The Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC)’s newest quarterly newsletter will offer updates on exciting happenings at HMRC. Our spotlight articles will give you a closer look at our materials, tips and research help from our expert staff, and much more.
In this edition of the HMRC Gazette, we’re highlighting online resources you can access from the comfort and safety of your home.
These are two of my absolute favorite online resources. I suggest these online resources for almost every reference request. I can’t sing their praises loudly enough!
Houston Chronicle Historical Archive
The Houston Chronicle Historical Archive is digital microfilm of the Houston Chronicle newspaper. It dates from 1901 (when the paper was founded) through 2015 and archives nearly every issue of this daily paper from over 110 years.
In the past, if you came to Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) looking for a specific article in the Chronicle, we could only offer two suggestions: hope that the article was in our Vertical Files, or slowly scroll through microfilm until you found it. If you didn’t know the date your article was published, you were bound to be searching for a needle in a hundreds-of-microfilm-rolls haystack.
Now, you can easily access this resource and enjoy the convenience of computer-based research, like keywords and search refinements. Are you looking for an article about your grandfather’s high school football championship, but you don’t know what year it happened? Search for the keyword ‘football’ with the limitations of ‘published after 1955’ and ‘published before 1960.’ You’ll get a smaller and more specific pool of results than if you just searched ‘football’ in general.
The Houston Public Library provides access to this resource through our subscription to NewsBank, so you’ll need your library card to use it. (If you don’t have a library card yet, you can get one online too.)
We’re crossing our fingers in hopes that we can get access to an archive for the Houston Post too!
The Portal to Texas History
The Portal to Texas History is a massive online collective of primary and secondary source Texas history resources. It’s maintained by the University of North Texas and populated with materials from hundreds of partner institutions across the state, including HMRC.
You would think that the millions of digital items on this website would make it difficult to find what you’re looking for, but the reality is exactly the opposite. The website has incredible search functionality. It offers four different ways to search: basic, guided, advanced, and proximity search.
Proximity search is a personal favorite of mine; you can search for several words close together without using a specific phrase. I wanted to find resources related to former Houston Mayor Jim McConn but searching that specific phrase didn’t give me very good results. Using proximity search, I found many resources that featured those words close together.
If you’re looking for more online resources and research assistance, email HMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Pile of newspapers,” Peakpx, https://www.peakpx.com/581804/pile-of-newspapers.
"Texas State Capitol,” MSS0187-1117, Postcard Collection, Houston Public Library, HMRC.
HMRC’s architecture and photography archives are two of our richest collecting areas. For many years, customers have been able to search these large, significant collections online. Now, we’re pleased to announce the release of new versions of both the Architectural Drawings Database and Photographic Archive Database.
Not to be confused with our Digital Archives website, these two databases are ever-growing inventories of our collections. They’re filled with detailed information about the resources housed in both archives—things like descriptions, dates, and the names of photographers or architects. (Sorry, no digitized images here!) They’re a great way to discover which drawings and photos you’d like to request to view. We’ve created entirely new interfaces for these databases, improved their search options, uploaded new records, and added a bunch of other features to make them as helpful and responsive as possible
Architecture Database Gets a Renovation
Early this year, HMRC’s Architectural Drawings Database received a very welcome facelift. This upgrade improves the search function for customers, as well as gives instructions for setting up an appointment to view drawings in the Architectural Archives.
This was also a great time to update the records in the database. Since the last update in 2018, over 4,000
sheets have been updated or added to the Architectural Database by HMRC staff and volunteers. This improved database is a great tool to learn about our holdings in the Stephen Fox Architectural Archives.
Photo Database Gets Retouched
Like the Architectural Drawings Database, the Photographic Archive Database has also been updated recently. We’re excited about new search features we think will help our customers navigate our vast photograph collections. For one thing, there’s now a drop-down list where you can specify the collection you’d like to search. We’re also working on a feature allowing you to search within a range of dates, rather than just a single exact date.
We’ve added a lot of new records, too. We lost count of how many were already in there, so we’re grateful for the nifty counter that now keeps a running tally. As of this writing, there are 139,024 records of images available. Keep in mind, one “record” in this database often refers to a set of negatives, so the number of actual images described here is much higher!
Point your viewfinder to https://hmrc.houstonlibrary.org/photos/ to begin searching!
And if you’re interested in digitized materials from either collecting area, don’t forget about the Houston Public Library Digital Archives, which also recently got a new look.
We’d like to thank our colleagues in HPL’s Digital Strategies Division for these very appreciated upgrades.
"William Salman Residence,” MSS0178-1502-REN-002, Howard Barnstone Papers, Houston Public Library, HMRC.
“F. J. Schlueter, Photographer, standing beside his camera,” MSS0100-833, Frank J. Schlueter/Bank of the Southwest Collection, Houston Public Library, HMRC
Last year, we embarked on an ambitious project: moving several of the Houston Public Library’s African American-related collections from the Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) to our sister institution, The African American Library at the Gregory School.
The Gregory School is one of few African American libraries in the country and is the first of its kind in a public library. Its primary purpose is preserving, promoting, and celebrating the rich history and culture of African Americans in Houston, the surrounding region, and the African diaspora. The Gregory School is the premier research center for the preservation and collection of historical information that documents the local African American experience. The movement of these collections from HMRC to their new home at the Gregory School further strengthens their mission and better serves customers by helping them connect with resources to fulfill their research needs.
Some collections reflecting the life and careers of African Americans in Houston remain at HMRC to build on some of our core collecting areas and strengths. These include the work of African American architects, local politicians’ papers, and the jazz collections within the Texas Jazz Archive.
To celebrate the Gregory School’s 10-year anniversary, November 2019 was established as the target date to move the records. Archival collections were sent over in batches to be merged with the Gregory School’s holdings, and the project was completed ahead of the deadline. Over 100 archival collections (totaling approximately 430 boxes), along with other items including yearbooks, newspapers, and periodicals, were added to the archive at the Gregory School. Among these collections are the Franklin Beauty School Collection, Christia Adair Papers, Olee Yates McCullough Papers, and the Freedmen’s Town Association Collection.
We are thrilled to have been a part of this momentous project to expand the collections held at the Gregory School. In the short time since these records were incorporated into their holdings, they have already seen considerable use. Thus, the goal of connecting researchers to these records has been achieved—a win for both the library and our customers!
Image of Gregory School exterior courtesy of Houston Public Library.
"Franklin Beauty School – 1938 Graduates,” RGD0044-0067, Houston Public Library, African
American Library at the Gregory School.