Introducing BARD: Discover Yesterday's Stories (and Our New Database)

By Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

BARD Banner

The Texas Collection is happy to open our newest discovery tool, the Baylor Archival Repositories Database (BARD), to our researchers. We believe this system will enable you to find more archival materials from The Texas Collection than ever before!

You can discover finding aids to our archival collections by browsing or searching in BARD. Finding aids are documents that describe groups of archival materials. Finding aids that you will see in the system have an administrative note describing the historical context of the collection, scope and content notes that describe what is in the collection, and container lists that show the materials in each folder and box.

You can enter the BARD system by visiting http://www.baylor.edu/library/bard. You’ll also find a tab for BARD on The Texas Collection homepage:

BARD-Homepage

Once in the system, you have several options for finding resources. For example, let’s say you want to see all the collections that have anything to do with Texas in the American Civil War. To look for this, you could enter the words “Civil War Texas” in the search field.

BARD-Search field

Now click “Search.” When I did this search, 82 results came up! Since we have thousands of collections in the database, you may wish to narrow your search using more precise search terms if you receive that many results.

Click “Display Finding Aid” under each entry to view further information about each collection. We will talk about other things on this page, such as the “Top Subject Clusters” on the left, and the “Advanced Search” tab at the top, in a later post.

BARD-Display finding aid

To continue with this example, I went down to the #7 entry, the James and Patience Crain Black papers, and clicked “Display Finding Aid” underneath that title to open a new window that describes just that collection. This is what came up:

BARD-Finding aid

The window open now describes the James and Patience Crain Black papers. Within this window, you can explore all kinds of information to help you decide whether the resources in this collection would be useful in your research.

If you want to see the list of materials in the collection, you can click in the list on the left to jump to a specific group of materials. Most of our collections are organized in groups called series, which are basic groups of materials organized by the function in which they were used. For example, in the James and Patience Crain Black papers, if you wanted to know what letters were in the collection, you could click on “Correspondence,” and the list that came up would be the indicated correspondence.

BARD-Jump to Series

The list of materials will appear in the pane on the right. If we clicked “[Series] Correspondence” in our example, then all the letters in that group would come up, like this:

BARD-James and Patience Black correspondence

These particular letters are organized in three folders by year, and are in box 1 of the collection.

If you would like to set an appointment to view the actual materials in the collection, click on “Baylor University. The Texas Collection” at the top of the page to view our contact information (the text circled in the screenshot below). You’ll need to provide the name of the collection and the box numbers so we know what to pull for you.

BARD-How to link to Texas Collection contact info

When you are done viewing finding aids in BARD, be sure to close down the system properly. In the main search page, on the upper right corner, click the red “Log Out” to exit from BARD. Leaving the system in this way is very important to ensure the proper functioning of the system.

BARD-Logout

We plan to discuss other helpful ways to use this exciting new system in future blog posts. Stay tuned for more news and helpful hints about the new Baylor Archival Repositories Database!

The Texas Collection is piloting the program, but Armstrong Browning Library and Poage Legislative Library also will be using BARD to share their finding aids. Look to those repositories soon to learn more about their efforts!

A Baylor Pageant: Organizing the 1915 Homecoming Parade

By Amanda Norman, University Archivist

Samuel Palmer Brooks to Frank Guittard on Baylor Homecoming 1915
President Brooks commends Guittard for “remarkable tact in winning others to your plans and getting them to do the things that ought to be done.” Guittard’s notes on the parade illustrate how he accomplished those Homecoming plans! (Guittard papers, box 4, folder 9)

The Homecoming parade is one of my favorite Baylor traditions, but I must confess that I never thought much about all the work that goes in to planning the event. Knowing who’s participating, assigning the order, getting everyone into position, encouraging marchers to, ahem, represent Baylor well…that’s a lot of work! These days the men and women of Baylor Chamber of Commerce organize the parade, but back when Homecoming and the parade were new traditions, it was faculty members who made the parade happen.

One of these faculty members was Francis Guittard, a history professor who had been teaching at Baylor since the early 1900s. Frank helped organize Baylor’s first Homecoming in 1909, and President Samuel Palmer Brooks called on him again to serve as one of the marshals for the second Homecoming in 1915.

Frank Guittard's Baylor Homecoming parade notes (page 5), 1915
Note Guittard’s emphasis on the spacing between marchers. He clearly wanted no one stepping on heels or straggling behind–this parade was a tightly run ship! (Guittard papers, box 20, folder 4)

Almost 100 years later, Charles Guittard (BU ’64) was doing research this spring at The Texas Collection for a book he plans to write about his grandfather. In the Francis Gevrier Guittard papers, Charles came across Frank’s notes for his comments to the 1915 parade participants. With the 2013 Homecoming parade coming up tomorrow, we thought this was the perfect time to look back at one of Baylor’s first parades.

First of all, Frank Guittard calls the event a “pageant,” not a “parade.” (The phrases seemed to be used interchangeably at the time in describing this Homecoming event.) Parade participants included student groups like the Baylor band, the Town Girls club, the “B” Association, the senior class (already suited out in caps and gowns), and Baylor’s four literary societies: the Philomathesian, Erisophian, Calliopean, and Rufus C. Burleson organizations. Lillie Martin’s model primary class from the Department of Education provided the cute children for the parade. President Samuel Palmer Brooks, prominent faculty, alumnus of Baylor at Independence, and more rode in the auto section. Bringing up the rear was “Prof Evans’ Human Calliope.”

1915 Baylor University Homecoming: Human Calliope
Wonder how Professor Evans talked students into being part of his Human Calliope–perhaps extra credit? Image scanned from the Baylor Bulletin on Homecoming 1915.

Wait, need some explanation of that last bit? First, a calliope is a musical instrument that produces (very loud) sound by sending steam or compressed air through large whistles. Apparently Evans, a piano professor, had concocted his own version (see photo to the right), consisting of Evans pounding a cookstove as the keyboard and various Baylor men serving as the whistles, “tooting of some popular airs which brought repeated applause,” according to the December 2, 1915 Lariat.

The parade progressed from Austin Avenue to 4th Street, then to Franklin and on to 5th Street, which took them to Carroll Field for the Homecoming game. Guittard heavily underlined in his notes “marchers three steps back of those in front”—perhaps marchers walking too close or too far from each other had been an issue in the 1909 parade. Students were encouraged to enlist all present members of the organization to participate in the parade, as well as alumni—as long as those alumni were “not too fat and wheezy and full of rheumatics.” Evidently Guittard had no time for potential stragglers!

Frank Guittard's Baylor Homecoming parade notes (page 7), 1915
Guittard called on Baylor students of 1915 to realize they were participating in a historic event–indeed, these early parades laid the groundwork for years to come! (Guittard papers, box 20, folder 4)

Despite Guittard’s close attention to detail, he also took the long view—he reminded students that pictures would be taken that could be enjoyed for years to come. And indeed, The Texas Collection sees researchers coming every year just to see photos of early Homecomings.

Guittard also noted that “this pageant is to be representative of the loyalty of Baylor students as well as a graphic representation of Baylor’s strength and influence….Each of you has been given a role in this pageant which will be a long-remembered event in the history of Baylor and it is earnestly hoped that each one of you will act his part nobly and loyally.”

Guittard understood the importance of Homecoming when the tradition was just beginning—it wasn’t an annual event till 1924 (and then World War II disrupted the tradition). But he was right that those early parades would be long-remembered, and the summary of the parade in the 1915 Baylor Bulletin would be an apt description for succeeding Homecoming parades: “it isn’t an overplus enthusiasm nor pride of university or city to insist that few institutions in the United States could have made the showing Baylor made in the parade.”

Check out our latest Flickr set, a slideshow of Kodachrome slides from the 1953 Homecoming parade.

A User's Guide to the Texas Collection, Part 3, Or, How to Know Enough is Enough

Kenna Lang Archer, a veteran researcher at The Texas Collection, is our guest blogger for this series, “A User’s Guide to The Texas Collection.” Drawing on her research on the Brazos River, Dr. Archer offered advice on identifying resources (including staff) in her first post; in her second, she addressed challenging resources. In this final installment, she offers her tips on determining when the research is DONE.

A Park and River Scene in Waco, Beautiful Waco, Texas
I looked through hundreds of postcards in my research on the Brazos, and while I enjoyed that glimpse into the past, I needed only to expand on a single idea (whose citation already included more than 100 sources!). Not the best use of my time. From the Texas Collection postcard collection.

For the final post in this series, I’d like to address a question that is as challenging as it is important…when is enough, enough? When is it time to step away—trusting that you have read enough letters, seen sufficient photographs, and pored through the right amount of memoirs, and how do you know that you’ve reached that point? It’s entirely possible that I am the last person that should be offering advice on the subject. My friends and colleagues have often chided me for “excessive” research, as have several editors (apparently, one really can cite too many sources in too many footnotes). However, my occasional inability to know that I have gathered the necessary citations means I am actually well placed to offer guidance.

The Texas Cotton Palace promotional envelope, 1894
I tracked down this promotional mail-out after realizing that my discussion on agriculture in nineteenth century Texas was weak; I moved forward with my research knowing that I hadn’t found all that I needed in regard to a particular topic, and it was time well spent. From the Texas Cotton Palace records, box 2, folder 8.

That advice begins with a simple realization: it is possible to spend so much time looking through archival materials that the notes you collect become overwhelming and your work with them, inefficient. A paradox of historical research—people working with primary sources tend to assume that where one source is good, two sources are better, and three sources, best. The problem with this line of thought is two-fold. First, as your notes or copies increase in number, it becomes increasingly difficult to incorporate that information into existing outlines, chapters, etc. After completing my dissertation, I found a stack of Xerox copies more than one foot high that I had never written into my outlines. I missed nothing of import in those copies, but I was fortunate. I could easily have lost valuable information to a crowd of unheeded papers. Second, if you focus exclusively on research, you will never finish the project that prompted that work in the first place. Research alone does not produce finished works. Books, articles, and even blog posts can only be written, edited, and completed by an individual who has found the courage to say, “Yes, this research and my thoughts on it can stand.”

So how do you know when enough is truly enough? Where do you draw the mythical line in the sand? Personally, I use a series of hypothetical scenarios to weigh what I might find in future research against what I know from my current research. Would my ideas still hold if, somewhere, a source existed that said X; if I later found a source that said Y, would I still feel comfortable with my project? If I decide that nothing short of indisputable evidence refuting my argument would cause me doubt, then I leave my research be. If I feel like there is more than one way in which my ideas could be threatened or if I see a glaring omission, then I continue to research until I feel comfortable in my analysis.

Letter to George Barnard from New York, March 22, 1855
Hand-written documents can introduce still more challenges. Although I could read this letter in person, I struggled to read the Xerox copy that I requested and so, ultimately, went back to the materials a second time for a scanned copy. From the Barnard-Lane papers, box 3, folder 13.

Along those lines, I would recommend that anybody making extensive use of primary sources develop an effective organization system for their research. Each researcher must find the method that best fits their timeline and needs, but based on my experiences, I would make the following suggestions for people engaged in archival research:

  1. Copying/photographing every source you find is as risky and ineffective as copying no sources at all: to be buried by too much material is a cruel fate.
  2. Trying to track down a citation after the fact is maddening and a waste of precious time: write down every citation legibly and in the same place as the note itself as you go along.
  3. When making copies, do not assume either that the archivists will write down the citation for you or that they will include everything you need for reference: be responsible for assuring the validity and the location of your sources.
  4. Trusting too much in technology will eventually lead to a headache: be prepared to take notes the old fashioned way and keep a list of the sources that you have duplicated (as well as their location).

I made a number of “rookie mistakes” when I began working in the archives; I can even admit that I fell into the same blunders several times. Fortunately for my self-worth (and unfortunately for the rest of the research community), I am not alone in my struggles. I would guess that every researcher has, at one time or another, struggled with the effectiveness of his/her research methods or the decision to walk away from new sources. It’s a learning process, and one that everybody must endure. However, it can be made easier. My hope for anybody reading this series is that his or her experience in primary source research might be a smidge less chaotic, a bit more constructive, as a result of my suggestions.

Onward, archival soldiers…and until next time, good luck!

Missed the first installments? Check them out here.

Archer is an instructor in the history department at Angelo State University. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Baylor and then her doctorate at Texas Tech University. You can learn more about her research on her website, www. kennalangarcher.com.

A User's Guide to the Texas Collection, Part 2, Or, Dealing with Challenging Resources

Baptism in the Brazos River, Waco, undated
Photograph of a baptism in the Brazos River: images like this are astoundingly rare…and so are sources that so clearly “make” a portion of your research!

Kenna Lang Archer, a veteran researcher at The Texas Collection, is our guest blogger for this series, “A User’s Guide to The Texas Collection.” Drawing on her research on the Brazos River, Dr. Archer offered advice on identifying helpful (but not obvious) resources and making use of special collections staffers in her last post. In this installment, she discusses some of the perils of primary resource research: sources that contradict your thesis and the challenges of assessing authenticity in materials.

Unfortunately, archival research does not always yield information that one might call “helpful.”  To research in archives is to invite uncertainty into your academic life. Yes, I have located sources that pulled everything together, but I have also found sources that contradicted all I expected to find. What is the proper response to a source that seemingly undermines your work? There is no one answer, but my advice would be to remember that there is promise in confusion.

Roughly halfway through my dissertation research, I found a source that seemed to weaken my argument in a serious way. It was nothing short of an intellectual catastrophe. I erupted in genuine (if, thankfully, short-lived) tears and stopped work early that day. That evening, I wrote up a brief outline for my project and began to ask difficult questions about the new material—what did it really say, how might it broaden my study, did it undercut the entirety of my thesis or portions of it, could I simply fine-tune my ideas? It took me awhile to incorporate these answers into my outline and then to adjust my writing, but as I struggled through the muddle that once was my project, it became easier to envision the ways in which new ideas could fit together. The end result: a stronger project!

Unfortunately, there have also been times when I couldn’t work out the contradictions that resulted from new information—I’ve discarded projects and entirely reworked projects. Whatever the ultimate outcome, “defiant” sources are beneficial—they help to refine research projects into something both more intriguing and authentic.

Canoeing on the river, 1908
Though I knew something about this photograph (it came from a Baylor student scrapbook), I didn’t have a location. Was this the Brazos River? I sure wanted it to be, but ultimately I had no clear evidence one way or another and so I set aside this image as a source.

That being said, whether or not sources prove to be helpful, researchers must take the time to assess their authenticity. Letters, books, pamphlets—they’ve all been written by individuals with preconceptions and opinions. Photographs and paintings can be staged or emotionally skewed as well. In other words, every source is created in a context that shapes its meaning and its value.

Was a tract written to attract visitors to Texas? It probably emphasized the good and downplayed the bad about life in this state. Was a letter written in 1917? Ongoing war in Europe surely colored the text, and the contextual biases might have shifted from one month to the next.

It is imperative that researchers understand these nuances. So how do you account for the possibility of hyperbole, the use of incorrect figures, the fever of patriotism? When working with a primary source, I try to anticipate what biases might exist by considering the who, what, where, when, and why of its creation. For example, I might ask where this information originated and whether it was corroborated only by people from the same family or city. If possible, I also account for subjectivity by increasing the number of sources that I review and, thereby, increasing the validity of statistics, stories, and so forth.

Flooding at the Washington Avenue Bridge, Waco, circa 1913
The Brazos River flooding, circa 1913: In some cases, it is possible to determine information for sources that is not explicitly given. For example, I can reasonably date this undated photograph by comparing the years of Brazos floods with the construction dates of Brazos River bridges, the advent of technology, and popular styles of dress.

Whether you have one crucial source or twenty adequate sources, take the time to judge the authenticity of your information…and, most difficult of all, have the courage to set aside a source, however valuable, whose information cannot be trusted. It is far more important to work in confidence knowing that you have prioritized accuracy than to squeeze a questionable source into an existing argument.

Stay tuned for the September entry (and final post) in this series.

Archer is an instructor in the history department at Angelo State University. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Baylor and then her doctorate at Texas Tech University. You can learn more about her research on her website, www. kennalangarcher.com.