A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Amanda Norman, University Archivist

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we will feature monthly posts from our staff—from faculty to student workers—offering a little peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection. Meet Amanda Norman, Baylor graduate (M.A. 2009), native Texan, and University Archivist:

Baylor University Student Union calendar, October 1963
This 1963-1964 calendar illustrates just how busy Baylor’s Student Union and Baylor student life in general could be, with organization meetings, Coke and Dr Pepper parties, lectures, movie screenings, and more.

I am the keeper of Baylor history. That’s the short version I tell people when they ask what I do. The usual reaction is something like, “Wow. That’s a big job.” It is—Baylor has grown quite a bit since its founding in 1845, and it has a wonderfully complex and storied past. And it’s a joy to share that history with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and others interested in Baylor’s heritage.

My goal as University Archivist is to document the life of Baylor University by collecting, preserving, and providing access to university records. The Texas Collection became the official university archives in 2007, which is pretty late in the game for an institution that’s over 160 years old. Fortunately, The Texas Collection had been the accepted de facto institutional repository for many years, so we do have a very healthy-sized University Archives.

Problem is, it should be bigger. The records haven’t necessarily come in consistently—the archives tended to receive records when someone retired or an office moved, and not on a regular schedule. And I’m the first dedicated University Archivist. So I’m working to fill in the gaps from the past and lay the groundwork for scheduled deposits to the University Archives from departments, student organizations, and more.

Baylor University Immortal Ten scrapbook page
This scrapbook page from the Samuel Palmer Brooks papers features a few of the many telegrams Baylor University received after the Immortal Ten bus accident. The scrapbook is the second of three volumes documenting the tragedy.

I just began my second year in this role, although I am the child of two Baylor graduates and I worked in Baylor University Development for almost 5 years before I found my calling in the archives—I have a history with Baylor. (Pun intended.) My first year was one of planting seeds. I met with key Baylor administrators and leaders to discuss the role of the archives and the kinds of records that should be transferred to the University Archives. (We can’t keep everything, but we want the documents that we believe will have enduring, historic value.) I contributed to preparations to roll out Baylor’s new Record Retention and Archival Policy. I began a web archives program using Archive-It to document Baylor’s ever-changing web presence. With the help of graduate assistants and student workers, we organize record groups, address the backlog of materials to be processed, and other projects.

Baylor University Catalogue, 1851-52
This 1851-1852 catalogue, the earliest one from Baylor’s initial campus at Independence, tells current and prospective students about the Male Department.

I also contribute to The Texas Collection’s access, instruction, and outreach efforts. I facilitate this blog as a part of our integrated social media policy. I worked with a graduate class to assist with its Baylor history blog project, and spoke to several other classes and groups about resources that can be found in the University Archives. I responded to more than 200 research requests in my first year, ranging from simple questions about when an administrator was at Baylor to detailed fact-checking for historical timelines and exhibits on Baylor traditions.

When I talk to researchers and other visitors to The Texas Collection about the University Archives, I keep hearing, “You really love your job, don’t you?” Apparently I can’t hide it, and why would I? My archives work helps researchers access information they would not be able to find elsewhere. The records found in the University Archives were created when the history was happening—when traditions like the first Homecoming in 1909 began, when the university mourned the Immortal Ten, and more. I’m proud to be a part of preserving that history, these documents that tell the Baylor story.

1 Comment

  • Eric Ames

    March 1, 2013 at 8:32 am Reply

    Nice post, Amanda. We’ve enjoyed working with you to help extend The Texas Collection’s digital presence via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections, and you’ve done some really great work in just your first year – although it’s hard to believe it’s been that long already! Keep up the great work!

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