A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: John Wilson, Director

Meet John Wilson, originally from Ohio and Director of The Texas Collection, in our last staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection.

Judge R.E.B. Baylor, drawing by Tom Lea, 1971
Judge R.E.B. Baylor, drawing by Tom Lea, 1971

When I arrive at work each morning, I am never certain what I will discover, learn, and see. The suspense of unknown waiting treasures provides great enjoyment for me as director of The Texas Collection. I have been in this role a little over three years, and it is an unusual day when I do not receive an email from a donor, a phone call asking a Texas-related research question, or an inquiry from a faculty colleague about some aspect of Baylor’s past.

My day generally begins with reviewing after-hours emails and telephone calls. Once those inquiries have been answered, I try to speak with each one of the staff, then say hello and ask for collection processing updates from our graduate students, and finally try to speak with each of our undergraduate student workers. There are always interesting and new finds from the work our students are accomplishing. These finds might include identifying an early Republic of Texas document with Sam Houston’s signature or discovering that we own an original Tom Lea drawing.

"Old Baylor" at Independence, 2013
Old Baylor at Independence. We worked with UMHB to restore and rededicate the columns in 2013.

I then begin work on two or three pressing projects. This involves multitasking throughout the day. My first project of the day might involve planning or maintenance concerns dealing with Old Baylor in Independence. Once or sometimes twice a month, I travel to Independence to walk the grounds of Windmill Hill or inspect the columns at Academy Hill.  On these trips, I also visit a Baylor graduate or donor and check in with Peggy Ward, who manages the day-to-day operations in Independence and works closely with our community partners, the Independence Historical Society.

In addition to leading and managing The Texas Collection, I work closely with two parts of our extensive holdings, our map collection totaling nearly 17,000 items and photograph collection of more than 1.4 million images. I might review a print or online dealer catalog for both maps and photographs.

New map of Texas with the contiguous American & Mexican states, 1836
“New map of Texas with the contiguous American & Mexican states,” 1836

Another project that might be pressing for my attention is planning a lecture by a guest speaker such as the Honorable Tom Phillips. This type of special event and all of its many details are vitally important to the outstanding reputation and continued outreach necessary to having a vibrant and active special collection. Our speakers have researched in The Texas Collection and connect with our resources and the audience, particularly our students.

On a daily basis, I work with donors to acquire new archival collections that will enhance and strengthen our holdings. We are always searching for early Texas collections from the Spanish Colonial period, the Mexican period, and the early Republic of Texas period. We are also interested in Waco history, the Civil War, Baylor-related items, and of course, print materials dealing with Texas. I am closely involved with the budget, endowments, and fundraising.

One of the most interesting parts of my job is talking with people about The Texas Collection. These days, we talk with and reach out to more people than ever before due to our social media outlets. Flickr, Facebook and this blog are followed and read by fans across Texas and around the world.

I think the most rewarding part of my job is working with Baylor students. This could involve teaching a class, collaborating on a project, or advising students on studying abroad in Italy (another one of my interests). The students are the reason I have stayed at Baylor for 26 years. Our students are smart, talented, and willing to work hard for their Baylor degrees. I am fortunate to work with a great staff and exceptional students.

The Texas Collection turned 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 have been featuring staff posts about our work at The Texas Collection. See other posts in the series here. We hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about our work.

A Day in the (Texas Collection) Life: Tiff Sowell, Library Information Specialist

Meet Tiff Sowell, native Texan and Library Information Specialist, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

Periodicals, The Texas Collection
Staying up to date with binding is not easy with as many active titles as we have–more than 3,000!

As a Library Information Specialist, I am responsible for a myriad of duties that keep my days interesting and unique. From quality control of student work to preservation to stacks maintenance, my job touches on many aspects of library work.

One of my favorite jobs is maintaining the website, as it is perhaps one of the most frequently utilized gateways to our materials as well as to our staff. Keeping the vast amount of information up to date and organized in an easily accessible manner is not always as easy as it sounds, but is most rewarding.

This includes keeping the homepage fresh for returning users by updating the Flickr slideshow, the blog RSS feed, and the Facebook feed.  I also create new pages for exhibits, events, and sometimes to showcase collections. This particular job allows me to express my creativity in a manner that benefits The Texas Collection as well as our patrons.

Here at The Texas Collection, keeping the humidity and temperature at acceptable levels is always a concern, as is the case with many libraries and archives. The age and construction of our building presents unique challenges in this endeavor, as the building has a history of leaks, mold, and wide temperature swings.  To help counter this, we use temperature/humidity monitors for each floor as well as our secure rooms. I keep track of the data recorded on these monitors, which help assist us with assessing and preventing environmental threats to the collection.

Another important aspect of my job requires the handling and filling of interlibrary loans (ILLs). We receive many requests for either the duplication or lending of materials. When a request comes in, we must first assure that the item is in a condition to allow lending. Once this has been determined, either scans of the requested pages are made, which I then upload to the ILL server, or the item itself is sent out for circulation.

I also am in charge of overseeing all of the serials (such as magazines and journals) here at The Texas Collection. This is a gargantuan job in itself and requires the assistance of several student workers. Binding, processing, shelving, shifting, and making sure the holdings are accurately reflected in the record takes up a large portion of my time.

Microfilm room, The Texas Collection
One of the microfilm readers. I have spent many hours assisting patrons with this machine.

I have a lifelong love of electronic equipment, and it is my pleasure to be able to assist patrons and the staff with troubleshooting the equipment here at The Texas Collection. From the antiquated slide projectors to the microfilm machines to the computers and scanners, I am the first point of contact for troubleshooting.  Usually I can figure out what the problem is and correct it, but occasionally, we do need to call ITS.

My absolute favorite job, however, is assisting patrons at the circulation desk. I enjoy helping people find what they are looking for and hearing their interesting stories.  It is very rewarding to me, when at the end of the day, I can look back at the people I helped and the materials I kept safe for another day.

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: Benna Vaughan, Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist

Roxy Grove Musical Score
Handwritten sheet music for A Night Song by Roxy Grove

Meet Benna Vaughan, originally from Whitney, Texas, and Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

In a nutshell, I get to work with some of the coolest stuff on campus. How often do you open a box and pull out a land grant signed by Stephen F. Austin? Or touch a set of pilot’s wings that were worn while flying in World War I? Or have someone call you up and say they found something you might like to have, such as an original 1894 Texas Cotton Palace medallion from the very first Texas Cotton Palace? Or handle a piece of Republic of Texas currency so thin you can see through it, and wonder where it has been and how many hands touched it and passed it on? I have a job where I can do this every day. I get to be in and amongst things that made history and that are now historical research materials. I am the Special Collections and Manuscripts Archivist at The Texas Collection, and it is my job to manage, preserve, and make available the wonderful special collections of Texana that come through our doors.

My days are varied. Most days I get to work with students and researchers alike on projects, from the smallest term paper to a full-sized book, commercial, or documentary. I might talk with donors who want to see their materials preserved, maintained, and used for research purposes. I attempt daily to process collections such as the Pat Neff collection, which took two years and the help of many graduate and undergraduate assistants to complete. I perform various inquiry tasks for researchers who contact me online, by phone, or in person. I sometimes give presentations to classes who will conduct research at The Texas Collection. In the fall, I also serve as an instructor for the University 1000 program for incoming freshmen students. I enjoy working with students as they begin their college careers and try to help them get adjusted to Baylor life. I guess you can say that for me everyday is a little different from the last.

Box of files from the unprocessed Roxy Grove papers.
Box of files from the unprocessed Roxy Grove Papers

Currently, I am beginning initial processing on the Roxy Grove papers. This includes research into her life and determining the condition of her records. (Are the pages brittle? How can we protect them? How are the records arranged?) I learned that Roxy Grove received two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree from Baylor. She began working at Baylor in 1926 and was the chair of the Music School for 17 years. Some of you may have classes in the building named after her: Roxy Grove Hall (third photo from top on the linked page). With every collection, I learn about the personal side of the individuals or organizations as I research and process their collections. For me, working on another person’s materials makes a connection with that person and allows you to discover the person, organization, or even place, through the things that are left behind.

But it is not always idyllic. Sometimes a collection will come in that was stored in a barn or a garage and the boxes contain bugs, and the records are in poor condition. When that happens, I get to be an exterminator. I pitch in to help with special projects and the administrative tasks that come with a special collections library. No matter what I’m doing, it is a great job, at a great place, and I am blessed to be here.

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: Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

Telephone switchboard operator, c. 1905
Geoff selected a few of his favorite photos for this post. In this image from the recently acquired E.C. Blomeyer Photographic Collection, we get a beautifully detailed view into the telephone switchboard operator’s world, circa 1905.

Meet Geoff Hunt, originally from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, and Audio and Visual Curator, in our latest staff post giving you a peek into the day-to-day work of The Texas Collection:

The Texas Collection has an estimated 1.4 million photo prints, negatives, slides, and digital image files. Additionally, we have thousands of moving image items, and the collection holds an equal number of sound recordings including interviews, music, and many other memorable events. My job as Audio and Visual Curator is to manage all of these materials.

Currently the photograph collection keeps my extremely helpful student photo assistants and me the busiest. Photographs are our most requested materials—lots of people need images, whether they’re looking for photos to use in publications, to supplement their research, or to decorate an office. My undergraduate student workers assist me in scanning, filing, and pulling photographs for projects and researchers. Our main goal is to serve the university and the general public with their needs.

Fred Gildersleeve-Welcome to Waco
This image of Waco was taken by Fred Gildersleeve, circa 1910. On the far left side is Austin Avenue. Click on the image to see a “Welcome to Waco” banner–it almost looks like it was painted on the street!

How do we make such a large amount of images available for use? As with most libraries and archival facilities, you’ll get the most of your experience by visiting us in person. However, we are always working to make more photographs, as well as other materials, available online. The Texas Collection has thousands of photographs made accessible through Baylor’s Digital Collections site, which can be found in Texas Collection-Photos.  Our Flickr page is another way for people to enjoy a small sampling of our large photographic collection.  

Among our visual holdings, The Texas Collection is home to the archives of noted Central Texas photographers Fred Gildersleeve, Fred Marlar, and Jimmie Willis. However, these photographic materials, mostly dating from the early 1900s-1950s, primarily consist of negatives. The first priority in working with items such as these is preserving the original negatives and printed photographs as best as possible. We spend much time doing so by replacing old acidic sleeves and folders with ones that are acid-free and by using protective sleeves (Mylar) for the photo prints.  

Baylor's University's First Computer, Hankamer School of Business, Casey Computer Lab, IBM 1620, September 13, 1967
This IBM 1620 Data Processing System came to Baylor in 1962 and was the university’s first computer. Photos like this one document changing technology and milestones and offer unique insight into our past.

Some of the negatives are made of glass but most are cellulose; these can range in size from 16 millimeters to 8 x 10 inches. Glass is fragile, and cellulose deteriorates with age and climate. By reproducing these negatives and printed photos with specialized photo scanners, a digital “preservation file” and user access copy can be created. We do still keep the original negative and/or photo print—that’s the master copy!—but by digitizing items, we can allow access to the photo without endangering the original. People of today and future generations will be able to see this history of Baylor, Waco, various Texas cities, and many other locations for years to come. [Check out our Preservation Week video if you’re interested in learning how you can scan your own negatives.]

Scanning this variety of media and preserving the originals are what I spend the majority of my time doing. It is a very large collection to work with but I enjoy learning and finding something new and interesting everyday in our holdings. My position at The Texas Collection as Audio and Visual Curator is challenging but I sincerely find it to be “a labor of love.”  

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. (Read more about one student assistant’s work with the photography collection in our March post.)

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.

Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth's Love of History: His Passion, The Texas Collection's Gain

The year 2013 marks the 90th anniversary of The Texas Collection. To say that the landscape of human history has changed since 1923 would constitute a most severe understatement. During the twentieth century, humanity has witnessed the carnage of two World Wars, the space race, the creation of the television and Internet, civil rights movements, and the atomic age…just to name a few changes!

Brandes-Aynesworth correspondence, 1933
Acting Baylor librarian Gertrude Brandes to Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth, April 1933, regarding one of many gifts of books to what would become The Texas Collection

Repositories such as The Texas Collection have taken up the mantle of preserving this history and cultural heritage. We are one of the largest Texana collections in the nation, but this accomplishment would not have been possible without the generosity and vision of its first donor, Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth.

Aynesworth was born in Florence, Texas, on February 9, 1873. He earned his undergraduate degree in 1894 from Baylor University, where he was classmates with famous Texans Tom Connally and Pat Neff. Aynesworth went on to earn his medical degree from the University of Texas at Galveston in 1899.

Certificate granting Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth's protection as a citizen when studying in Berlin, Germany, circa 1901
Certificate granting Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth’s protection as a citizen when studying in Berlin, Germany, circa 1901

His work in the field of medicine opened up a wide variety of opportunities for Aynesworth. While earning his M.D., he interned at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston. In 1901-1902, Aynesworth pursued postgraduate studies at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin. Seven years later, Aynesworth traveled to Johns Hopkins University for continued research.

After marrying his sweetheart Maude Brian on December 31, 1902, Aynesworth began his own private practice of general surgery in Waco, Texas. For more than forty years, Dr. Aynesworth practiced medicine in the Waco area, primarily at Providence Hospital. Despite his busy work schedule, Aynesworth was involved in a number of medical and local organizations including the Waco Board of Health, the Waco School Board, the Waco Planning and Zoning Commission, and the American College of Surgeons.

"Greatest Battle of Modern Times at Manila," May 2, 1898
Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth was an avid collector of local, state, and national history. This periodical, one of a series of documents, details the destruction of the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War of 1898.

But in addition to all of that, Dr. Aynesworth was a collector of history, especially that of Texas. In 1923, he donated hundreds of items to Baylor University in order to found The Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth Texas History Collection. To ensure the collection was properly funded, Aynesworth contributed to the institution on an annual basis. His gifts also supported the salary of an instructor to teach Texas history, which was not being taught anywhere else in Texas at the time.

His donations—of books and of finances—also inspired others to give. He wrote a moving solicitation on “The Needs of the Texas History Collection” for the April 1926 issue of Baylor Monthly, encouraging alumni to search their houses for valuable books, family papers, and other historical manuscripts to donate to Baylor. He mourns the documentation lost from Texas’ early days and exhorts readers that “some one must see that current history is properly filed away and kept for the future. Our descendants will not forgive us if we do not do this one thing.”

It only took a year or two of Aynesworth’s donations and that of others before the Dallas Morning News hailed the collection as a “Mecca of Historians.” After a time, the name of the repository was changed to the Texas Historical Collection, which later became The Texas Collection.

The Physician as Citizen, by Aynesworth
“The Physician as a Citizen,” address given by Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth to the graduating class of the Medical Department of the University of Texas, Galveston, May 31, 1929. This speech exemplifies Aynesworth’s philosophy of supporting one’s community and living a well-rounded life.

Aynesworth personified much of what it meant to be a well-rounded citizen during the early half of the twentieth century. In addition to working hard at his profession and maintaining his civic involvement, Aynesworth gave of his time and finances to preserve the history of his day. The Aynesworth papers serve as a testament to his emphases on the importance of family, the medical profession, and the preservation of history.

We at The Texas Collection are celebrating our 90th anniversary in large part because of the generosity of Dr. Aynesworth. As John K. Strecker wrote in 1926, “Baylor historians of the future will owe a deep debt of gratitude to Doctor Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth, eminent surgeon, bibliophile and founder of Baylor’s greater Texas history collection.”

Family tree showing the children of Isaiah Hezekiah Aynesworth
In addition to his interest in Texas and U.S. history, Kenneth Aynesworth also pursued family history, as demonstrated by this family tree on Isaiah Hezekiah Aynesworth, Kenneth’s grandfather.

By Thomas DeShong, Archival Assistant and Digital Input Specialist

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.