Unpacking the Gaustad Collection

Please join us in welcoming Central Libraries Special Collections Summer Intern Michael Gonzalez as he describes his project for the summer!

The personal files of preeminent religious historian Edwin Scott Gaustad (b. 1923, d. 2011) are finding their lasting home in Baylor’s Central Libraries Special Collections. For over 25 years, Dr. Gaustad gifted his personal library and papers to Baylor University, his undergraduate alma mater. His scholarly record includes well over 50 books authored, not to mention seemingly uncountable reviews, articles, co-authored works, contributions, and other writings—published and unpublished. The unprocessed materials comprise approximately 50 linear feet of boxes, not including various 3-dimensional objects.

The Edwin S. Gaustad Collection represents a sacred trust from a noted scholar for Baylor University. Moreover, it is also a monument to one of Baylor’s most accomplished and distinguished alumni. As Baylor endeavors to “to illuminate solutions to significant challenges confronting our world,” it is worth highlighting an alumnus who became “one of America’s most important historians of religion and public life” and who his friends and family remember as “a gracious scholar, always taking time to help others…” (author Jon Meacham).

This summer, I am unpacking Gaustad’s legacy for the Special Collection. Setting out, I began by surveying Gaustad’s personal papers, loosely sorting them in preparation for assigning their archival series. These materials include manuscripts, correspondence, extensive research files, and other paraphernalia significant to Gaustad’s scholarship. One item of particular note is the original negative of a map taken from Dr. Gaustad’s Historical Atlas of Religion in America that was featured in the Protestant pavilion of the New York World’s Fair in 1964.  Next I will begin organizing the archive in folders and boxes.

Archiving the Gaustad collection is as much a learning experience for me as it is a cause for reflection. Among my reasons for seeking an internship with the Central Libraries was my desire to learn more about archives “from the inside,” in the hopes of preparing me for possible research in my own graduate studies. At the same time, it is sobering to be tasked with archiving the personal and professional work of a fellow scholar from a past generation. Dr. Gaustad spent most of his life studying history (at least since his studies in history at Baylor during the 40’s) and delving into the papers of others in archives throughout the United States. Now another Baylor student is taking Gaustad’s own files and arranging them in an archive for the use of historians who want to research Gaustad himself. Although I myself am not a history major (rather, a doctoral candidate studying political philosophy), I am grateful to be taking part in transitioning Gaustad’s work from his active career in writing history to a more passive but enduring legacy waiting to find a place in the historical works of others.



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