All Hallow’s Eve, the Archive Experience, & Chet Edwards

We have mixed feelings about October 31st here at the Baylor Collections of Political Materials;  it means our Treats & Treasures series goes back into hibernation until next fall, but also that we’ve got our pick of fun, spooky treats (and tricks!) on campus. How are we supposed to negotiate the despair of American Archives Month ending with the excitement of Halloween? After hours of round-table discussions, recitations from “Chicken Soup for the Archivist’s Soul,” and an old-fashioned conclave, we emerged with a fascinating question: What does Halloween look like for a congressman?

Archives are incredible repositories for documents, photographs, and other historical materials, but finding specific answers isn’t always easy. Any search will often uncover more information than can ever be relevant to a given researcher’s question. We knew this going in, but we also knew the best way to prevent it: narrowing our focus. Our collections contain thousands of constituent letters, press releases, speeches, and legislative documents. If this seems daunting, remember that these are all primary materials — in other words, they’ve come straight from the horse’s mouth. The dilemma we now faced was which horse to choose. After much deliberation, we decided to feature our archive’s newest congressional collection: Congressman Chet Edwards. Not only would Edwards be fun to research, but he governed during an era when media exposure rapidly became ubiquitous. Surely we could find at least one photo of the congressman on Halloween?

Sometimes, however, a search hits a dead end.  Our exhaustive search turned up nothing;  American Archives Month seemed destined to end on a down note. But then we thought, “Why not turn this into a learning opportunity? After all, sharing the ‘archives experience’ is the whole point of Treats & Treasures. What could be more of an ‘archives experience’ than unfruitful research on a fascinating subject?” We may not have found any photographs of Edwards enjoying Halloween, but we found something just as interesting: his schedule for Saturday, October 31st, 2009.


Edwards_Halloween 2

This is only a small sample from Congressman Edwards October 31st, 2009 schedule. Certain information, such as addresses, driving directions, phone numbers, and full names, has been redacted to preserve privacy. This schedule may not give us the same information a photograph could, but we can still glean a few pertinent details from it. For example, Edwards’s Aggie pride is well-represented by his 35th college reunion’s Halloween costume party. Additionally, Edwards passion for Veterans’ Affairs shows by the inclusion of the Aggie Vets Tailgate and a half-time Military Appreciation show. Our quest to find a Halloween photo may have been unsuccessful, but we still achieved our goal. Our initial question asked, “What does Halloween look like for a Congressman?” This schedule tells us: “Busy!”


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