A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Amie Oliver, Coordinator for User and Access Services

Meet Amie Oliver, originally from Mississippi, and Coordinator for User and Access Services, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

Rare books room, The Texas Collection
Our rare book room contains treasures (10,000 and counting) on a wide variety of Texas-related topics…as well as non-Texas materials. (More on that in a future blog post.) Anyone may use these rare items.

As the Coordinator for User and Access Services, the bulk of my work deals with patrons. Whether these patrons come in person or contact us online or by phone, I am usually their first point of contact. I’ll let you in on a little secret—I’m the person behind our general email account (txcoll@baylor.edu) as well as our Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter (though occasionally other staffers tweet). Using social media has allowed us the opportunity to interact with people all over the world, and I’m happy we have a great following on all platforms we use.

Working with researchers is rewarding, and I never know who may contact me—the Pentagon, the New York Giants, the Texas Supreme Court, or scholars from all over the world. I appreciate all of our patrons, but I particularly like when History Fair students come in because it’s a great way to introduce special collections to younger generations.

Using special collections can often be intimidating, but it does not have to be. We hold a world of information, and I try to ensure that each patron is welcomed and valued. Patrons often say they don’t want to bother me, but helping patrons is my job. I want you to bother me!

Openings of rare books at The Texas Collection
Some of our oldest texts. The top photo is from *Cosmographia, sive De situ orbis* by Pomponius Mela (1482). The bottom photo is from *Praeclara Ferdinadi Cortesude non maris oceani Hyspana* by Hernan Cortes (1524).

One of my favorite duties is consulting with students about research. During the consultation, I try to get to know them, find their interests, and steer them to topics that are personal and interesting to them. I also consult with professors about their personal research or for student projects. It’s rewarding to see patrons take an interest in a topic based on items we have in the collection.

I provide bibliographic instruction to Baylor students where I teach them about our collection and the items it contains. I also give presentations to the Central Texas community. I like seeing people get excited about special collections and the treasures they may find.

Since the Librarian retired, I have served as bibliographer for the collection, and I oversee the rare book room. I receive catalogs from dealers across the country, and it is my job to select books for purchase. One of my recent purchases, Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests, Medical, Economical, and Agricultural by Francis Peyre Porcher, published in 1863, is a beautifully bound item and is considered one of the best scientific texts produced under the Confederacy.

With nearly 167,000 volumes, our print collection (including our rare books) is vast, and it is important that I honor the collection by choosing the best items with the most value to our scholars as well as honor the bibliographers who came before me by selecting as wisely as they did. Their contributions helped to make this collection one of the finest Texana collections in the world.

Sampling of dime novels at The Texas Collection
These dime novels are part of our Summer-Fall 2013 exhibit that I helped curate, “Dime Novels: The Rise of the American Hero.” In addition to traditional bibliographic instruction and presentations, exhibits are just one more way we at The Texas Collection engage potential patrons and encourage them to use our materials.

In addition to the work above, I also hire, train, and supervise student workers, plan and implement organizational projects, research and install exhibits, manage statistics, preservation, and serve as editor of our newsletter, Viva Texas.

I enjoy my job because I like helping others, and I am very lucky to be able to work with such an amazing collection.

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Kathy Hinton, Administrative Coordinator

Hinton office
Kathy has worked at The Texas Collection longer than anyone else on our staff. Here she works on an invoice.

Meet Kathy Hinton, Baylor graduate (BA 2012), originally from Staunton, Illinois, and Administrative Coordinator, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

“Good morning, The Texas Collection.” It is usually my voice that you hear when you call The Texas Collection. For the last 26 years, answering the phone has been just one of the tasks that I handle on a daily basis. My work in the administrative office at The Texas Collection (TC) brings me into contact with researchers, donors, and colleagues across the campus.

As administrative coordinator, I assist the director with his schedule and other office matters. Working with the budget is a big part of my job. I not only handle the budget for the TC, but also for Baylor at Independence and the Heart of Texas Regional History Fair. There are also several endowment and research fellowship funds that fall under the TC. There are usually two or three research fellowships that are awarded each year, and I arrange for campus guest housing and payments to these scholars.

A typical day for me includes such things as ordering supplies, preparing work orders, handling student budget and payroll for the department, approving invoices, preparing vouchers for payments to vendors, and meeting with visitors in our offices. I also spend some of my time proofing and editing items for reports and publications. Recently, I have assisted the director in locating and purchasing maps for our ever-growing collection.

One of my favorite jobs is meeting with donors of new collections. I find it very interesting to meet with a donor who has brought in a new collection to be deposited in our library. Many include family papers, diaries, journals, and photographs, and the stories behind the collections are sometimes as fascinating as the materials themselves. It is also wonderful to be able to reassure someone that their family’s items will be well preserved and cared for by our staff.

Archives control file
Kathy gets all of The Texas Collection’s archives control files started with deeds of gift or transfers and other accessioning paperwork.

Once an item or collection has been left in our care, I prepare a gift conveyance form and preliminary worksheets on the collection. These things make up what we refer to as our control file. Once we receive the signed gift form, our archivists can then begin the job of processing the new collection and releasing it for use by our researchers.

Over the years, I have also enjoyed using the TC’s vast resources in my own studies. Early in my career at Baylor, Kent Keeth (director of the TC from 1973 to 2003) and Ellen Kuniyuki Brown (a former TC archivist) encouraged me to return to school to work on my degree. In doing so, I developed a true passion for history, and found myself turning to the TC time and time again to work on assignments and special projects for classes. I earned my BA in History and Professional Writing this past year, after 19 years of study. (Editor’s note: See the piece the Baylor Alumni Association wrote on Kathy’s accomplishment last year.)

The Texas Collection has something for almost everyone. Whether you are a scholar, student, genealogist, or just interested in the history of Texas, we have plenty to offer, from books and periodicals, to manuscripts, maps, photographs, and great exhibits. Pay us a visit—we would love to meet you.

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Paul Fisher, Processing Archivist

Meet Paul Fisher, Baylor graduate (BA 2009, MA 2011), native Texan, and Processing Archivist, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

From Civil War hospital records, to documents about Baylor’s activities in Independence, to old photographs of early Texans, The Texas Collection has a great deal of fascinating materials. My work preparing archival record groups (groups of records that share the same creator or collector) for researchers means that I get to see all the cool items we have on a daily basis. I have a BA in museum studies and an MA in history, both from Baylor, so “old stuff” definitely fascinates me, especially Civil War-related materials.

James E. Harrison report, 1861, Carter-Harrison Family papers
One of Paul’s favorite documents in The Texas Collection is this handwritten report by Waco native and Confederate general James E. Harrison. The full document tells of his journey to the American Indian tribes in present-day Oklahoma, to see whether they would side with the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

So how do I go about preparing archival record groups for users? This usually includes organizing the collection if needed, rehousing the materials in new acid-free folders and boxes, and writing documents called finding aids to help researchers locate and use them. An increasing part of my job is to help students discover how to do this work well, whether they are student interns, students in a class, or students who work for us.

Much of my work now is devoted to preparing our new archival software system, called Cuadra Star, for launch this summer. For the past 11 months I have led a team of staff and students on a number of projects to get ready for this launch. There have been some challenges to solve along the way, but we address them and continue to forge ahead. Cuadra Star will allow us to find information, organize our collections, and provide better archival service to you than ever before.

One of my favorite activities as part of working at The Texas Collection has been working with a class from the Department of Museum Studies here at Baylor. In fall 2012, Dr. Julie Holcomb taught her annual Archival Collections and Museums class to thirteen students, and as part of the class each student processed one archival record group for use by researchers. The class was taught here at The Texas Collection, and I offered special office hours every week when students would come to work with me on their assigned archives. The project gave them valuable professional experience, and also prepared thirteen of our record groups for use.

A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society" exhibit
The Keeth display case, part of the February 2012 exhibit “A Homegrown Vision: Robert L. Smith and the Farmers Improvement Society.”

We also showcase exhibits on various interesting topics throughout the year, and I have helped with several during my time at The Texas Collection. One of the most interesting was our spring 2012 exhibit, which featured the Farmers Improvement Society (FIS) and R.L. Smith. The society was founded by Smith to help African American sharecroppers in the early 1900s have access to financing for their farms, life insurance, better farming methods, and an agricultural school. Such exhibits help increase awareness of the resources we preserve. More than year after this exhibit was over, we were still receiving questions about our FIS-related records on this blog, and we hosted a research fellow this year who came from New York to spend a week studying these records.

With all of these different projects to work on at The Texas Collection, from working on record groups to planning the next exhibit, every day is different. Yet some things remain the same day to day. Every day is a chance to do more than tell people about history—it is a chance to highlight rediscovered pieces of history from the actual documents written by Baylor and Texas people past and present.

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we are featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Mary Ellen Stanley and Adina Johnson, Graduate Assistants

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we will feature monthly posts from our staff—from faculty to student workers—offering a little peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection. This month you’ll learn about the work of two of our graduate assistants. Our graduate students come from Baylor’s history and museum studies departments and help with processing archives and curating exhibitions. Meet Mary Ellen Stanley and Adina Johnson:

Jules Bledsoe at sea with camera
Many photos of Jules Bledsoe are showcased in the exhibit Mary Ellen helped curate. In this image, we surmise that he’s en route to Europe, where he performed in numerous countries until the outbreak of WWII.

My name is Mary Ellen Stanley, and I am a second year museum studies master’s student from Fort Worth, Texas. I have worked at the Texas Collection (TC) since June 2011 as a graduate assistant.

Coming from my undergraduate institution, I previously had little experience working with archives, but a decent amount of museum experience through various internships. Although this previous knowledge has helped me in my work at the TC with object handling and tackling obscure software, I have learned that these two types of institutions are extremely different. Even though I was skeptical and thought that I would not like working in an archives as much as a museum, I have gradually grown to love archives more.

When I first started at the TC, my main focus was processing a part of the Pat Neff collection. The experience working on this large collection provided me with a wide variety of skills that I have continued to use both in and outside the Texas Collection. This past fall I helped work on processing numerous small collections while co-curating the exhibition, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot: The Musical Heritage of Jules Bledsoe and New Hope Baptist Church.”  Working on this exhibition was one of the highlights of my time at the Texas Collection because I got to utilize the knowledge I have gained from classes in a real world situation.

My favorite activity at the Texas Collection is processing photographs. With my work, I have truly grown to appreciate how history can be documented in one beautiful snapshot. Working with these photographs makes each day exciting and unique.

~

My name is Adina Johnson and I am a second year history master’s student from Tucson, Arizona, and Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I have worked at The Texas Collection since May 2012, and I plan to continue working here while I pursue my PhD in history at Baylor.

Before working at the TC, I had little archival experience except for tasks I performed as an undergraduate assistant for a history professor. During my first year at Baylor, however, I had the privilege of working on a major research project where all of the primary and secondary documents were housed at the TC. Therefore, I was familiar with the archival organizational systems at the TC.

Grace and Jack Jones, undated
This photo depicts Grace Jones with her second husband, Jack, an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. Grace became a model after serving during WWII as a WASP and before she opened her store, Grace Jones of Salado, and became “The Queen of Texas Fashion.”

The very first task I was assigned at the TC was to organize letters from the Dr. William Benjamin Worth Watkins papers. The dialogue between Dr. Watkins and his family that continued through his deployment for World War I instantly captivated me. When I found the envelope bearing the “deceased” stamp (Watkins was killed in the war), it affected me deeply. I began to see that my passion for history would lead to a love of archival work.

The rest of my first summer at the TC was spent processing a large number of scrapbooks for the Pat Neff collection. Since then I have processed 12 record groups on my own, including the Oscar “Doc” and Mary “Kitty” Jacques Du Congé papers (Waco’s first African American Mayor) and the Grace Rosanky Putnam Jones papers (Texas’ Queen of Fashion).

As I pursue my PhD in History, I am thankful for the experiences that I am gaining at the TC. I will be a better researcher, teacher, and writer because of my time here.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Jynnifer McClinton and Samantha Buerger, Student Assistants

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we will feature monthly posts from our staff—from faculty to student workers—offering a little peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection. This month you’ll learn about the work of two of our undergraduate student assistants. Our student employees help us with many projects, and all of their jobs are a little different. Meet Baylor senior Jynnifer McClinton and sophomore Samantha Buerger:

Creating a Mylar encapsulation for a newspaper
Jynnifer is creating a Mylar encapsulation for an issue of the Hillsboro Mirror from 1935

My name is Jynnifer McClinton, and I am a senior psychology major (pre-PT) from San Angelo, Texas. I have been a library student worker at The Texas Collection (TC) for seven months.

When I first started at the TC, my main priority was helping with a huge project: a complete reorganization of all the newspaper holdings. The work of putting in order thousands of issues was more alphabetizing and numbering than I had done since kindergarten! I now help preserve those rare and fragile papers by making Mylar encapsulations for them.

Material retrieval is one of my daily tasks. Due to the unique and valuable nature of the items that we house, only TC staff is allowed into the stacks to retrieve requested items for patrons, and we must take proper care in the transportation of our many fragile items. I also am one of two students entrusted with preparing periodicals for binding so that they will be better protected and preserved.

Preparing periodicals for binding is only one of many tasks at The Texas Collection
Periodicals back from the bindery (that show the wide range of topics represented at The Texas Collection)

Maintaining and updating vertical files by clipping old newspaper articles is my favorite duty. I sometimes get caught up reading articles more often than I probably should, but some of the articles are ones that I would likely never have seen if I did not work here. I have come across articles about the Titanic only a day after it sank, Albert Einstein showcasing a new invention, Wild West shootouts and robberies (sensationalism at its best), the JFK assassination, and my favorite—historic articles about my hometown.

My least favorite task at the TC also involves vertical files: copying old articles before filing them. We have to make sure that copies are as neat as possible—so no crooked titles, shadows, or any extra marks on the copies.

One perk of my job is the great work environment. It has a very laid-back and casual feel. On holidays, we have parties with a boat-load of food. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this TC family?

Each duty I perform is a necessary component in maintaining the validity and integrity of our materials in order to provide TC patrons with access to treasured and hard-to-find materials. It is truly incredible the amount of history that we have housed in this building, and due to our work here, we have access to it every day.

~

Baylor Bear mascots embrace at a football game
One of Samantha’s favorite photos: Mascots embrace at the 1975 Cotton Bowl game versus Penn State (Baylor–Mascots–General (8x10s)

My name is Samantha Buerger, and I am a sophomore earth science major from Friendswood, Texas. I have been working at The Texas Collection as a photography archives student worker since the beginning of my freshman year.

When I started I had no experience with negatives or scanning pictures and knowing the correct resolution to use, but while working here I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about photography and the scanning of pictures and negatives. I have worked with a large range of negatives, anywhere from 35 mm negatives to 8×10 cellulose negatives. I appreciate and enjoy photography from the past, which is mainly what I work with.

I have contributed to a multitude of projects while working here. For example, I am scanning some of the many Fred Gildersleeve negatives to get a positive image, making a spreadsheet inventory of our (quite immense) photo collection, and entering metadata into a spreadsheet on KWTX broadcasts from the 1970s and ’80s, as well as some other smaller projects.

Baylor students enjoy some horseplay in a fountain, 1940s
Baylor students enjoy some fun and games in a fountain, 1940s, in another one of Samantha’s favorites (Baylor Students–Horseplay–1940s)

For the KWTX metadata project, we are putting together an inventory of the approximately 2,000 KWTX newscasts we have in our collection. The inventory includes the specific stories on that tape, their length, and the date of the story. The newscasts are kept on VHS and U-Matic tapes. The KWTX project is demanding because of its considerable size.

My favorite project so far has been making the spreadsheet inventory of our photo collection, because to do that you must look at every single photo we have, which is really fascinating because we have so many photos and the majority of them have to do with Baylor and Waco. This project is challenging due to the fact that we have over 300 boxes of pictures in our photo file collection.

Overall I have learned a lot about photography and the history of Baylor and Waco while working at The Texas Collection.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Amanda Norman, University Archivist

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! But even though we’ve been at Baylor for so long, we realize people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we will feature monthly posts from our staff—from faculty to student workers—offering a little peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection. Meet Amanda Norman, Baylor graduate (M.A. 2009), native Texan, and University Archivist:

Baylor University Student Union calendar, October 1963
This 1963-1964 calendar illustrates just how busy Baylor’s Student Union and Baylor student life in general could be, with organization meetings, Coke and Dr Pepper parties, lectures, movie screenings, and more.

I am the keeper of Baylor history. That’s the short version I tell people when they ask what I do. The usual reaction is something like, “Wow. That’s a big job.” It is—Baylor has grown quite a bit since its founding in 1845, and it has a wonderfully complex and storied past. And it’s a joy to share that history with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and others interested in Baylor’s heritage.

My goal as University Archivist is to document the life of Baylor University by collecting, preserving, and providing access to university records. The Texas Collection became the official university archives in 2007, which is pretty late in the game for an institution that’s over 160 years old. Fortunately, The Texas Collection had been the accepted de facto institutional repository for many years, so we do have a very healthy-sized University Archives.

Problem is, it should be bigger. The records haven’t necessarily come in consistently—the archives tended to receive records when someone retired or an office moved, and not on a regular schedule. And I’m the first dedicated University Archivist. So I’m working to fill in the gaps from the past and lay the groundwork for scheduled deposits to the University Archives from departments, student organizations, and more.

Baylor University Immortal Ten scrapbook page
This scrapbook page from the Samuel Palmer Brooks papers features a few of the many telegrams Baylor University received after the Immortal Ten bus accident. The scrapbook is the second of three volumes documenting the tragedy.

I just began my second year in this role, although I am the child of two Baylor graduates and I worked in Baylor University Development for almost 5 years before I found my calling in the archives—I have a history with Baylor. (Pun intended.) My first year was one of planting seeds. I met with key Baylor administrators and leaders to discuss the role of the archives and the kinds of records that should be transferred to the University Archives. (We can’t keep everything, but we want the documents that we believe will have enduring, historic value.) I contributed to preparations to roll out Baylor’s new Record Retention and Archival Policy. I began a web archives program using Archive-It to document Baylor’s ever-changing web presence. With the help of graduate assistants and student workers, we organize record groups, address the backlog of materials to be processed, and other projects.

Baylor University Catalogue, 1851-52
This 1851-1852 catalogue, the earliest one from Baylor’s initial campus at Independence, tells current and prospective students about the Male Department.

I also contribute to The Texas Collection’s access, instruction, and outreach efforts. I facilitate this blog as a part of our integrated social media policy. I worked with a graduate class to assist with its Baylor history blog project, and spoke to several other classes and groups about resources that can be found in the University Archives. I responded to more than 200 research requests in my first year, ranging from simple questions about when an administrator was at Baylor to detailed fact-checking for historical timelines and exhibits on Baylor traditions.

When I talk to researchers and other visitors to The Texas Collection about the University Archives, I keep hearing, “You really love your job, don’t you?” Apparently I can’t hide it, and why would I? My archives work helps researchers access information they would not be able to find elsewhere. The records found in the University Archives were created when the history was happening—when traditions like the first Homecoming in 1909 began, when the university mourned the Immortal Ten, and more. I’m proud to be a part of preserving that history, these documents that tell the Baylor story.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Thomas DeShong, Archival Assistant

Brann-Davis, Waco Daily Telephone
We preserve newspaper clippings such as this one from the William Cowper Brann collection to provide firsthand witness insight into events such as the Brann-Davis shootout in Waco, Texas in 1898.

The Texas Collection turns 90 this year! From 1923, when Waco physician Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth made his initial donation of materials on Texas history, to 2013, The Texas Collection has grown by leaps and bounds.  But we realize that all too often, people aren’t quite sure what goes on in a special collections library and archives. So over the course of 2013, we will feature monthly posts from our staff—from faculty to student workers—offering a little peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection. (It bears noting that we’re not all originally from Texas, eitherbut as this post notes, there is something for everybody here at The Texas Collection!) Meet recent Baylor grad (M.A. in history), Pennsylvanian, and archival assistant, Thomas DeShong:

When I arrived at Baylor University to further my education, I was largely unfamiliar with the world of archives. As a student of history, I realized that such repositories typically held interesting primary sources just waiting to be cited in the end-of-semester research paper that was inevitably due for each class. However, I was not aware of the multifaceted roles that archivists and librarians perform in order to preserve such history until I found myself with a graduate assistantship at The Texas Collection. Two years later, I am here celebrating the 90th anniversary of the institution while studying to become a certified archivist.

Transcription, Hiram Carlton
Letters written in the 1800s often are difficult for modern researchers to decipher. We can’t afford the time to transcribe all handwritten letters (there are so many!) but make exceptions for important collections like the Hiram Carlton Civil War letters.

There are three primary tasks that I perform as an Archival AssistantDigital Input Specialist at The Texas Collection. The first, which I have enjoyed the most, is processing. Once printed materials have been donated or purchased, it is important to preserve the original documents in the most efficient and effective manner. Papers need to be stored in acid-free folders. Photographs should be housed in clear, Mylar sleeves. Newspaper clippings might be preserved more easily through digitization. Finding aids need to be written so that the public can know about the valuable materials waiting to be researched.  The act of preserving history is fulfilling and exhilarating. The Texas Collection, as its name suggests, houses materials pertaining to Texas history from the Spanish colonial era to the present day. My time here has allowed me to explore collections dealing with Texas governors, the Civil War, Baylor University presidents, missionaries, history professors, inventors, and even the Waco Branch Davidians.

Preservation work is vital to extending the lifespan of materials, but the crux of archival work is making materials accessible to the public. Texas Collection archivists have been appointed the weighty task of maintaining the cultural heritage of Baylor University, the greater Waco area, and Texas. To do this, it is necessary to describe what materials comprise our vast holdings. For the past several months, I, along with many of my co-workers, have been inputting inventories and finding aids into an online archives management system called Cuadra Star. The culmination of this work will occur in the upcoming months as The Texas Collection presents its Cuadra Star database to the public. This effort serves as evidence of The Texas Collection’s persistence in sharing with the public the vast amount of historical resources it can offer.

Waco map
The Frances C. Poage Map Room contains tens of thousands of maps relating to Texas, from early Spanish colonial maps to modern city maps.

My third major responsibility, one that has been recently bestowed upon me, is to manage The Texas Collection’s substantial Frances C. Poage Map Room. With maps ranging from colonial Texas until the twenty-first century, researchers are bound to find something to pique their interests. Most of these maps have now been organized and are searchable on BearCat, the Baylor University Libraries’ online catalog.

Not many people today can claim that they love their jobs, but I certainly can. The Texas Collection has something to offer anyone with the slightest interest in Texas history. I encourage you to celebrate this 90th anniversary with me by coming down and exploring the rich history that The Texas Collection holds!

By Thomas DeShong, Archival Assistant—Digital Input Specialist