Unique Archival Resources Provide “By the Books” Approach to Texas History (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

The Baylor Libraries are widely known for their special collections. The Texas Collection and University Archives receives frequent inquiries from historians, novelists, journalists, Baylor faculty and staff, and many others inquiring into resources on Baylor and Texas history. While the library regularly features its collections via social media, traditional publications remain an important way to introduce its holdings to a wide audience.

In the past 18 months, Baylor Press has published two new books that expose the world to The Texas Collection’s photograph and map archives. Gildersleeve: Waco’s Photographer was released this past September and Mapping Texas: A Cartographic Journey will be available in October.

The Gildersleeve book documents the life of famous Waco-based photographer Fred Gildersleeve. Its 374 pages include a new introduction to the life of Gildersleeve written by Interim Dean John S. Wilson based on the Gildersleeve papers in The Texas Collection. The weighty coffee table-sized volume also features 186 gorgeous photos by the photographer selected from the archives of the Texas Collection and curated by Audio and Visual Curator Geoff Hunt.

Gildersleeve came to Waco in 1905 and began documenting the life and times of his new hometown. Soon after he established his photography studio he became the official photographer for Baylor and for the State Fair of Texas. As the introduction notes, “From special occasions to sporting events, from construction projects to key figures, Gildersleeve documented Waco’s growth as a thriving industrial city during the early days of the twentieth century.” Gildersleeve’s photos are a blend of art and history, and are presented with great clarity in the book.

Even before the Gildersleeve book was complete, the publisher encouraged Wilson to compile a similar volume from the extensive map archive at The Texas Collection. The forthcoming Mapping Texas: A Cartographic Journey features 136 pages of some of the earliest known maps of Texas by Spanish, French, English, and Mexican mapmakers produce from 1561-1860. Rachel DeShong, Special Event Coordinator & Map Curator at The Texas Collection, worked with Wilson to select and curate the maps. The book also includes an introduction by Wilson and an analysis of map art and cartouches by Sierra M. Wilson, who serves as Production Specialist at the University of Chicago Press and happens to be John Wilson’s daughter. As the reader flips through the coffee table sized volume each large map presents a developing perspective on the Texas so many know and love today.

Both volumes present the richness of The Texas Collection’s archival collections to a reading public hungry for new insights into the history of the Lone Star State. They can be purchased via the 1845 Books imprint section of the Baylor Press website.


This story originally appeared in the 2019 Baylor University ITS & Libraries Magazine. To join our mailing list for future editions, email us at university_libraries@baylor.edu.

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