Feature Stories

Ecology and Religion Conference Breaks New Ground with “Flightless” Model (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

From September 18-21, 2019, scholars from around the world will gather for the Ecology and Religion in Nineteenth-Century Studies Conference. However, unlike traditional academic conferences, nobody will travel by plane or more than 500 miles on the ground to enjoy the international conversation.

Avoiding flights matches the spirit of the conference, taking seriously the ecological impact of the time-honored tradition of gathering for academic conversation. “Although most academics agree that climate change is a reality the vast majority of conferences operate as if it is a fiction,” said Dr. Joshua King, Associate Professor & Margarett Root Brown Chair in Robert Browning and Victorian Studies. “By prohibiting air travel and restricting in-person participation to ground travel this conference respects the fragility of our common home while extending opportunities for participation well beyond the walls that normally confine such scholarly exchanges.”

Since 2016, the Environmental Humanities Initiative at the University of California at Santa Barbara has hosted all-digital conferences, in which scholars pre-record presentations and interact online through moderated comments.  This approach highlights the key challenge to flightless conferencing: approximating the valuable face-to-face conversations that take place during traditional academic meetings.

The Ecology and Religion conference offers a hybrid approach with onsite gatherings at four locations: Baylor’s Armstrong Browning Library, the University of Washington, Georgetown University and Lancaster University in the U.K. Participants can gather at these sites for local sessions and keynote sessions digitally linked across multiple sites. Scholars who live more than 500 miles from these sites can watch live-streamed sessions and participate in the conversation through social media and comments on the conference website.

“By removing costly barriers of travel, we are widening our audience while spurring new forms of personal connection,” King said. “Onsite, participants will interact through panels and special activities—such as visits to local environmental initiatives—while also engaging across time zones with individuals presenting from the other locations and their own devices. Panels and roundtables will involve online viewers through a Twitter feed and comment forums on the website.  Already some digital presenters, such as Chris Adamson from Emory University, have been inspired to expand the network of physical gatherings by planning group viewings and discussions at their home institutions.”

Linking these sites and providing live-streamed sessions involves several different technologies. Ben Wong, academic consultant for the Baylor Libraries, has been working with conference organizers to select the proper platforms to produce the online conference experience. “We will be using Facebook Live through Cisco Webex as our streaming platform. This will allow us to share and publish content from multiple sites during the conference,” Wong said. “We will also use Webex to link sites together for keynote sessions and then publish everything to the conference site for offsite participants.” This blend of technologies will harness the dynamism of typical conference engagement yet keep the event flightless.

The Ecology and Religion in Nineteenth Century Studies Conference will bring together 70 leading scholars from cross-disciplinary fields. Norman Wirzba at Duke and Michael Northcott at Edinburgh are leading voices in ecological theology who will be virtually linked with Baylor’s Susan Bratton and Robert Creech to talk about the theological inheritances of the current ecological crisis. Eminent literary scholars Gauri Viswanathan of Columbia, Meredith Martin of Princeton, and Michael Tomko of Villanova will participate in a keynote conversation on poetry, religion and ecology that will be broadcast to all conference sites and available online. Other conference sessions will address ecological interconnection and sociality; prayer, poetry and the body; world ecologies, missions, and contact zones; and transatlantic ecopoetics and rhetorics.

“What most excites me about the Ecology and Religion conference is the incredible possibilities it creates for exploring, revealing, and discovering interconnections between two disciplines whose relationship offers rich and diverse approaches to the climate crisis,” said Professor Emma Mason, Head of the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. “The affective, ethical, and emotional potential of religious language, culture, and history is immense, and I look forward to debating and discussing this potential with colleagues in both the arts, theology, and the sciences”.

Anyone with an Internet connection is welcome to participate in the Ecology and Religion in Nineteenth Century Studies Conference. Visit sites.baylor.edu/ecologyreligion/ to register and engage with the sessions, and follow #EcoReligion19c on social media.

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.

Readers and Writers Unite: Welcoming the University Writing Center (UWC) to Moody Memorial Library (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

Baylor University strives to provide its students with a diverse, well-rounded education — one that sets it apart from other learning institutions. One cornerstone of this objective is the nourishing of the written word. Required writing and English classes provide the foundation, but for many students and faculty, help is needed beyond the classroom. For writers — both burgeoning and professional — an honest and constructive reader is vital to the success of his or her writing. Nothing improves a piece of writing like the support of an eager editor. In short: writers need readers. And that is why the University Libraries are proud to be the new home of the University Writing Center.

The University Writing Center (UWC) transitioned to Moody Memorial Library during the spring semester, augmenting its ability to provide quality writing assistance to students and faculty across all disciplines. Previously located in the Carroll Science building, many students had the perception of the UWC as a place for English and writing-related majors only. Its new location in the center of campus, however, makes it possible for the center to extend its hours and provide a larger space to serve more students, faculty, and staff.

“This move emphasizes that we are a true university writing center,” said Dr. Kara Poe Alexander, director of the UWC. “Being located in Moody Memorial Library sends a clear message that we are a university service. We serve students and faculty from any major, any discipline, at all skill levels, and all academic years.”

Thanks in part to a generous donation from siblings Ken Betterton and Karen Ro Betterton Heuberger in memory of their parents, Roe and Jessie Betterton, the space housing the UWC features a more comfortable and updated environment on the second floor of Moody Memorial Library, complete with new furniture and refreshed carpet and paint. This quieter area is free from the distraction of changing classes, and students writing and researching in Moody Library no longer have the make the trek to Carroll Science for help on their papers. Its centralized location and accessibility to all majors builds a strong community of writers across campus, rather than just in the English department.

“We are excited to welcome the University Writing Center to their new home in Moody Memorial Library,” said John S. Wilson, interim dean of University Libraries. “The idea of putting a centralized service like the UWC in a highly visible space makes good sense: it expands the Center’s reach and helps further position the Libraries as a partner in academic success across the full spectrum of students from all majors.”

The UWC’s services are available for a variety of writing projects, including but not limited to academic, technical, scientific, multimodal, and digital writing, along with job application materials and theses. Writers are welcome to bring their work at any stage in the writing process. Consultants can work with clients to develop ideas, strengthen style and organization, and perform minor or major editing. Online appointments are also welcome via the UWC website.

“We believe that writing is a powerful tool not only for communicating existing ideas but also for discovering new ones, and that all writers benefit from sharing work in progress with knowledgeable, attentive readers,” said Dr. Alexander.  “The UWC consultants work with writers in supportive, encouraging, and nonjudgmental ways to facilitate self-discovery and inspire confidence as writers learn, grow, and take ownership of their words and ideas.”

The UWC is committed to shaping a writing community that unites every part of campus. Through hosting writing groups and retreats and extending its services to include the design of class presentations, instructional consultations, and workshops, the new University Writing Center will allow every discipline the opportunity to form valuable and rewarding writing practices. This composition allows them to serve English writers as well as English language learners and international students.

“We hope to change the long-term perception about writing that writing is something only done in English,” said Dr. Alexander.  “Rather, writing and writing well are important in multiple disciplines and careers.”

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.

Still “Our Voice:” The Keston Institute Celebrates 50 Years (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

This fall, the Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of Keston College to be the voice of the voiceless for those experiencing religious persecution under communism and other totalitarian regimes.

In the heart of the Cold War, Michael Bourdeaux, a young Oxford student, became enthralled with the majestic beauty of Russian language and literature. During his studies, Bourdeaux’s emigre professor encouraged him to inquire into the whisperings of persecution church leaders were hearing from the USSR.

By God’s providence, Russian Premiere Nikita Khrushchev signed an exchange student agreement with England that Bourdeaux leveraged to study in Russia in 1959-1960. He found himself in the heart of Khrushchev’s cultural divestment of religion.

When Bourdeaux returned to England he worked from London to share his experiences. His stories, however, were called into question when the Russian Orthodox Church joined the World Council of Churches in 1961 and rebuffed any reports of any persecution. With western Christian and political leaders convinced there were no issues, Bourdeaux was marginalized.

In 1964, he received a letter from a group of Ukrainian Orthodox Christians recounting their experiences of persecution. Following a visit to Russia, Bourdeaux became the point person to receive testimonies, underground publications, and other materials that detailed the persecution of Christians in Russia. The flood of materials was so overwhelming that it was more than Bourdeuax could process alone. The evident magnitude of this crisis eventually led to the foundation of Keston College at Oxford in 1969.

Throughout the Soviet period, Bourdeaux and his colleagues operated research bureaus, verified information, advised political and religious leaders, published an academic journal, and widely exposed the realities of persecution through articles, books, media interviews, conferences, and high-level meetings. However, once the Cold War ended, financial support waned. Even so, on its 50th birthday, the Keston Institute remains alive producing newsletters, publishing articles, and supporting researchers.

The collection that contained a groundswell of evidence of religious persecution now resides at Baylor. In 2007, the university welcomed Keston’s library and archives and established the Keston Center for Religion, Politics, and Society to house the materials. In 2012, it became part of the Libraries and continues to collect new publications, receive materials, welcome scholars from around the world, and disseminate information.

On June 20, a plaque was unveiled on the building occupied by Keston College from 1972-1992 in honor of its fiftieth anniversary. Kathy Hillman, associate professor and director of the Keston Center, was on hand for the unveiling and reflected on the enduring importance of Keston’s work.

“Keston College was a ‘voice of the voiceless’ for so many persecuted believers in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries,” said Hillman. “Those stories continue to be told as researchers visit Keston Center and as we regularly host events on campus at Baylor.”

Keston’s golden anniversary celebration will continue on October 15 at the Foster Campus for Business and Innovation of Baylor University. A volume of commemorative essays entitled Voices of the Voiceless: Religion, Communism, and the Keston Archive will be formally presented at this event. Then, on November 9, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, will speak at the annual general meeting of the Keston Institute in London.

“A whole generation of Confessors was airbrushed out of official history,” said Bourdeaux during a recent Keston Open Day. “The Keston legacy, however, gives these men and women a continuing voice, having documented their activities with care and precision.”

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.

A Bigger Voice for Research: Institute for Oral History Becomes Part of University Libraries (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

On June 1, the Libraries welcomed the Institute for Oral History into its organizational structure, greatly expanding the reach and depth of the Libraries’ research and scholarship activities. The move unites the IOH’s pacesetting work in the area of gathering oral history memoirs with the strength and expertise of the Libraries and its team of expert faculty and staff.

“We are pleased that the Institute for Oral History has joined the library family,” said John Wilson, interim dean of University Libraries. “We have collaborated for many years on projects dealing with Waco history and recently worked together on a successful project on our women’s collections. We have always shared a similar mission and look forward to broadening the infrastructure of the Institute and fostering collaboration between our faculty and staff.”

The Institute for Oral History was founded in 1970 by a group of faculty members under the direction of Thomas L. Charlton, then a new assistant professor of history. From its inception, the institute has had a close working relationship with The Texas Collection, the university’s oldest special collections library. Their long-standing alliance paves the way for new collaborations in the future.

“Our new partnership with libraries gives us the opportunity to not only add to our collective body of knowledge on a variety of important topics, but also bring those stories and information to new audiences on campus and beyond,” said Stephen Sloan, director of the Institute for Oral History. “Together, we look forward to fostering diverse learning communities of partners and patrons.”

The institute has been an invaluable resource for several areas of study. As a part of the library system, the institute will continue to record and preserve oral histories and assist scholars with specialized research. In addition to these services, the collection will provide essential information for research in historical topics concerning Baylor University, Texas Baptists, Hispanic Baptists, and Waco and McLennan County.

The partnership also builds on the Libraries’ reputation as a center for training and instruction, as the institute hosts a number of highly-sought-after workshops on how to conduct and record oral history interviews. These workshops are used to create well-trained citizen oral memoirists whose individual efforts to document local stories add to the larger corpus of documented history at the local level.

As the new partnership between the Libraries and the IOH continues to evolve over the coming months and years, the Libraries anticipate a renewed interest in the primary source materials found in the institute’s holdings and is already exploring new ways to put them into the hands of scholars, researchers, and local historians across the state and – via their large presence in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections – around the world.

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.

Support for R1 Status, Illuminated: Baylor Libraries Acquire Heritage Edition of Saint John’s Bible (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

Crucifixion, Donald Jackson, Copyright 2002, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

When calligrapher Donald Jackson sat down with a group of Benedictine monks at Minnesota’s St. John’s Abbey in the mid-1990s, he could not have dreamed that his idea to create the first medieval-style, illuminated version of the Bible in almost 500 years would one day impact scholars at Baylor University. But that’s exactly the kind of impact the vision of a small group of people can have on a broader community when it combines God’s Word and the resurrection of an ancient bookmaking technique. Add in Baylor’s dedication to providing an “unambiguously Christian educational environment” as part of its academic strategic plan and you have the basis for why the University Libraries acquired one of only 299 copies of the Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition in February 2019.

The Inspiration
When Jackson – an artist based in Wales who once served as the official calligrapher to Queen Elizabeth II – met with the monks at St. John’s Abbey, he proposed an ambitious plan to create the first medieval-style Bible created for a religious order since the invention of the printing press. Envisioned as a project to celebrate the coming millennium celebration in 2000, the monks agreed and worked with Jackson to assemble a group of artists, religious scholars, and theologians to produce the work. 
Jackson and his artists acquired the rights to use the New Revised Standard Version translation of the Bible, began acquiring the necessary tools – calfskin for vellum, extremely rare inks, turkey- and goose-feather quills – and began the painstaking work of illustrating, illuminating, and calligraphing the Bible as envisioned for modern readers. Drawing inspiration from science (the use of images of DNA sequences and images from the Hubble Space Telescope), social welfare (images of people from minority and underrepresented groups), and modern life (cars, oilfields, even the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers), Jackson and his group made slow, meticulous work through the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Heritage Edition
As progress was made on what would become known as the Saint John’s Bible (SJB for short), it became clear that having only a single copy in a vault at St. John’s University would not achieve the group’s vision to spread the SJB around the world. Work soon began on what became known as the Heritage Edition of the SJB: an extremely high-quality, handcrafted, limited edition facsimile of the original SJB that could be sold in seven-volume sets for private purchase, institutional acquisition, or as part of library holdings around the world. 
The Heritage Edition features the same art and calligraphy of the original SJB but in a manner that allows for small batch reproduction. Instead of being printed on vellum, for example, the pages are printed on 100% uncoated cotton paper; the gold and platinum leaf in the SJB are replaced with gold and silver foils; unlike the pages of the SJB, which are unbound, the Heritage Edition volumes are handbound by a single craftswoman at a bookbinding firm in Arizona. In all, the Heritage Edition becomes its own work of art, a formidable and beautiful complement to the original.

Garden of Eden, Donald Jackson with contributions from Chris Tomlin, Copyright 2003, The Saint John’s Bible, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Heritage Edition Comes to Baylor Libraries

The Baylor Libraries had been pursuing the purchase of a Heritage Edition for some time before everything came together in the Fall of 2018 to facilitate a purchase. A group of Libraries faculty and staff working under interim dean John S. Wilson – including interim associate deans Sha Towers and Ken Carriveau, along with central libraries’ special collections director Beth Farwell – worked with the Heritage Edition Program to arrange a purchase, and the deal was closed in early 2019. Baylor’s copy of the Heritage Edition, certified number 105 of 299, arrived on campus on February 20.  
Plans are now underway to celebrate the Heritage Edition’s arrival with a series of public programs, including a blessing and dedication ceremony to be held at Truett Seminary in September, and a public lecture by a speaker provided by St. John’s Abbey later in the Fall 2019 semester. A series of public programs, class engagements, researcher encounters, and on-site visits are already being scheduled and undertaken, with Baylor Libraries faculty and staff taking the lead in connecting the Heritage Edition with interested parties in Waco and beyond.
“Opportunities to use the Heritage Edition in scholarship and as inspiration for new creations are as limitless as our community members’ imaginations,” said Towers. “We are blessed to have this incredible work in our collection, and we are eager to work with all who find its art, craftsmanship, and inspired Word to be of personal or professional interest.”
To learn more about the Baylor Libraries’ Heritage Edition of the Saint John’s Bible, visit www.baylor.edu/library/saintjohnsbible

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.

New Venue, Same Soulful Sound: The 2019 Voices & Vinyl Concert (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

Golden light bled through the stained glass windows into a worn but revered space. The wooden floorboards creaked as Baylor’s Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir walked to the front of the room. Everything seemed to stand still as Eric Witherspoon, the music director for Heavenly Voices, lifted his hand to cue the choir. Suddenly, the choir’s voices filled the former sanctuary at 2nd and Clay with joyful noise.

The Voices & Vinyl concert series, produced by the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project (BGMRP) team in partnership with Heavenly Voices, presents classic Black gospel music in a way that today’s audiences can relate to. Witherspoon, who served as director of the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir from 2017-2019, selected six songs from the BGMRP’s online collection for Heavenly Voices to sing at this year’s concert.

“This is one of my favorite events to do every year,” said Witherspoon. “I love taking old songs and rearranging them to give them a different type of vibe that people might not be used to. It’s important to celebrate the roots of gospel music while also getting to put our own signature spin on these important songs.”

The music lineup for the evening included “I’ve Come to the Garden Alone,” “We Offer Praise,” “He First Loved Me,” and more. The BGMRP contains over 3,000 items in its digital collection and holds treasured songs from the “Golden Age of Gospel Music,” which spanned roughly from 1945-1975. For those who haven’t heard the classic songs in the collection, Voices & Vinyl offers an immersive experience into the BGMRP.

“We started Voices & Vinyl in 2015 as a way to get students involved in exploring the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project,” said Eric Ames, the Outreach Liaison for Baylor Digital Collections and coordinator for Voices & Vinyl. “We wanted to give Baylor students a way to experience these classic gospel songs – written and recorded almost 50 years before they were born – in a way that was immediate, relatable, and exciting.”

The Voices & Vinyl concert, which usually takes place on Baylor University’s campus, moved to 2nd & Clay this year to make the event more available to the Waco community, giving the concert a renewed sense of spirituality. 2nd & Clay occupies the building founded as St. James Methodist Church in 1874 by a freed former slave; it became one of Waco’s iconic African-American churches, providing a place of worship for the African-American community.

“This concert is exactly the kind of event we hope to host at 2nd & Clay,” said venue owner Lane Murphy. “It’s an amazing way to honor the building’s history while finding a new, modern use for the space.”

The space was filled with a sense of awe and wonder as the Heavenly Voices choir sang song after song. The rearrangements made the songs “familiar, yet new.” Just like the reconstruction of St. James Methodist Church into 2nd & Clay, the rearrangements of these classic gospel songs gives a soulful rebranding to an American music genre.

“Every year, we’ve seen Voices & Vinyl grow from its original concept into something bigger and more impactful on the audience,” said Ames. “Taking it off campus this year was a risk, but it paid off with a moving experience in a sacred space and a large audience of people from across the Waco community. That’s what we’ll look to build on for the 2020 concert.”

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.

Exit, Pursued By A Legacy: Celebrating Tim Logan’s Stageworthy Career (From the 2019 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

Adapting a piece of William Shakespeare’s stage direction from The Winter’s Tale as the headline for a library staffer’s retrospective may seem unusual, but it is perfectly fitting for an article about Tim Logan. As he ends a stellar 38-year career with Baylor, Logan sat down with us to discuss the twists, turns, and lessons learned from his early days with the Theater Department to his final position as Associate Vice President for Library and Academic Technology Services.

Logan began his career at Baylor in the Theater Department as a technical director, and he credits the lessons he learned there for informing his later approach to IT and computer systems. “You learn to use materials in ways they weren’t originally designed to be used,” he said, along with an appreciation for creativity, flexibility, and the temporary nature of a production. “A lot of behind-the-scenes work goes into a public performance,” he said. And while people may never see the countless hours that go into making it happen, they always appreciate the finished product, a theme that would come to define his post-Theater Department career.

Logan’s fascination with technology led to enrolling in computer classes, and his aptitude there grabbed the attention of Dr. Don Hardcastle, who led the university’s Computation Center, along with Dr. Alan Hargrave in Academic Technology. Hardcastle approached Logan about joining the group and after years of long hours and weekends spent in a control booth at the theater, Logan agreed. In the end, he cites Hardcastle and Hargrave as two of the people who made the biggest impact on his career. The Computation Center’s environment of experimentation and the support of high-level administrators would inform his approach to tackling projects for the next 33 years.

That approach involved looking at problems – how to provide access to centralized computer records, for example – and evaluating the possible options through a matrix of choices including technical feasibility, length of time required to achieve success, staffing, and budgetary constraints. Then, Logan and his team would start experimenting, often taking inspiration from his mindset in the Theater Department as a guide. “When we needed to make columns for a production of Hamlet, we used giant forms used to make concrete supports for highways,” Logan said. “It wasn’t what people expected but it worked and no one knew the difference.”

That tinkerer’s mindset led to a series of increasingly ambitious and successful projects: converting the Library’s card catalog from paper records to multiLIS (first campus-wide online library system); creating a CD-ROM-based campus network for retrieving databases; spearheading an early campus videoconferencing system; overseeing the creation of a website-based system for Baylor’s decennial accreditation report to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). That series of projects involved addressing complex challenges crossing multiple departmental barriers over a series of multiple years, and each time, Logan’s dexterous approach led to successful implementations and problems solved.

In addition to a litany of successful projects, Logan says he’s most proud of the number of people he hired and trained who have gone on to successful careers in IT or other computer-related fields, and he derives great pleasure from listing their names, as well as projects carried out by his colleagues and people he’s supervised, like Carl Bell’s portable docent system (created for the Armstrong Browning Library) or the groundbreaking work done by Darryl Stuhr’s team in the Riley Digitization Center. Over his 38-year career, Logan has encouraged his subordinates to take risks, invested in their success, and seen the Electronic Library grow from a few employees to a large group whose scope of work includes digitization, classroom technology, learning spaces, creative labs, and more.

It becomes obvious in conversations with Logan that his capacity for retaining data on the history of computer technology is boundless. He is a veritable encyclopedia of formats obscure and obsolete, referencing products and systems like AppleTalk, the DEC Rainbow, and ZIP disks. But when pressed for details on plans for his future, he has only one topic in mind. “I will spend my time with Corrie, my wife of 44 years,” he says without hesitation.

When asked if he would miss the work he’s done for the better part of four decades, Logan gave a typically “Tim-esque” answer: “I’ve only been to one play since I left the theater, and that was because one of the people I’d trained was doing the lighting for it.” It’s as fitting an allegory as one can imagine for a man at the end of a distinguished career spent looking for the next challenge, the next opening night, or the next milestone with no need to look back with regret.

(Incidentally, and in true Tim fashion, he completely undersells the fact that that play was a Baylor Theater production of Othello starring a then only moderately-famous Samuel L. Jackson. Jackson was hired because of his professional experience and due to the fact that the role of Othello was seen as requiring “a total devotion of time which a student could not give,” according to an article in the September 9, 1987 edition of the “Baylor Lariat.”)

Asked to sum up how he’s seen academic libraries change in the time he’s worked for seven different library directors, Logan paused. Then, when the timing was just right, he replied, “It’s been a long 38 years and, boy, have we been a long way.”

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.

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.

Texas Collection Acquires Letter Detailing the Capture of Texas Navy Ship “Invincible”

The address panel and postmark of a May 5, 1836 letter from James Miller to Catherine Miller is shown in this image courtesy The Texas Collection, Baylor University

A recent acquisition by The Texas Collection sheds new insight on the capture of the Texas Navy’s Invincible, one of four schooners employed by Texian forces in their fight for independence from Mexico. A letter written by an officer of the U.S.S. Warren – a United States Navy ship tasked with capturing the Invincible in April of 1836 – is now part of The Texas Collection’s important holdings of pre-Republic of Texas materials. The story of the Invincible and the full transcript of the letter are detailed below.

The Invincible and the Pocket Incident

The Invincible’s history as the flagship of the Texas Navy is short – it entered service on March 12, 1836 and wrecked at Galveston on August 27, 1837 – but she played a key part in two events that would spawn international incidents between the Republic of Texas, the United States and the United Kingdom. It is her involvement with an American-owned brig called Pocket that ties in with The Texas Collection’s letter.

Artwork depicting the “Invincible” as featured on the Texas Navy Association website

Fresh off the destruction of a Mexican naval ship called the Bravo, the Invincible spotted Pocket as it approached Galveston, an important port city and a key location for the Texians to control if they hoped to defeat the Mexican forces under General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Suspecting the Pocket was involved in running supplies to Santa Anna’s forces, the Invincible – under the command of Captain Jeremiah Brown – captured the ship and led it to Galveston. There it was discovered that Pocket was indeed smuggling supplies to the Mexicans in hope of supporting their efforts to take Galveston. General Sam Houston seized the supplies and reinforced the Texian forces with them.

The captain of Pocket, Elijah Howe, made his way to New Orleans, where he lodged a complaint with the merchants there whose supplies he had been charged to carry to Texas; they, in turn, wrote to Commodore Alexander J. Dallas of the United States Navy in Pensacola, Florida. Dallas, under pressure from the merchants and eager to keep Texian interference in the Gulf of Mexico to a minimum, dispatched the U.S.S. Warren to Texas to detain the Invincible.

The Letter

The letter acquired by The Texas Collection is postmarked May 5, 1836, four days after the events its writer details in its first page. The writer is the Warren’s Second Lt. James F. Miller of Salem, Massachusetts. Miller was the son of James Miller, a brevet brigadier general in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 and the first territorial governor of Arkansas. Second Lt. Miller’s letter is addressed to his sister, Catherine, who also lived in Salem.

Miller writes in dramatic fashion of coming upon the Invincible, “a nice large … schooner of six guns with one long 18 [inch gun],” as it was anchored alongside a sand bar. After determining the ship was indeed the Invincible, the Warren’s crew was assembled along with their “cutlasses, pistols, tomahawks and boarding pikes” in anticipation of boarding the Texian vessel. At sunset, the Invincible attempted to leave the sand bar, but the Warren’s small boats followed and, under a heavy, dark sky, three of her boats reached the Invincible and the ship was boarded without incident. The boats returned to the Warren at 1:00 AM with the Invincible’s commander officer and gunner aboard to ensure no trickery would be undertaken by the Texian crew. The next morning, May 2, the Invincible was put underway to New Orleans under the escort of the Warren.

A portion of the Miller “Invincible” letter where Miller describes the ship as a “nice, large .. schooner of six guns with one long 18 [inch gun].” Image courtesy The Texas Collection, Baylor University.

Lt. Miller estimated the Invincible to be a good ship worth “$15 or $20,000” if she were to be condemned by the United States authorities as a forfeiture of war – which Warren doubted would happen. His suspicion would prove to be correct, as ultimately the Texas government would pay the United States $11,750 to settle the Pocket incident. The Invincible would go on to defend the Texas coast from Mexican vessels for another year until she ran aground outside Galveston during an engagement with the Mexican ships Vencedor del Alamo and Libertador.

Miller was very pleased with the Warren and its role in the capture of the Invincible, writing, “So the poor old rotten Warren has immortalized herself at last. She has had glorious luck in every way.” This reference to the Warren’s success is his last reference to the Invincible incident in the letter; from there, he shifts gears into recounting his opinions of the Warren’s captain, a man named Taylor, whom he describes as being, “in a stew, as usual.” He writes of the difficulties of keeping the watch in a storm – “I was as perfectly soaked as ever a sponge was” – and the ongoing question of his possible promotion. He also writes of the disappointment brought about by the departure of a fellow officer, William Du Pont, “the very beau ideal of a perfect gentleman – a gallant, high-minded chivalric officer.”

But the balance of the letter involves Miller’s telling his sister that he is anxious to learn more of the disposition and thoughts of a girl back home named Emily. This would turn out to be Emily Fox, whom Miller would eventually marry in 1837, albeit for a very short time before her early death in 1846 at age 36. Miller spends a good deal of his letter telling his sister that he believes Emily “possesses peculiar qualities for an Officer’s wife.” It is obvious that he is making a case to Catherine that Emily will make a good addition to the Miller family, and he tries to enlist his sister into his efforts to assuage Emily’s “doubt or fear” about his commitment to someday marrying Miss Fox. It also appears that Catherine herself is harboring some doubts, as Miller writes, “I hope my explanation will restore her entirely to your former good opinion. She truly deserves it.”

The grave markers for Commodore James Miller and Emily (Fox) Miller, from the Central Cemetery in New Ipswich, NH. Images courtesy their listing on FindAGrave.com.

Miller closes the letter with entreaties familiar to anyone who has read many 19th century letters, including a plea for more letters, a request to send his love to those back home, and a bit of ship’s gossip: “Mr. R. received your note and desires his Brother to acknowledge it, which he never did. That affair has not been forgotten about here – and I am pained to see or fear it is not forgotten when most it should be.”

The Miller letter from the Warren is, in many ways, a prototypical 19th century letter written by a man engaged in a military life: descriptive, longing, focused on minutiae, centered on the “folks back home” and, occasionally, witness to an historic occurrence. For researchers and patrons of The Texas Collection in 2018, it offers a rare glimpse into the mind of someone present in a pivotal moment in the life of the Texas Navy, adding depth and perspective to an important moment in the pre-Republic of Texas era.

Enhanced Digital Images of the Miller “Invincible” Letter

The images below were made by the Digital Preservation Services team, operating state-of-the-art digitization equipment in the Baylor Libraries’ Riley Digitization Center. They have been enhanced to bring the original color of the ink forward in an effort to enhance legibility.

The Transcript

You can read an edited transcript of the Miller letter below. The text sticks to the original as much as possible, but some abbreviations have been expanded and punctuation marks such as commas and semicolons have also been added for easier reading. You will also notice several places where the text is illegible or otherwise missing; these are noted with [?].


Miss Catherine Miller
Care of Gen’l. Miller

My Dear Kate,

Your long, kind good letter of the 7th April has this moment been [received]. We sailed from here on Thursday morning at daylight at an hour’s notice. As of the next morning we were off the mouth of the Mississippi going 10 miles an hour. At 1 PM we anchored; blowing a gale of wind. A nice large anchored schooner of six guns with one long 18 was just aside of the Bar. Officers and men volunteered: cutlasses, pistols, tomahawks – boarding pikes. Men mustered. A spyglass was levelled at the said schooner. At sun set she attempted to get under weigh. Instantly our boats swung overboard – men mustered – everything arranged[.] At dark, a thick cloudy night. 3 boats arrowed to the truth. 55 men [and] six Officers shoved off in silence – two hours’ anxious suspense – in the direction of the vessel aforesaid. A false fire – a blue light & two rockets – announced to us all was secured. At 1 AM our boat returned with the commanding Officer (1st Lt.) and gunner of the Texian Schooner Invincible. The next day we dispatched  her under command of my first mate [Commander] Ridgely as Port master to New Orleans with her 2nd Lt and 46 men via [?]. At midnight Saturday evening we got out of the Mississippi and have [at] the moment anchored. We pounced upon them like a hawk. She had taken an American vessel down at Texas and taken out her cargo. It is very doubtful whether she can be condemned. If she should she will sell for $15 or $20,000. So the poor old rotten Warren has immortalized herself at last. She has had glorious luck in every way. And I should be very happy if Capt. Taylor could be easy and satisfied. As we have been short of Officers having lost [?] I have been acting Lt. [and] keeping watch. Last night I had the first [watch] from 8 to midnight and it never rained or poured down harder since the world began. The Capt. [is] in a stew as usual. He kept the deck with me. And when I came down at 12 [I] was as perfectly soaked as ever a sponge was. This evening the first thing I heard was the Capt. I worked up my [coordinates] and placed it on the chart just before land was made. It proved right perfectly although the Capt. would believe anything else – doubt every thing – but my patience was fairly threadbare and I used pretty plain language to him. After an hour, the first thing we saw to know was the flag staff at the Navy Yard. The Capt. was himself again[;] he was “perfectly satisfied.” I told him I hoped he would now trust me until he had some cause to doubt that a chart 37 miles wrong had made the only single bad landfall of 8 or ten &c.

[page 1B]

And last not least her pure devoted now undisguised furious attachment to me. Are not they enough? At the age of 30 somebody says & truly views characters, experience and revulsion. The common pleasures of life have [been] tasted to the full & begin to fall. We have reduced the visions of youth to the sobering test of reality. We no longer chase frivolities or hope [for] chimeras. Perhaps the most useful lessons of this bitter experience is [sic] the true estimate of love. For at first we are too apt to think [a] woman is perfect and we hoping [for] perfection. With how much excellence have we been disappointed [and] discontented[?] Thirsting for the golden fountain of the fable from how many streams have [we] turned away weary and disgusted? Enough. You will say I say so too. We go to Veracruz, Tampico &c in about four or five days. To be gone 6 weeks or two months. Whether we go home in July or October is now the question. Is said confidently that a Bill is before Congress to make a great promotion which will bring me 100 above the fool of Lieutenants!!! Pap & two readings in the Senate

[Page 2]

In addition to all my necessary duties I never calculated to be day nurse to the Capt. Will [?] for your letters. All of them have come safe and have made me very happy. I made everybody stare when we arrived last having with your enclosures[:] 13 letters besides papers, &c. We met the St. Louis going out as we came up; when, I cannot say. We expect & hope to go to Veracruz[,] Tampico &c, to be gone till the middle of July [and] return here & stay till [the] 1st [of] October,­ then go home by the 1st [of] Nov. Will that satisfy you? Verily you have dissected my letter. I will go over it myself. My letter to you and not in any lines, from my recollection of it, imply or express even a wish to go home now or until a year should have elapsed. For reasons too obvious to repeat but which are contained in my last to you. My only reason for doubt was on account of Emily. If she is satisfied I am happy. As to the law or regulation requiring a year’s service – I only know that it is said to be a regulation. But it has never been published or an order. Nor do I believe they can require it or pass over me [for promotion] for want of it. All these considerations aside I would rather be out a year – make a full unbroken cruise – than to return now. For myself I have [at] no moment thoughts of any earlier return than Nov. with [?]. You seem to treat the matter as though I was impatient to return.

Receiving as I did Emily’s letter containing precisely such an answer as I expected, and the information that the ship would stay out till Nov.[,] I was completely happy. You name an agreement with Aunt Fox[;] I ­­know of no agreement I have made; [I] have complied with no conditions. I only know that Emily wished her mother to keep the matter on her mind carefully till I returned from sea longer or shorter – six months or six years “tous le meme chose.” You say my promotion was another condition[.] This is entirely new. You know more of the matter than I do. Yet there is no consummation more devoutly to be wished than that same matter of promotion. There is no one on the list who can be made more exquisitely happy than your Brother. Yet if I should return in Nov. & find a certainty of promotion as I think it will be – I hope the “two families” will not be so unkind as to “scout the idea” of marrying “under such circumstances.” I hope to be at home in Nov.[,] promotion or no promotion – money or no money – having then made a full cruise. My promotion will be secured if it could be retarded by my going now. But if the promotion this year should happen to reach me they cannot [?] me. I shall be promoted. Again I cannot remain exposed to so much and such eternal & incessant annoyance. My delightful happiness is broken up nearly. Wm. Du Pont [is] the man who fills my heart and presents to my mind the very beau ideal of a perfect gentleman – a gallant high minded chivalric officer – has left us all in mourning – his good cheerful hearty laugh is no longer heard. The Capt. thought he was a demigod and placed as he should complete confidence in him. We could take care of him together. Some others have left; whether they will return or not no one knows. It was a gloomy day when he left here last. Our success, I suppose, will give the papers a chance to abuse the Warren. But has given us a letter short.

[page 3]

Therefore as soon as my promotion is entirely secure – and I can have made a full cruise to entitle me to remain on shore a short time at least – I shall return “next spring perhaps” or sooner if the ship goes. It is now said to be certain that we shall go home in Nov.; that will complete the year.

The Capt. has just returned and we are to go to sea immediately. That is in a week or ten days; when, nobody knows or cares. At least I don’t. I had rather be at sea than here except to get letters. This time you have “done well”; letters have come to me to my heart’s content. I have always had reason to grumble – at least thought I had – but if your letters continue to come as they have come I will not say one crude word. Did I quote Emily’s answer to me[?] I think I did. Less I mistake I will do so now – “You ask if you shall come home for a few months or stay away if necessary and from I shall think you cool & calculating in not running home for an hour or two. My Dear James I shall always be glad to see you cool and calculating. It is to me the strongest proof of the steadiness of your love. Stay away to the last doubtful day but above all do not waive rank on my account or for any consideration. Your “little Emily” whom you so justly accuse of being ambitious will never willingly waver rank to anyone. But so long as you do not sacrifice duty to love she will never sacrifice love to ambition.”

I wrote you in my last how perfectly [missing] was with this decided answer. Such [is] precisely as I wished. If I had been so extre- [missing] -ious and thoughtless of my duty and intense as you seem to think I was I should [missing] asked no questions, or opinions but given myself up to exultations at the prospect [missing] returning so soon. I am saved the trouble of deciding or of effecting a transfer of waiving rank. You name Emily’s doubt or fear, if she has any &c, and state the nature of them that she thinks or pray I should get indifferent & think that I might have got someone younger – more beautiful & accomplished “& so on.” An intimacy of 7 years with her I should [think] sufficient to have discovered my error if it was her beauty of accomplishments which formed the attraction. I have had the vanity to believe that there were those of far more beauty & more accomplishments of the ornamental kind and [damaged] within my reach. Not a mere suspicion, rather, of which I speak: but intimacy in common acquaintance in many instances was sufficient to convince me that congeniality of temper & disposition was wanting or some other objection would arise sufficient to effect a cure. With Emily I have made & can make no mistake in that matter at least. I cannot do better than repeat my reasons of preference for her over all others. The perfect congeniality of temper & disposition, the entire perfect purity, and firmness of her principles – which I have known and studied so long and without hearing one word or action to disapprove. She possesses peculiar qualities for an Officer’s wife. The most fastidious, the most suspicious or jealous could never for a moment hesitate in reproving the most entire confidence in her judgement & prudence.

[Page 4]

My last letter contained certain explanation concerning certain letters, notes & “so on.” Upon more reflection I remember reading your note to my Riley to Bartlett and his taking perhaps to read over again and keeping [it] against my wishes. As I did not think it of any consequence – as to the others – it was never seen or heard of by anyone and it was entirely forgotten until you named it to me. I was pained at some of your remarks censuring her for I had done her a wrong – and she suffered in your estimates. I hope my explanation will restore her entirely to your former good opinion. She truly deserves it.

Your love to her I shall give truly cordially. I am glad you send the message before getting any “confessions.” I am not quite so careless of letters as you may think[.] Mr. R received your note and desires his Brother to acknowledge it, which he never did. That affair has not been forgotten about here – and I am pained to see or fear it is not forgotten when most it should be. I shall perhaps write again before leaving. Write to Emily as often as you can. Love her and me as you have done and we will all be happy yet. Love to all who deserve it at my hand. I see nothing of a letter from Guss or Bessy.

Our bill before Congress proposes one Admiral, two Vice Admiral, two Rear Admirals, 10 Commanders, 50 [?] Captains, 75 Master Commanders. How many Lieutenants I don’t know but it will require 120 promotions of P. Mid to make up even the present number. I have not met with the Concord nor shall I till August.


More Information

You can see the “Invincible” letter in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections here. The Finding aid for the James F. Miller papers can be found here. For an excellent write-up about the Texas Navy, see Jonathan Jordan’s Lone Star Navy: Texas, the Fight for the Gulf of Mexico and the Shaping of the American West.

Celebrating Moody’s 50th Anniversary (From the 2018 ITS & Libraries Magazine)

Moody Memorial Library shines after its upper-level lights are restored following the “Bring Back the Light” event, January 2018.

Few buildings on campus are as iconic as Moody Memorial Library, a mid-century marvel anchoring the end of Fountain Mall opposite Pat Neff Hall. Long considered the academic life center of campus, Moody has been home to millions of print volumes, late night study sessions, expert guidance from library faculty and countless hours spent in study carrells. In celebration of Moody’s unique contributions to the campus community, the Baylor Libraries are honoring Moody’s 50th anniversary with a series of events, promotions, contests and limited edition designs.

“A Modern and Functional Library”– Moody’s roots extend into the mid-1960s as the university faced a time of growth and change best encompassed in its Projection 68 campaign, a push to upgrade Baylor’s physical plant with several new buildings by the end of the decade. A larger, modern library was seen as a high priority to replace the cramped, aging space in Carroll Library that had long since been outgrown by the student body. With an initial gift from the Moody Foundation paving the way, the fundraising for the new library was completed and a groundbreaking ceremony held on October 21, 1966.

Dignitaries including Baylor President Abner McCall (far right) join Mary Moody Northern participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for Moody Memorial Library, October 22, 1966.

Despite construction delays that pushed its opening into the fall semester of 1968, Moody Memorial Library opened roughly when expected, with four floors of book stacks, study spaces, offices and classrooms winning instant praise from students, faculty and staff alike. The main entry into the space – formally dubbed the Exhibits Lounge and named in memory of Ada Allbritton, wife of building chairman Joe Allbritton – offered comfortable seating and gallery walls for displaying artwork. Two large gardens provided sunlight and views of greenery for the Garden Level, and modern furniture and period appropriate textiles in colors like yellow, green, and orange added to the mid-century aesthetic.

Moody’s evolution over the next 50 years would see the addition of computer terminals, photocopiers, scanners, printers, and new study spaces. As students’ needs changed, the building changed with them; today’s student body, the most mobile in history, is looking for places to gather in small groups for study sessions or smaller spaces to hunker down and focus without the distractions of roommates and active apartments. Library administrators, led by Interim Dean of Libraries John S. Wilson, continue to focus on adapting Moody’s physical layout to fit the needs of a growing campus; however, work to fully modernize Moody remains.

Celebrating in Style

The year-long celebration of Moody’s 50th has included a kickoff event in January that honored the installation of new upper-level façade lights – for the first time in decades – presided over by President Linda Livingstone; a student art contest called Moody Through Your Lens; the use of social media hashtags like #moody50 and #iheartmoody; and upcoming plans for a celebration in September to mark Moody’s “birthday” on the day the doors officially opened in 1968.

The next half-century will bring changes and challenges for Moody and the more than one million people who enter its doors every academic year. But for a library that was hailed as “modern, functional and beautiful” back in 1968, finding new ways to stay relevant to the times is as foundational to its identity as the red brick walls and soaring windows that opened fifty years ago.