The Alexander Architectural Archive at the University of Texas at Austin is an architectural research center that supports research and education about the history of the built environment, begun in 1958 by UT Professor Blake Alexander. Notable collections include drawings from well-known Galveston architect Nicholas Clayton, which survived the 1900 Galveston Storm, records from the San Antonio firm of Ayres & Ayres, and the work of James Riley Gordon, who designed many of Texas’ historic county courthouses. Today, the Archive is the largest such resource in Texas, comprising over 280,000 drawings, 1,150 linear feet of papers, photographic material (56,000 prints, 22,700 negatives, 214,600 slides), models and ephemera.
The Archives of the Episcopal Church, located on the campus of the Seminary of the Southwest, is the official repository for the archival records created by the General Convention, the Executive Council, and the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church. It collects and preserves official records of the Church as well as materials that document the informal areas of church life and personal papers of individual members and church leaders. While the archive primarily supports the work of the church, public researchers are welcomed by appointment.
Beginning in 1955 as 2 drawers of vertical files in the Austin Public Library’s Reference Department, the Austin History Center provides the public with information about the history, current events, and activities of Austin and Travis County and also serves as the City of Austin archives. The collection includes over 3000 feet of archives and manuscripts, over 1 million photographic images, over 30,000 hours of film and video, thousands of audio recordings, nearly 1000 maps, over 3000 periodical titles, and more than 35,000 volumes documenting the story of Texas’ capitol. The collection is housed in the historic 1933 Central Library building.
The Austin Seminary Archives, located in the Seminary’s Stitt Library, collects records from the Seminary’s administrative activities and educational programs, its publications, memorabilia, photographic records, and the occasional memoirs and personal papers of the Seminary’s faculty. The archive also documents the work of the Presbyterian Church in the southwest, with collections covering Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana, encompassing all forms of the Presbyterian and Reformed traditions, including many congregational histories. While primarily serving the research interests of faculty and students, the archive is open to all.
The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, part of the University of Texas Libraries, is a specialized research library focusing on materials from and about Latin America, and on materials relating to Latinos in the United States. Named in honor of its former director (1942-1975), the collection contains over 970,000 books, periodicals, pamphlets, and microforms; 4,000 linear feet of manuscripts; 19,000 maps; 11,500 broadsides; 93,500 photographs; and 50,000 items in a variety of other media (sound recordings, drawings, video tapes and cassettes, slides, transparencies, posters, memorabilia, and electronic media), the largest collection of its kind in the country. Nearly a third of its holdings come from an exchange program with Latin American institutions, where duplicate titles are traded for Latin American publications.
The Catholic Archives of Texas began in 1923 by Texas Knights of Columbus Historical Commission, with a goal of publishing a history of Catholicism in Texas, the seven-volume work Our Catholic Heritage in Texas, 1519-1936 by Carlos E. Castañeda. The Archives’ mission is to collect, preserve and make available for research those records of individuals and organizations engaged in work reflecting the goals of the Catholic Church in Texas. Significant holdings include records of the Texas Catholic Conference, Texas Knights of Columbus, and Texas Catholic Historical Society, as well as personal papers of Paul J. Foik, William H. Oberste, and Sam Houston.
The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History is a leading history research center and part of the University of Texas. Its collections are vast, with significant holdings on Texas history (indeed, the collection began as the Eugene Barker Texas History Center, and many still call it the Barker Center), political history, southern history, American energy history, civil rights and social justice, news media, mathematics, and military history. In addition to its primary research center on the UT Campus, the Briscoe Center also includes locations across the state: the Sam Rayburn Museum in Bonham, the Briscoe-Garner Museum in Uvalde, and Winedale, a complex of historical structures in Round Top.
UT Provost Harry Huntt Ransom founded the Ransom Center in 1957, then called the Humanities Research Center, with a vision of the “Bibliotheque Nationale of the only state that started out as an independent nation.” Building on rare books collected by the university since 1897, the collection focuses on the study of literature and culture and contains over 36 million leaves of manuscripts, 1 million rare books, 5 million photographs (including the first ever photograph), and 100,000 works of art. In addition to literary manuscripts, such as collections of Samuel Beckett and James Joyce, the HRC has strengths in the performing arts (Norman Bel Geddes Collection), photography (Helmut Gernsheim), and film (David O. Selznick).
The Stark Center, the newest archive in Austin, got its start as the Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection, founded by UT faculty members Terry and Jan Todd who began collecting materials about physical culture and sports well before their arrival at The University of Texas in 1983, and with the support of Professor Roy McLean. The collection encourages academic scholarship in such fields as the history of physical fitness, weightlifting, bodybuilding, naturopathy, athletic training, and alternative medicine and is the largest of its kind in the world. After years of being mostly inaccessible in the Anna Hiss Gym, the Stark Center recently opened a brand new 27,500 square foot facility in the UT Memorial Stadium north end zone.
The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, one of 13 Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, holds more than 45 million pages, an extensive audiovisual collection, and 2,000 oral history interviews related to Johnson’s presidency. At the library’s opening, President Johnson said, “This library will show the facts, not just the joy and triumphs, but the sorrows and failures, too.” Located on the UT Campus in a Gordon Bunshaft designed building, the LBJ Library completed a year-long, $11 million, renovation in December 2012, including a brand new, 3-floor exhibit (and now charges admission).
The Texas Legislature created the Lower Colorado River Authority in 1934 to provide water and utility service to Central Texas. Most of its early work was centered on managing federal New Deal money to build a series of six dams along the Colorado River, creating what is now known as the Highland Lakes. The Corporate Archives preserves materials that document LCRA history and includes photographs, publications, documents, moving images, oral histories, and selected artifacts. The collection is open to the public by appointment.
St. Edward’s University is one of the oldest universities in Texas (and, if you count its years as a boy’s school prior to becoming an accredited college, it predates UT by 12 years). Brother Philip Odette, C.S.C , founded the SEU Archives in 1958 to document the human record of St. Edward’s Academy, College, High School, Military Academy, and University from approximately 1871 to the present. Its collections include administrative records, personal collections documenting the lives of faculty, staff and students, Congregation of the Holy Cross records, and many others in a wide variety of formats.
The Archives Department of the State Bar of Texas serves as the official repository for the permanently valuable records of the State Bar of Texas (1939 – present), as well as the Texas Bar Association (1882 – 1939) and donated legal history materials.
The Tarlton Law Library Archives is part of the Rare Books & Manuscripts department of the library and serves primarily as the archival repository for the University of Texas School of Law. The collection includes papers of faculty and alumni of the law school and offers much documentation on the legal history of Texas and the US. Additionally, the archives holds the papers of several Texas judges, such as the James McClendon Papers, collections related to US legal history, including the Judge Joseph C. Hutcheson, Jr., Papers, and the Justice Tom C. Clark Papers.
The Texas Archeological Research Laboratory (TARL) of the University of Texas at Austin is the largest archeological repository in the state. It began in 1963 when numerous archeological collections across the UT campus were consolidated. The collections include artifacts as well as the supporting archives from thousands of archeological sites, most notably an extensive photographic collection that includes the largest set of rock art photographs in the state. The collection’s strength is on the history and prehistory of Texas, though there are also significant TARL collections from Louisiana, New Mexico, and Belize.
The Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization working to discover, preserve, provide access to, and educate the community about Texas’ film heritage. TAMI’s ever-growing online collection includes home movies, amateur films, advertisements, local television, industrial and corporate productions, as well as Hollywood and internationally produced moving images of Texas. TAMI’s educational programs promote the sharing of Texas moving images via screenings, demonstrations, and lectures at venues across the state. TAMI also works with educators to encourage the use of Texas film in the K-12 social studies classroom.
The Archives of the Texas General Land Office was established in 1837, begun by the Land Office’s first commissioner, John P. Borden, whose first order of business was to gather and consolidate land records that were held by many disparate entities and individuals. Its collection consists of land grant records and maps dating to the 18th century that detail the passage of Texas public lands to private ownership. The GLO Archives is home to more than 35.5 million documents and 80,000 maps, dating back to the year 1720.
Located in the historic Gethsemane Lutheran Church building just north of the Capitol, the THC Library houses a unique collection of research materials to support historic preservation research of the THC staff and the public. The collection contains approximately 5,000 publications, most of which focus on some aspect of Texas’ rich heritage, and are divided into four main areas: museum studies, archeology, state and local history, and historic preservation and architecture. It’s most significant collections include the agency’s historical marker files, which number about 15,500, and a file collection of the state’s 3,183 National Register sites. The library is open by appointment only.
The Legislative Reference Library’s primary function is to perform research for Texas legislators, their staff, and legislative committees, but the library also assists the public and other state agencies with legislative research. The collections includes Legislative bill files from the 63rd legislature (1973) forward as well as more than 49,400 titles and 134,772 volumes, including books, reports, periodicals, and Texas state documents. It also includes the Joe K. Longley-Philip K. Maxwell Deceptive Trade Practices Act Collection, an extensive legislative archive regarding this important piece of legislation.
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission began in 1839 when Republic of Texas President Mirabeau Lamar signed into law an act establishing a “national library.” Library and archival functions remained separate until the creation of the Texas Library and Historical Commission in 1909. Maintaining the official history of Texas government, the State Archives includes archival government records dating back to the 18th century, as well as newspapers, journals, books, manuscripts, photographs, historical maps, and other historical resources, as well as maintaining a Federal Depository Library, Texas State Publications Depository, and Genealogy Library.
The Travis County Archives is a division of the Records Management and Communication Resources (RMCR) department of Travis County and documents the functions and activities of the Travis County government, supports the conduct of the government by preserving and providing access to essential county records, and maintains the history of the county and its community through the preservation of records with historical value. County records are also maintained by the County Clerk and the District Clerk (which has its own archives). The collection is open by appointment only.
A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Center Special Collections
at Southwestern University in Georgetown
The library’s special collections are home to the university’s archives and rare books collections covering a wide array of subjects, including Texana, Methodism, 19th century American and British literature, and travel. The archives primarily document the activities of the university and Methodism in Texas. One notable collection is the John G. Tower Papers, an 800 linear foot collection documenting Tower’s life and career as a U. S. Senator from Texas (1961-1984).
Texas State University Archives
at Albert R. Alkek Library in San Marcos
The Texas State University Archives documents the history of the university, dating back to its founding as Southwest Texas State Normal School in 1899. The university’s archives is a relatively new entity and is just beginning the process of organizing, preserving, and making available the historical records of the institution. Research appointments are highly encouraged; walk-in assistance is dependent on staff and space availability.
The Wittliff Collections
at Texas State University in San Marcos
Austin photographer and screenwriter Bill Witliff (Lonesome Dove) and his wife Sally founded this archive, located on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos, that houses three main collections. The Southwestern Writers Collection includes the literary archives of noted Southwestern writers, such as Cormac McCarthy, Sam Shepard, and John Graves. The Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection houses a large and growing archive devoted to the photographic arts of Mexico and the Southwest. The Lonesome Dove Collection includes the production record of the miniseries that originally aired on CBS in 1989.
* Descriptions of the archives were culled and paraphrased from their websites by Mike Miller, and were previously published in the May 2013 issue of the Southwestern Archivist.