To Sisal: More Than We Bargained For

by Anna Redhair, Graduate Assistant

Sometimes when working in a library, unexpected items cross your path. That was certainly the case with a document The Texas Collection acquired last year known as To Sisal. The To Sisal document is a mariner’s diary from the mid-nineteenth century, and the catalog the library purchased it from said it included an account of an overland journey to El Paso. When I began transcribing the diary, however, I realized the journey it described had nothing to do with El Paso, Texas; instead, it tracked the movements of a merchant ship in the Gulf of Mexico and recorded an overland journey across the Yucatan Peninsula. To Sisal provided several surprising episodes as well as new insights about trade in the Caribbean in the 1840s.

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Introducing Rachel DeShong and Leanna Barcelona

Rachel DeShong, Special Event Coordinator and Map Curator and Leanna Barcelona, University Archivist

Equally as important as the materials themselves are those responsible for creating access and caring for the materials within the library and archives. The Texas Collection is pleased to welcome two new members to our staff and faculty at Baylor University.

Rachel DeShong is the new Special Event Coordinator and Map Curator. She is originally from California and earned her Master’s degree in Museum Studies from Baylor University. She previously worked at The Texas Collection as a graduate assistant. Rachel was the Collections Manager for Meeteetse Museums in Meeteetse, Wyoming and the Curator of Collections for Historic Waco Foundation in Waco prior to coming back to The Texas Collection. In her new role, Rachel will work with our extensive map collection and coordinate the Heart of Texas Regional History Fair (HOTRHF). “I am excited to work with such an amazing collection and to coordinate an important event like the history fair.”

Leanna Barcelona is the new University Archivist. She is originally from the Chicago suburbs and earned her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Leanna works with materials and records related to Baylor within the University Archives at The Texas Collection. “I enjoy working in academic archives because university campuses are hubs of history and reflect a larger national narrative, and the documents generated as a result of this can help researchers in several capacities.”

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: John Wilson, Director

Meet John Wilson, originally from Ohio and Director of The Texas Collection, in our last staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection.

Judge R.E.B. Baylor, drawing by Tom Lea, 1971
Judge R.E.B. Baylor, drawing by Tom Lea, 1971

When I arrive at work each morning, I am never certain what I will discover, learn, and see. The suspense of unknown waiting treasures provides great enjoyment for me as director of The Texas Collection. I have been in this role a little over three years, and it is an unusual day when I do not receive an email from a donor, a phone call asking a Texas-related research question, or an inquiry from a faculty colleague about some aspect of Baylor’s past.

My day generally begins with reviewing after-hours emails and telephone calls. Once those inquiries have been answered, I try to speak with each one of the staff, then say hello and ask for collection processing updates from our graduate students, and finally try to speak with each of our undergraduate student workers. There are always interesting and new finds from the work our students are accomplishing. These finds might include identifying an early Republic of Texas document with Sam Houston’s signature or discovering that we own an original Tom Lea drawing.

"Old Baylor" at Independence, 2013
Old Baylor at Independence. We worked with UMHB to restore and rededicate the columns in 2013.

I then begin work on two or three pressing projects. This involves multitasking throughout the day. My first project of the day might involve planning or maintenance concerns dealing with Old Baylor in Independence. Once or sometimes twice a month, I travel to Independence to walk the grounds of Windmill Hill or inspect the columns at Academy Hill.  On these trips, I also visit a Baylor graduate or donor and check in with Peggy Ward, who manages the day-to-day operations in Independence and works closely with our community partners, the Independence Historical Society.

In addition to leading and managing The Texas Collection, I work closely with two parts of our extensive holdings, our map collection totaling nearly 17,000 items and photograph collection of more than 1.4 million images. I might review a print or online dealer catalog for both maps and photographs.

New map of Texas with the contiguous American & Mexican states, 1836
“New map of Texas with the contiguous American & Mexican states,” 1836

Another project that might be pressing for my attention is planning a lecture by a guest speaker such as the Honorable Tom Phillips. This type of special event and all of its many details are vitally important to the outstanding reputation and continued outreach necessary to having a vibrant and active special collection. Our speakers have researched in The Texas Collection and connect with our resources and the audience, particularly our students.

On a daily basis, I work with donors to acquire new archival collections that will enhance and strengthen our holdings. We are always searching for early Texas collections from the Spanish Colonial period, the Mexican period, and the early Republic of Texas period. We are also interested in Waco history, the Civil War, Baylor-related items, and of course, print materials dealing with Texas. I am closely involved with the budget, endowments, and fundraising.

One of the most interesting parts of my job is talking with people about The Texas Collection. These days, we talk with and reach out to more people than ever before due to our social media outlets. Flickr, Facebook and this blog are followed and read by fans across Texas and around the world.

I think the most rewarding part of my job is working with Baylor students. This could involve teaching a class, collaborating on a project, or advising students on studying abroad in Italy (another one of my interests). The students are the reason I have stayed at Baylor for 26 years. Our students are smart, talented, and willing to work hard for their Baylor degrees. I am fortunate to work with a great staff and exceptional students.

The Texas Collection turned 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 have been featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about our work.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Petra Ibarra-Nagel and Priscilla Escobedo, Student Assistants

Meet Baylor seniors and archives student workers Petra Ibarra-Nagel and Priscilla Escobedo, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

Magnified Petra
Sometimes archives work requires a closer look. Here Petra turns the magnifying glass on herself while working on the Foy Valentine papers.

My name is Petra Ibarra-Nagel and I am a senior international studies major from Bellingham, Washington. I have worked as a manuscript archives student worker since April 2011, and I also worked in the TC library this summer. I help with processing collections by making sure that materials are physically preserved to withstand deterioration over time and organizing those materials in a way that best assists researchers in their quest for knowledge.

I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with a variety of archival materials at The Texas Collection, ranging from 19th-century pocket-sized family portraits to correspondence containing signatures of former presidents of the United States. It’s always fun to see what new materials come in—you never know what will be important elements of a historical narrative!

Smiling Pat Neff
Pat Neff was a somber man, Petra learned while working with his papers, so she was delighted to find this smiley (sort of) photo of the Texas governor and Baylor president.

My favorite collection to work on is the one that I was originally hired to assist in processing, the Pat Neff collection. Working with Pat Neff taught me a lot about the importance of preservation and organization of materials but also about integrity and teamwork. You may recognize the name Pat Neff from our campus’ beautiful golden dome-adorned administration building; however the legacy of Pat Neff extends far past his Baylor career. The former Texas House of Representatives speaker, county attorney for McLennan County, Governor of Texas, Texas Railroad Commissioner, and President of Baylor University rarely took a moment to himself.

That being said, it is understandable how there were approximately 643 boxes of Pat Neff material to process. Communication between everyone involved in processing is crucial to preserving the historical value of materials and integrity of the collection as a whole, especially when the collection contains so much material. If the materials are not processed the same way throughout the collection, locating individual items for researchers would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack…and then, without proper preservation methods, accidentally shattering the needle when you find it. In this way, The Texas Collection makes it easy to learn more about your passions throughout Texas history.

~

My name is Priscilla Escobedo, and I am a senior international studies major from Irving, Texas. I have been a university archives student worker at The Texas Collection for a little more than a year. I also worked in the TC library this summer.

The Texas Collection is located in Carroll Library, one of the oldest buildings on campus. It was once home to the Baylor Chapel, Baylor Museum, the early Robert Browning collection, and Baylor’s main library. I know all of this because of my work here! Some of my duties include research, our backlog sorting project, pulling books and collections for researchers, and various other archives duties.

Samuel Palmer Brooks' 30th anniversary of his Baylor graduation program
This spread comes from a program for a luncheon celebrating the 30th anniversary of the graduation of President Samuel Palmer Brooks, found while sorting backlog.

The backlog sorting project never ends. The university archives receives a box every month of newsletters, programs, flyers, and more, that get printed for the university…and these piled up over time. As a result, in addition to the new incoming boxes, we have many older boxes of miscellaneous materials that need to be sorted by department, organization, etc., so that those items can be found. The older boxes can be very interesting—I’ve found documents from the 1920s sitting next to documents from the 1980s. Needless to say, I’ve read a lot on Baylor’s history and have learned so much about life at Baylor.

Baylor University Catalogue, 1851-52
Priscilla has relied heavily on Baylor catalogues, such as this first one from 1851, for her research for the Baylor Book of Lists project.

My main project is the Baylor Book of Lists, a project that will list out who worked at Baylor since its inception. Right now I have over 60 pages of the names of people who worked and taught at Baylor and Baylor medical school, and the classes they taught. Some courses, such as orthography and ancient geography, are no longer taught at Baylor (although the subjects might be incorporated in other classes), and it’s interesting to see how education has changed over time.

Working at the Texas Collection has taught me so much about what it’s like working in an archives and library and about the history of Texas and Baylor.

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 are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Tiff Sowell, Library Information Specialist

Meet Tiff Sowell, native Texan and Library Information Specialist, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

Periodicals, The Texas Collection
Staying up to date with binding is not easy with as many active titles as we have–more than 3,000!

As a Library Information Specialist, I am responsible for a myriad of duties that keep my days interesting and unique. From quality control of student work to preservation to stacks maintenance, my job touches on many aspects of library work.

One of my favorite jobs is maintaining the website, as it is perhaps one of the most frequently utilized gateways to our materials as well as to our staff. Keeping the vast amount of information up to date and organized in an easily accessible manner is not always as easy as it sounds, but is most rewarding.

This includes keeping the homepage fresh for returning users by updating the Flickr slideshow, the blog RSS feed, and the Facebook feed.  I also create new pages for exhibits, events, and sometimes to showcase collections. This particular job allows me to express my creativity in a manner that benefits The Texas Collection as well as our patrons.

Here at The Texas Collection, keeping the humidity and temperature at acceptable levels is always a concern, as is the case with many libraries and archives. The age and construction of our building presents unique challenges in this endeavor, as the building has a history of leaks, mold, and wide temperature swings.  To help counter this, we use temperature/humidity monitors for each floor as well as our secure rooms. I keep track of the data recorded on these monitors, which help assist us with assessing and preventing environmental threats to the collection.

Another important aspect of my job requires the handling and filling of interlibrary loans (ILLs). We receive many requests for either the duplication or lending of materials. When a request comes in, we must first assure that the item is in a condition to allow lending. Once this has been determined, either scans of the requested pages are made, which I then upload to the ILL server, or the item itself is sent out for circulation.

I also am in charge of overseeing all of the serials (such as magazines and journals) here at The Texas Collection. This is a gargantuan job in itself and requires the assistance of several student workers. Binding, processing, shelving, shifting, and making sure the holdings are accurately reflected in the record takes up a large portion of my time.

Microfilm room, The Texas Collection
One of the microfilm readers. I have spent many hours assisting patrons with this machine.

I have a lifelong love of electronic equipment, and it is my pleasure to be able to assist patrons and the staff with troubleshooting the equipment here at The Texas Collection. From the antiquated slide projectors to the microfilm machines to the computers and scanners, I am the first point of contact for troubleshooting.  Usually I can figure out what the problem is and correct it, but occasionally, we do need to call ITS.

My absolute favorite job, however, is assisting patrons at the circulation desk. I enjoy helping people find what they are looking for and hearing their interesting stories.  It is very rewarding to me, when at the end of the day, I can look back at the people I helped and the materials I kept safe for another day.

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 are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Benna Vaughan, Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist

Roxy Grove Musical Score
Handwritten sheet music for A Night Song by Roxy Grove

Meet Benna Vaughan, originally from Whitney, Texas, and Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

In a nutshell, I get to work with some of the coolest stuff on campus. How often do you open a box and pull out a land grant signed by Stephen F. Austin? Or touch a set of pilot’s wings that were worn while flying in World War I? Or have someone call you up and say they found something you might like to have, such as an original 1894 Texas Cotton Palace medallion from the very first Texas Cotton Palace? Or handle a piece of Republic of Texas currency so thin you can see through it, and wonder where it has been and how many hands touched it and passed it on? I have a job where I can do this every day. I get to be in and amongst things that made history and that are now historical research materials. I am the Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist at The Texas Collection, and it is my job to manage, preserve, and make available the wonderful special collections of Texana that come through our doors.

My days are varied. Most days I get to work with students and researchers alike on projects, from the smallest term paper to a full-sized book, commercial, or documentary. I might talk with donors who want to see their materials preserved, maintained, and used for research purposes. I attempt daily to process collections such as the Pat Neff collection, which took two years and the help of many graduate and undergraduate assistants to complete. I perform various inquiry tasks for researchers who contact me online, by phone, or in person. I sometimes give presentations to classes who will conduct research at The Texas Collection. In the fall, I also serve as an instructor for the University 1000 program for incoming freshmen students. I enjoy working with students as they begin their college careers and try to help them get adjusted to Baylor life. I guess you can say that for me everyday is a little different from the last.

Box of files from the unprocessed Roxy Grove papers.
Box of files from the unprocessed Roxy Grove Papers

Currently, I am beginning initial processing on the Roxy Grove papers. This includes research into her life and determining the condition of her records. (Are the pages brittle? How can we protect them? How are the records arranged?) I learned that Roxy Grove received two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree from Baylor. She began working at Baylor in 1926 and was the chair of the Music School for 17 years. Some of you may have classes in the building named after her: Roxy Grove Hall (third photo from top on the linked page). With every collection, I learn about the personal side of the individuals or organizations as I research and process their collections. For me, working on another person’s materials makes a connection with that person and allows you to discover the person, organization, or even place, through the things that are left behind.

But it is not always idyllic. Sometimes a collection will come in that was stored in a barn or a garage and the boxes contain bugs, and the records are in poor condition. When that happens, I get to be an exterminator. I pitch in to help with special projects and the administrative tasks that come with a special collections library. No matter what I’m doing, it is a great job, at a great place, and I am blessed to be here.

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 are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Telephone switchboard operator, c. 1905
Geoff selected a few of his favorite photos for this post. In this image from the recently acquired E.C. Blomeyer Photographic Collection, we get a beautifully detailed view into the telephone switchboard operator’s world, circa 1905.

Meet Geoff Hunt, originally from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, and Audio and Visual Curator, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

The Texas Collection has an estimated 1.4 million photo prints, negatives, slides, and digital image files. Additionally, we have thousands of moving image items, and the collection holds an equal number of sound recordings including interviews, music, and many other memorable events. My job as Audio and Visual Curator is to manage all of these materials.

Currently the photograph collection keeps my extremely helpful student photo assistants and me the busiest. Photographs are our most requested materials—lots of people need images, whether they’re looking for photos to use in publications, to supplement their research, or to decorate an office. My undergraduate student workers assist me in scanning, filing, and pulling photographs for projects and researchers. Our main goal is to serve the university and the general public with their needs.

Fred Gildersleeve-Welcome to Waco
This image of Waco was taken by Fred Gildersleeve, circa 1910. On the far left side is Austin Avenue. Click on the image to see a “Welcome to Waco” banner–it almost looks like it was painted on the street!

How do we make such a large amount of images available for use? As with most libraries and archival facilities, you’ll get the most of your experience by visiting us in person. However, we are always working to make more photographs, as well as other materials, available online. The Texas Collection has thousands of photographs made accessible through Baylor’s Digital Collections site, which can be found in Texas Collection-Photos.  Our Flickr page is another way for people to enjoy a small sampling of our large photographic collection.  

Among our visual holdings, The Texas Collection is home to the archives of noted Central Texas photographers Fred Gildersleeve, Fred Marlar, and Jimmie Willis. However, these photographic materials, mostly dating from the early 1900s-1950s, primarily consist of negatives. The first priority in working with items such as these is preserving the original negatives and printed photographs as best as possible. We spend much time doing so by replacing old acidic sleeves and folders with ones that are acid-free and by using protective sleeves (Mylar) for the photo prints.  

Baylor's University's First Computer, Hankamer School of Business, Casey Computer Lab, IBM 1620, September 13, 1967
This IBM 1620 Data Processing System came to Baylor in 1962 and was the university’s first computer. Photos like this one document changing technology and milestones and offer unique insight into our past.

Some of the negatives are made of glass but most are cellulose; these can range in size from 16 millimeters to 8 x 10 inches. Glass is fragile, and cellulose deteriorates with age and climate. By reproducing these negatives and printed photos with specialized photo scanners, a digital “preservation file” and user access copy can be created. We do still keep the original negative and/or photo print—that’s the master copy!—but by digitizing items, we can allow access to the photo without endangering the original. People of today and future generations will be able to see this history of Baylor, Waco, various Texas cities, and many other locations for years to come. [Check out our Preservation Week video if you’re interested in learning how you can scan your own negatives.]

Scanning this variety of media and preserving the originals are what I spend the majority of my time doing. It is a very large collection to work with but I enjoy learning and finding something new and interesting everyday in our holdings. My position at The Texas Collection as Audio and Visual Curator is challenging but I sincerely find it to be “a labor of love.”  

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 are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here. (Read more about one student assistant’s work with the photography collection in our March post.)

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Amie Oliver, Coordinator for User and Access Services

Meet Amie Oliver, originally from Mississippi, and Coordinator for User and Access Services, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

Rare books room, The Texas Collection
Our rare book room contains treasures (10,000 and counting) on a wide variety of Texas-related topics…as well as non-Texas materials. (More on that in a future blog post.) Anyone may use these rare items.

As the Coordinator for User and Access Services, the bulk of my work deals with patrons. Whether these patrons come in person or contact us online or by phone, I am usually their first point of contact. I’ll let you in on a little secret—I’m the person behind our general email account (txcoll@baylor.edu) as well as our Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (though occasionally other staffers tweet). Using social media has allowed us the opportunity to interact with people all over the world, and I’m happy we have a great following on all platforms we use.

Working with researchers is rewarding, and I never know who may contact me—the Pentagon, the New York Giants, the Texas Supreme Court, or scholars from all over the world. I appreciate all of our patrons, but I particularly like when History Fair students come in because it’s a great way to introduce special collections to younger generations.

Using special collections can often be intimidating, but it does not have to be. We hold a world of information, and I try to ensure that each patron is welcomed and valued. Patrons often say they don’t want to bother me, but helping patrons is my job. I want you to bother me!

Openings of rare books at The Texas Collection
Some of our oldest texts. The top photo is from *Cosmographia, sive De situ orbis* by Pomponius Mela (1482). The bottom photo is from *Praeclara Ferdinadi Cortesude non maris oceani Hyspana* by Hernan Cortes (1524).

One of my favorite duties is consulting with students about research. During the consultation, I try to get to know them, find their interests, and steer them to topics that are personal and interesting to them. I also consult with professors about their personal research or for student projects. It’s rewarding to see patrons take an interest in a topic based on items we have in the collection.

I provide bibliographic instruction to Baylor students where I teach them about our collection and the items it contains. I also give presentations to the Central Texas community. I like seeing people get excited about special collections and the treasures they may find.

Since the Librarian retired, I have served as bibliographer for the collection, and I oversee the rare book room. I receive catalogs from dealers across the country, and it is my job to select books for purchase. One of my recent purchases, Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, Medical, Economical, and Agricultural by Francis Peyre Porcher, published in 1863, is a beautifully bound item and is considered one of the best scientific texts produced under the Confederacy.

With nearly 167,000 volumes, our print collection (including our rare books) is vast, and it is important that I honor the collection by choosing the best items with the most value to our scholars as well as honor the bibliographers who came before me by selecting as wisely as they did. Their contributions helped to make this collection one of the finest Texana collections in the world.

Sampling of dime novels at The Texas Collection
These dime novels are part of our Summer-Fall 2013 exhibit that I helped curate, “Dime Novels: The Rise of the American Hero.” In addition to traditional bibliographic instruction and presentations, exhibits are just one more way we at The Texas Collection engage potential patrons and encourage them to use our materials.

In addition to the work above, I also hire, train, and supervise student workers, plan and implement organizational projects, research and install exhibits, manage statistics, preservation, and serve as editor of our newsletter, Viva Texas.

I enjoy my job because I like helping others, and I am very lucky to be able to work with such an amazing collection.

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 are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Kathy Hinton, Administrative Coordinator

Hinton office
Kathy has worked at The Texas Collection longer than anyone else on our staff. Here she works on an invoice.

Meet Kathy Hinton, Baylor graduate (BA 2012), originally from Staunton, Illinois, and Administrative Coordinator, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

“Good morning, The Texas Collection.” It is usually my voice that you hear when you call The Texas Collection. For the last 26 years, answering the phone has been just one of the tasks that I handle on a daily basis. My work in the administrative office at The Texas Collection (TC) brings me into contact with researchers, donors, and colleagues across the campus.

As administrative coordinator, I assist the director with his schedule and other office matters. Working with the budget is a big part of my job. I not only handle the budget for the TC, but also for Baylor at Independence and the Heart of Texas Regional History Fair. There are also several endowment and research fellowship funds that fall under the TC. There are usually two or three research fellowships that are awarded each year, and I arrange for campus guest housing and payments to these scholars.

A typical day for me includes such things as ordering supplies, preparing work orders, handling student budget and payroll for the department, approving invoices, preparing vouchers for payments to vendors, and meeting with visitors in our offices. I also spend some of my time proofing and editing items for reports and publications. Recently, I have assisted the director in locating and purchasing maps for our ever-growing collection.

One of my favorite jobs is meeting with donors of new collections. I find it very interesting to meet with a donor who has brought in a new collection to be deposited in our library. Many include family papers, diaries, journals, and photographs, and the stories behind the collections are sometimes as fascinating as the materials themselves. It is also wonderful to be able to reassure someone that their family’s items will be well preserved and cared for by our staff.

Archives control file
Kathy gets all of The Texas Collection’s archives control files started with deeds of gift or transfers and other accessioning paperwork.

Once an item or collection has been left in our care, I prepare a gift conveyance form and preliminary worksheets on the collection. These things make up what we refer to as our control file. Once we receive the signed gift form, our archivists can then begin the job of processing the new collection and releasing it for use by our researchers.

Over the years, I have also enjoyed using the TC’s vast resources in my own studies. Early in my career at Baylor, Kent Keeth (director of the TC from 1973 to 2003) and Ellen Kuniyuki Brown (a former TC archivist) encouraged me to return to school to work on my degree. In doing so, I developed a true passion for history, and found myself turning to the TC time and time again to work on assignments and special projects for classes. I earned my BA in History and Professional Writing this past year, after 19 years of study. (Editor’s note: See the piece the Baylor Alumni Association wrote on Kathy’s accomplishment last year.)

The Texas Collection has something for almost everyone. Whether you are a scholar, student, genealogist, or just interested in the history of Texas, we have plenty to offer, from books and periodicals, to manuscripts, maps, photographs, and great exhibits. Pay us a visit—we would love to meet you.

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 are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

Meet Paul Fisher, Baylor graduate (BA 2009, MA 2011), native Texan, and Processing Archivist, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

From Civil War hospital records, to documents about Baylor’s activities in Independence, to old photographs of early Texans, The Texas Collection has a great deal of fascinating materials. My work preparing archival record groups (groups of records that share the same creator or collector) for researchers means that I get to see all the cool items we have on a daily basis. I have a BA in museum studies and an MA in history, both from Baylor, so “old stuff” definitely fascinates me, especially Civil War-related materials.

James E. Harrison report, 1861, Carter-Harrison Family papers
One of Paul’s favorite documents in The Texas Collection is this handwritten report by Waco native and Confederate general James E. Harrison. The full document tells of his journey to the American Indian tribes in present-day Oklahoma, to see whether they would side with the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

So how do I go about preparing archival record groups for users? This usually includes organizing the collection if needed, rehousing the materials in new acid-free folders and boxes, and writing documents called finding aids to help researchers locate and use them. An increasing part of my job is to help students discover how to do this work well, whether they are student interns, students in a class, or students who work for us.

Much of my work now is devoted to preparing our new archival software system, called Cuadra Star, for launch this summer. For the past 11 months I have led a team of staff and students on a number of projects to get ready for this launch. There have been some challenges to solve along the way, but we address them and continue to forge ahead. Cuadra Star will allow us to find information, organize our collections, and provide better archival service to you than ever before.

One of my favorite activities as part of working at The Texas Collection has been working with a class from the Department of Museum Studies here at Baylor. In fall 2012, Dr. Julie Holcomb taught her annual Archival Collections and Museums class to thirteen students, and as part of the class each student processed one archival record group for use by researchers. The class was taught here at The Texas Collection, and I offered special office hours every week when students would come to work with me on their assigned archives. The project gave them valuable professional experience, and also prepared thirteen of our record groups for use.

A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society" exhibit
The Keeth display case, part of the February 2012 exhibit “A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society.”

We also showcase exhibits on various interesting topics throughout the year, and I have helped with several during my time at The Texas Collection. One of the most interesting was our spring 2012 exhibit, which featured the Farmers Improvement Society (FIS) and R.L. Smith. The society was founded by Smith to help African American sharecroppers in the early 1900s have access to financing for their farms, life insurance, better farming methods, and an agricultural school. Such exhibits help increase awareness of the resources we preserve. More than year after this exhibit was over, we were still receiving questions about our FIS-related records on this blog, and we hosted a research fellow this year who came from New York to spend a week studying these records.

With all of these different projects to work on at The Texas Collection, from working on record groups to planning the next exhibit, every day is different. Yet some things remain the same day to day. Every day is a chance to do more than tell people about history—it is a chance to highlight rediscovered pieces of history from the actual documents written by Baylor and Texas people past and present.

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 are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.