about Chicana and Latina women’s struggles during the Chicano movement and life in the 1970’s. Being one of the first in my family to go to college in the United States, I really related to those struggles of family obligation, sexism, religion, and college life. Later, Las Hijas were a part of creating the first Chicana Feminist journal. My friends and I were so inspired and empowered, we had two Chicana Feminist conferences to spread this amazing history of California State University, Long Beach, and other Chicana feminist collectives. From that moment, I knew that I wanted to work with cultural heritage archives, and to provide accessibility to these primary source materials and histories.
2. Last year you started working at the Arizona Historical Society located in Tucson, AZ. However, while you interned there as a graduate student you worked on a digital exhibit titled, “Mexican Heritage Project -La Herencia del Pueblo.” Can you tell us a little bit more about this project and your goals for collecting and outreaching?
The Mexican Heritage Project — La Herencia del Pueblo was an amazing effort in the 1980’s from archivists, librarians, historians and community members who got together to fill in the gaps that were present in the Arizona Historical Society concerning the Mexican and Mexican American community. The archive received business records, family records, oral histories, and over 4,000 photographs. For my job as an intern at the Arizona Historical Society in January 2013, I was a part of the group to digitize over 300 of these photographs. They range from the 1870’s-1950’s, span multiple generations, and highlight locations particularly important to the Mexican American communities in Tucson. Please click here to view the digital exhibit.
As of May of 2014, I began to work at the Arizona Historical Society as an archivist/librarian, and we are in the planning stages of creating a traveling exhibit for the Mexican Heritage Project to visit different locations all over Arizona with hopes of providing access to these stunning photographs and rich histories, as well as to collect more records of the Latino communities in Arizona.
3. What has been the most rewarding part of your career thus far? Any advice for your fellow Professionals?
One of the most rewarding parts of my career so far has been presenting the Mexican Heritage Project digital exhibit at the Library of Congress’ Cultural Heritage Archives Symposium in September of 2013. Not only did I present this work; I was also able to hear innovate methods of providing access to cultural heritage materials that other institutions had done, and met other archivists in the field.
My advice for fellow professionals would be to never be afraid of change. Move where the job takes you. And be open to new experiences and life lessons. I lived in Santa Ana, Orange County, California, my whole life, and never thought I would leave, but going to graduate school in Tucson, and finding a job here, has made me be more open to embracing and loving change.