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.)

New Buildings, New Technology: Growth at the Hankamer School of Business

By Geoff Hunt, Audio and Visual Curator

The designs for the new Hankamer School of Business (HSB) building reflect a state-of-the-art facility that will provide the latest in technology to advance student learning and innovation. The school has outgrown its current facility across the street from us on 5th Street, but back when it was conceived and built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, that building, too, was a high-tech place.

Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, early image after construction is completed, photo by Windy Drum Photo, 1961.
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, Windy Drum Photo, 1961.

Yesterday Baylor announced the naming gift for the new campus. With hopes for construction to start in December 2013, soon business students will attend classes at the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation. And Paul Foster follows in the footsteps of other leaders who have helped to make innovation possible for the School of Business.

Earl Hankamer/Baylor business school
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business Groundbreaking: Earl C. Hankamer breaks ground at the event on March 11, 1960.

Although Baylor’s School of Business was established in 1923, it didn’t really have a proper home until the late 1950s—classes were held all over campus, including in the Student Union Building. A gift of more than half a million dollars from Mr. and Mrs. Earl C. Hankamer on March 20, 1959, changed that. Their donation was added to an existing amount previously raised to build the new $1 million business school building. The first classes in the new building, with the school now named after Hankamer, were held on May 5, 1961.

Hankamer and Paul Foster have more than generosity in common—they share the oil business too. Earl C. Hankamer was one of 13 children and was from the town of Hankamer (named after his pioneering family), in Chambers County, Texas. After working his way through school at various jobs, he completed his bachelor of arts degree from Baylor in 1915. He then went on to be a prominent Texas oilman. As noted in his obituary, he was known as “an unpretentious businessman who gave millions to various educational and medical programs while insisting his efforts should go without praise.” Mr. Hankamer also gave of his time, serving on the Baylor Board of Trustees for 41 years, and 15 years as chairman of the board for the Baylor College of Medicine.

Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business, under construction, photo by Windy Drum Photo, 1960.
Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, under construction, Windy Drum Photo, c. 1960.

So the Hankamers laid the groundwork for the current facility, but in 1962, it got another boost in the form of a gift from Baylor trustee and businessman, Carl Casey. This would enable the purchase of a historic campus first: an IBM 1620 Data Processing System.

Baylor University, Hankamer School of Business, Casey Computer Lab, IBM 1620 Data Processing System, September 13, 1967
Baylor University, Hankamer School of Business, Casey Computer Center: IBM 1620 Data Processing System, the university’s first computer, acquired in 1962.

Not many universities had computers at this time or taught computing courses. This was the first computer at Baylor available for student use and would be housed at the HSB campus. The unit carried a price tag of nearly $100,000 but was discounted to $40,000 after an educational grant. To house the new computer as well as the existing punch card devices in the business school, Baylor added the Casey Computer Center to the business school building.

But how to use this new technology? Dr. Helen Ligon, who would later become a professor in the Information Systems department, received specialized training in Dallas to operate the new IBM 1620. Dr. Ligon had started teaching at the business school in 1958 as an instructor in shorthand, report writing, and letter writing, so this was quite a shift for her. However, it was not long before Dr. Ligon and others at Baylor would see the benefits that the computer could have to the department and the entire university.

Baylor University, Hankamer School of Business, Casey Computer Lab, IBM System 3, 1974
According to the press release accompanying this photo, Helen Ligon, Louis Pisaturo, and Loren Decker examine a printout from the new IBM System/3 computer installed in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business in 1974. This computer replaced the IBM 1620…and the computers have been getting smaller ever since!

The acquisition of this IBM computer would help lead to the development of the Management Information Systems courses taught at the HSB today. Dr. Ligon saw the potential of the computer for teaching, research, and business operations applications, and courses based around the use of the IBM 1620 began. The computer not only served the HSB, but also those doing research in education, math, science, psychology, or any department at Baylor University that needed this type of specialized equipment. As Dr. Ligon noted, the machine could perform in hours calculations that would take a human months or years to complete.

Of course, many others have continued to support the development of learning spaces for Baylor business students, from the Cashion Academic Center to specialized classrooms like the Southwest Securities Financial Markets Center. These contributions, and now that of Paul L. Foster, follow in the footsteps of the gifts from the Hankamers, the Caseys, and the faculty and staff like Dr. Ligon who helped to bring these spaces to life with learning opportunities for students. As the new building begins to take shape, we look forward to seeing how future Baylor business leaders will make the most of their new home.

View our Flickr slideshow below to explore the construction of the current business school building and the evolution of technology at Baylor, from typewriters and adding machines to personal computers.

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