The Missing

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Photo illustrated based on text from  November 17, 1900 edition of the ‘Varsity Lariat.

We knew them only by their numbers.

The spreadsheet listing them seemed endless, although that could have been a trick the mind plays on itself after scrolling through column after column of data for untold hours.

The names were missing. I began to wonder if they’d even had names to begin with.

Numbers on a sheet. Anonymous. Dead, for all we knew.

For years we’d been seeking them, in places familiar and strange, organized and disheveled. And we’d been pretty good at our work, finding hundreds upon hundreds of them, some huddled together as if by an innate tribal instinct; others were orphaned, lost and alone; still others were found interspersed within some larger, disparate grouping, purposely grafted together by careful hands long ago.

But for every one we found, others remained elusive, an ethereal set of “must be theres” that hung maddeningly out of reach. We could infer their existence because we’d found their neighbors. It was like looking at a census record for a city block where every third house was conspicuously empty, proof that the street existed but leaving the neighborhood’s story woefully incomplete.

***

As with so much in life, it was the off-hand comment that proved prophetic. One of our graduate students, a photographer for the campus newspaper during his undergraduate days, mentioned a resource he’d utilized in his own searches, one we hadn’t previously considered. “You should check the morgue,” he said with the kind of casual directness common among the young but so often lacking in more seasoned seekers.

“The morgue.” Where else would one check for the missing? The suggestion carried with it the twin sensations of being both sensible and undeniably obvious. It was the aural equivalent to the heady scent of petrichor, a reminder that life hangs on, subterranean, even after weeks of drought.

Entering the morgue was a revelation. In their long gray boxes were the stories we’d been seeking, filed away in ranks dating back almost a century. Some had suffered for their years of inertia, bearing the physical scars of a hard-used life. Others appeared as lifelike as the days they wandered abroad, colorful and immediate and alive.

We walked reverently among them, our list in hand. Here was one known to us only as 1966-03-29e but whose name is actually Peace Corps World: 1966. Here was 1938-10-22, a document of the 1938 Homecoming stalemate (6-6) against Texas A&M.

Most amazingly, here was an entire family missing since 1948: forty-eight members of it, in fact, together in death as they’d been in life.

In all, we found all or parts of 94 previously missing entities. We arranged for their delivery to the Riley Digitization Center where they were handled with the care and compassion reserved for the honored dead who were long thought lost.

Today, those 94 missing lines from our list – repositories of stories and memories past – have been reunited with their spiritual brethren in their new incarnation as digital surrogates, given new usefulness and broader impact as items available to the world. And while they represented only .8% of the total resources available, remember the lesson of the Prodigal Son: the Father rejoices moreso over the homecoming of those that were lost than over those who never left in the first place. A hard lesson for the older brother to grapple with, but one with a sense of rightness when experienced from the parental perspective.

***

The joy of rediscovery is tempered somewhat by the knowledge that others remain unknown to us, many likely gone forever. Perhaps some day we will turn to you, good people of the Internet, in our quixotic quest to locate every missing piece, to complete the tapestry of our history that was born of many parents and mourned by many children.

But for today, we celebrate the returned. The list of numbers will still be there tomorrow.


The Baylor Lariat collection contains all known copies of the campus newspaper dating from 1900 to the most recent academic semester that are house in official Baylor repositories. If you have issues of the Lariat that don’t appear in our collection, please contact us at digitalcollectionsinfo@baylor.edu and we will happily check to see if your items can help us fill in a gap in our holdings. 

I Say O-MEK-a, You Say O-MEE-kah, Let’s Call the Whole Thing AWESOME: Introducing Our Digital Exhibits Platform

omeka-post-headerWe’re always looking for new ways to connect the unique content in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections with our many and multi-faceted publics. So when it came time to find a way to create digital exhibits based on either a.) formerly physical exhibits or b.) entirely digital content, we settled on web publishing platform Omeka – specifically, a hosted omeka.net account.

As a small staff with plenty of work to do digitizing, curating, preserving and cataloging the items in our care, we needed a solution that would allow for template-based, low-cost entry into the digital exhibit creation game. Omeka’s hosted solution was the perfect fit. Going hosted meant we didn’t have to install and maintain yet another piece of software and using its template-based approach means no time lost writing code for a custom solution.

Once we settled on a solution, we set about creating our first digital exhibits. The first – and most elaborate so far – was for the physical exhibit created for the Armstrong Browning Library’s “Uses of ‘Religion’ in 19th Century Studies” conference held in March 2016. The physical exhibit featured numerous artifacts curated around the many ways the word (and concept) “religion” were used in the 1800s; topics covered include social issues, literature, religious discourse and more.

Next up was another ABL exhibit, this one inspired by the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The exhibit, titled “A World of Their Own: Children’s Literature at the Armstrong Browning Library,” focused on examples of children’s literature held in the ABL’s vast collections, including numerous examples of first editions, fanciful illustrations and morality tales used to educate 19th century youth.

We shifted gears fairly radically with our third exhibit: Visions of Rapture. We came up with the idea for the project – using Baylor art students to design covers for American black gospel songs that had been released without accompanying cover art – and proceed to mount both a physical and digital exhibit featuring their work.

Our most recent collaboration is with the Baylor Collections of Political Materials, an all-digital exhibit titled, “Poage’s Passport.” It focuses on the world-traveling expeditions of Congressman W. R. “Bob” Poage, namesake of the Poage Legislative Library and long-time member of the House Agriculture Committee. The exhibit is the first to fully integrate materials from a collection housed in CONTENTdm, meaning that all of the images from the exhibit link to full item records in the Digital Collections system. This integrated approach will be the preferred way of creating digital exhibits moving forward, as it provides an additional inroad into the Digital Collections without adding duplicate records in another system (i.e. Omeka).

Future exhibits will be coming online in the near future, with exhibits on the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, American involvement in World War I and Baylor athletics on the drawing board. For now, we encourage you to click on the exhibits below to view them in Omeka, and let us know what you think. We look forward to using this helpful platform for many years to come!


ARMSTRONG BROWNING LIBRARY

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.56.29 PMA World of Their Own: Children’s Literature at the Armstrong Browning Library

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.56.52 PMThe Uses of “Religion” in 19th Century Studies


BAYLOR COLLECTIONS OF POLITICAL MATERIALS

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.55.53 PMPoage’s Passport


ELECTRONIC LIBRARY / DIGITAL PROJECTS GROUP

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.57.32 PMVisions of Rapture: Art Inspired by the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project

 

It Was There Before The Tree, Obviously: The Story of Mrs. Hubbard’s Hidden Flag Pole at the ABL

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Pictured: The Struggle Between Nature and Tall, Metal Objects

An existential question for you on this Flag Day: Is a flag pole still a flag pole if it’s no longer flying a flag? (Short answer: yes, it’s just not living up to its potential.)

Here’s another, related, question: What’s up with the 50-foot flag pole currently hidden by a giant oak tree on the west side of the Armstrong Browning Library? (Short answer: it started with a donation, and some trees grow really tall.)

It All Started (For Me) With A Post-presentation Walk

One sunny spring day, after attending a presentation at the beautiful Armstrong Browning Library, I walked out the building’s side door and ran smack dab into a flag pole I’d never seen before, which was weird, because it was 50 feet tall and topped with an eagle; kinda hard to miss, right? Normally, you’d be right, but allow me to set the stage with a little photographic evidence of its camouflaged-ness.

pole_and_treeAnd, waaaay up top: the eagle.

eagle_atop_poleCurious, I drew nearer to the mystery pole and found at its base a plaque with some intriguing – if not completely illuminating – information on it. To wit:

flag_pole_plaqueThis of course lead to a whole series of questions: Who was Robert M. Hubbard? How was he connected to Baylor? Why would a flag pole dedicated to the “Founder of the Texas Highway System” be found outside the Armstrong Browning Library? Where the heck is New Boston, Texas? And so on.

To find the answers, I went digging into the archives at The Texas Collection, the Armstrong Browning Library and – of course – Google. The story has ties to former Texas governor (and Baylor president) Pat Neff; a man obsessed with the lives of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning; and a prominent location on the (then) frontier of the campus.

Who Was Robert M. Hubbard?

Robert M. Hubbard – Rob, to his family and friends – was born in Cooper and grew up in Paris, Texas. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1894 and went on to gain a law degree at the University of Texas, graduating in the same class as (drum roll, please) Pat Morris Neff. Later, he married Berta Lee Hart. He went on to serve two terms in the Texas state legislature from 1930-1931 and served as state highway commissioner under governors William P. Hobby and Neff. Hubbard would die on November 6, 1934.

Hubbard oversaw the transformation of the state’s roadways from a series of barely passable, poorly planned backroads and county highways to one of the most advanced, innovative state highway systems in the country, earning him the nickname – you guessed it – the Founder of the Texas Highway System.

Mrs. Hubbard’s Gift

While R.M. Hubbard was busy serving the state both in Congress and in the highway commissioner’s chair, the Baylor University campus had a monumental task of its own: creating a collection and, eventually, a library related to the lives of Victorian poets Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The idee fixe of English faculty member Dr. A.J. Armstrong, the development of an on-campus resource focused on Browningiana took hold in Armstrong’s mind after his participation in an auction of Browning materials held by Sotheby’s in 1913. Over the next several decades, Armstrong worked tirelessly to acquire Browning materials. In December 1951, his dream was realized with the dedication of the Armstrong Browning Library, a gala affair that drew a long list of attendees, including one Berta Hubbard.

Mrs. Hubbard and an acquaintance, a Mrs. Watley of Texarkana, attended the festivities and were greatly moved by what they saw. After some conversations with Baylor administrators, facilitated by D.K. “Dock” Martin and including Earl C. Hankamer and Dr. Armstrong, Mrs. Hubbard settled on making a gift to Baylor in her husband’s honor. In a letter to Martin dated January 23, 1952, Mrs. Hubbard wrote,

Three thousand dollars is a large gift for me at this time, but I feel that I would like to make a gift – and if the flag staff is the wise choice – I would like that. … Of course it would be in memory of Rob.”

Letter from Mrs. R.M. Hubbard to D.K. “Dock” Martin, January 23, 1952. From the W.R. White Papers at The Texas Collection. Emphases in original. $3,000 in 1953 translates to roughly $27,000 dollars in 2016.

Mrs. Hubbard’s check led to the design and manufacture of a 50-foot flag pole, topped with an eagle and featuring a memorial plaque, to be situated on the southwest side of the building. At the time, that represented the treeless boundary of the campus. In this photo from the dedication ceremony, you can see just how starkly it stood out against the 2-year-old building’s facade.

Flagpole Dedication 5For reference, here’s what that location looks like now, thanks to Google maps.

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A (Lone) Star-studded Affair: Dedication Day

Planning for the flag pole’s dedication ceremony started small, with Dock Martin proposing a gathering of some 50 of Rob Hubbard’s closest friends to be held on Founders Day (February 1, 1953). However, at the encouragement of Baylor president W.R. White, the decision was made to “make a real Baylor occasion of it,” especially when former Texas governor William P. Hobby – under whom Hubbard had served as highway commissioner, you’ll recall – agreed to attend. The date was eventually changed to May 29, and Gov. Hobby served as the guest of honor.

Photos from that day show it to be a major ceremony indeed, including music, faculty in full cap-and-gown regalia, a contingent of U.S. military members and a sizable crowd present under a clear blue sky.

Flagpole Dedication 1

Gov. W.P. Hobby (left) with Mrs. R.M. Hubbard. From the archives of the Armstrong Browning Library.

 

Flagpole Dedication 3

Raising the Texas flag. Note the bugle player near the flag pole’s base; it is assumed he is playing “Reveille.” The presence of a piano also leads us to believe there was some form of special music presented for the occasion. From the photo archives of the Armstrong Browning Library.

 

Flagpole Dedication 6

The major players, from left: D.K. “Dock” Martin, Mrs. R.M. Hubbard, Gov. W.P. Hobby and Dr. W.R. White (Baylor University president)

The flag pole’s grand launch was a success, and its presence on the southern frontier of the ever-expanding campus was a daily reminder of the university’s inextricable link to the state it calls home. But over time, an innocuous bystander, present at the dedication, would grow to obscure and hide its legacy to all but the heartiest of campus visitors (or, as it turns out, curators out wandering the grounds after a presentation). I give you: The Obscurer!

Flagpole Dedication 3b

Dunt-dun-DUHHHHH!

Yes, this hopeful little sapling will grow over the next 60+ years to become a mighty oak, with massive limbs and a propensity to consume. And at the time, it seemed so insubstantial, so full of promise, a future source of respite for an outdoor-minded Victorian scholar, not the dominant shade provider it would actually become.

Though it no longer bears a flag aloft in the shimmering south campus skies, the flag pole dedicated in honor of R.M. Hubbard – the Founder of the Texas State System – is a unique, endearing lagniappe to the legacy of the stunning architectural gem sitting just a stone’s throw away.  And without the vision and passion of one member of the university’s faculty, who’s to say what might have occupied this now-vibrant corner of campus? Certainly nothing as interesting as an oak tree that eats flag poles, that much is certain.

Long May She Wave?

We have it on good authority – current director and long-time faculty member Rita Patteson, at that – that at one point there was an ABL flag that flew from the pole some years ago, and while I wasn’t able to track down an image of it, I took the liberty of creating an artist’s rendition featuring Dr. Armstrong’s face and what I imagine to have been his personal motto, which may or may not have been tattooed on his left bicep (unconfirmed).

ABL_speculative_flagOh, and One More Thing

This is where the heck New Boston is.

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We are thankful to Jennifer Borderud and Melvin Schuetz at the ABL for their help on this post, and to Benna Vaughan and the staff at The Texas Collection for their help with the W.R. White correspondence.

 

Before There Was A “Lariat,” There Was The “Literary”

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 9.10.35 AMThe daily documentation of life at Baylor University began in earnest with the first issue of The ‘Varsity Lariat, the campus newspaper of record since 1900. But almost a decade earlier, Baylor students in the waning decade of the 19th century found their means of expression on the pages of the Baylor Literary. And now, almost 125 years after the first issue was published, the surviving issues of the Literary held by The Texas Collection have been digitized and are available online in the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections!

Join us below for a tour of some highlights of the 167 issues available now!

The First (Digitally Available) Issue: March 1893

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The First Issue With a Photo on the Cover (and a Poem Called “The Thatness of the Somewhat” by Samuel Palmer Brooks): January 1897

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Some Notable Names Who Contributed to the
Literary:

  • Samuel Palmer Brooks
  • Pat M. Neff
  • Dorothy Scarborough

The Final Issue in the Collection, dated May 1915:

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Our thanks to The Texas Collection for their work preserving these treasures, and to the students of Baylor University at the turn of the last century for their work creating them.

 

And Then There Were 9,601: A Big Update on the Spencer Sheet Music Collection

It’s a collection that’s been at Baylor University since the middle of last century, with items spanning back to the 1700s. There are more than 28,000 items in that collection including a first edition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic and Jingle Bells. And as of this week, it’s reached a milestone: more than 9,600 digitized items from the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music are available online for free.

We’re closing in on 10,000 items, which will mean 30% of the total physical collection digitized. We thought we’d celebrate this milestone by putting some of the most interesting recent additions in this blog post. Feel free to click into the collection and explore each piece further, including looking at the lyrics for each.

 

There’s a lot more to this latest batch (422, to be exact) and we encourage you to take a look at them all. We’ll continue to update you as we add new content to this collection, and if the previous 9,000+ items are any indication, we’re in for quite a ride before this collection is completely online!


Learn more about the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music at the collection’s homepage.