This blog post was written by former Poage graduate assistant Ricky Shull.
Sometimes, when I tell a classmate or friend that I work at Poage Library, I have to explain who Poage was and what kind of materials the library holds. That usually solicits a response along the lines of, “Agriculture? That has got to be real boring.” You might be surprised, as I often was, at the diversity of the collections housed here! In my final blog post, I will reflect on my two years at Poage and highlight some of the things that make Poage Library intriguing.
During my first year here, I processed the W. R. Poage Personal papers. I remember taking on the first section of this project – the Law Practice series – and thinking that this was a drag. Who cares to read endless letters about motor carrier licensing or mineral lease drafts? That attitude changed, however, the further along I progressed into the project. Seeing all the colorful displays and fascinating mementos from the Travel series, the array of personal photographs, and learning about the Poage family and Waco through the Biographical Materials series all opened my eyes to a unique perspective on Waco, on Texas, and on various levels of government.
In the spring and summer of 2021, I was tasked with condensing several collections to optimize space in the archive. This project and my curiosity allowed me to explore collections I otherwise would have never encountered. What I found through this project was a wide variety of documents, memorabilia, and mementos that covered far more than just agriculture or policy. The collections of George Meyer Robert Platt were perhaps the most interesting to me, as they consist of a diverse collection of campaign materials and knick-knacks. I generally would not consider myself a politics buff, but I found it fascinating to look at the graphic design and slogans that adorned buttons, stickers, clothing, and dozens of other items that these collections hold. Some were novel and creative, while others showed a beauty in simplicity. Getting to explore these collections always brought something new to the table, and again made me reconsider my perspective on another segment of American history.
Just when I thought that I had explored everything of interest at the library, I was surprised yet again when I worked on the Post Office subseries in the Poage Congressional papers. While much of the correspondence related to the many processes of appointments and building improvements, there were times when some personal or local drama would spill out of the letters. Accusations of loyalty to Poage, rumors of Nazi sympathizers in the Post Office, and criminal indictments from the family of a postmaster applicant were all found in this collection. Even when the content of the letters was dry, the ornate and unique letterheads of local businesses were always a treat to discover. These bits of real life made the ordinary exciting and created a story that is much more interesting than just the business of the Post Office.
Poage Library is not just about agriculture and politics. It houses collections that feature fascinating stories and unique perspectives. For this journalism student, Poage offered me an exciting experience to explore facets of history that I would have never explored otherwise. I was afforded a great working experience that taught me a few things about myself and diversified my experience in grad school. I also worked alongside some excellent people, both students and full-time staff whose community made the job even more enjoyable. As I prepare to graduate and head out into the real world, I will always appreciate the amazing opportunity that Poage gave me!