Gregory School Newsletter | October 2019

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Behind the Archives
The Funeral Program Initiative

Behind the Archives:  From Acquisition to Access
Sheena Wilson MLIS | Processing Archivist

Many have benefited from the unique archival materials in the Gregory School Collection, but few know how the materials landed here.  The journey starts with appraising materials for enduring value, based on their administrative, legal, fiscal, or historical content. Our collection development policy, mission and potential research value determine how selections are made. Once materials are accepted, they are accessioned into the collection, meaning the archive takes physical, intellectual and legal of custody of materials from the donor. After records are accessioned, donations are assigned a collection name and number before being processed. Also referred to as arrangement and description, I consider the context of how and why the records were created, which entails an in-depth look at activities of the person or organization that created them.  During this process I get to know the collection and in a way the creator closely.  This is the most enjoyable part, as I liken it to a putting together a puzzle of someone’s life.

When processing, I look at collections with a broad perspective, questioning how the records were used to reveal the connections between the records and their creators. I perform background research using interviews from donors, the records, and published sources; which helps me to organize the collection as most beneficial to the researcher.  The findings are compiled into an archival description called a Finding Aid. This description is the introduction and guide to the collection.  Descriptions are created using Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), a standardized set of rules, which supports outlining a collection’s important features. Descriptive information promotes access by allowing researchers to browse the collection, to improve security by creating a record of contents, and to minimize unnecessary handling of original materials. Access is also given through digital and physical exhibits.

As the African American Library at the Gregory School prepares for its anniversary, the archivists mark our 10th year with an exploration of our work.  An archivist’s work is reliant on donor contributions.  Donors who contribute their records play a central role in changing the narrative.  The upcoming exhibit We Shall Not Be Moved:  Recent Acquisitions from the Gregory Collection recognizes donor contributions that have helped our growth and prosperity. This exhibit will show recent acquisitions donated during the past 2-3 years and rarely seen items from the repository’s inception.  With each item handpicked by an archivist, this exhibition will feature items that reflect who we are, where we have been, and links our local history.

For the Gregory School, the work of collecting Houston’s history—and especially that of underrepresented neighborhoods and community groups, remains the cornerstone of our mission. There is still much work to be done, and we hope this exhibition will attract new donations while stimulating researchers and visitors to further explore the archive.  Save the date and join us for the exhibit opening on November 14, 2019!

The Funeral Program Initiative
Emmalee Miller | Digitization Technician

The African American Library at the Gregory School actively collects, digitizes, and preserves African American funeral programs for the funeral program initiative.  This initiative serves to make these funeral programs available to the public.  Recognizing the value of funeral programs, particularly to the African American community, the funeral program initiative was created to collect and index African American funeral programs of persons who live in or have ties to Houston, the surrounding communities, and Texas.

These programs are from existing collections and from donations to our Funeral Program Collection.  Obituaries offer information about large trends within a community and insight into a time period, making them important, not only to genealogical research, but to local history as well.  Funeral programs, obituaries, and death certificates contain important biographical information about the person, such as: birth and death dates, maiden names, order of service, photographs, the names of relatives, employment history, affiliations with organizations and churches, education, funeral home, and the places of service and burial.  Without the preservation of these programs, the historical and biographical information they provide could be lost as the information does not usually exist elsewhere.

The Digitization Technician scans the funeral programs and creates a text readable pdf copy of the program.  Next, the information and keywords are attached to the program online so when someone does a search, those programs will display in the results.  The African American Library at the Gregory School hopes this collection provides a rich source of local, personal, and collective history of African Americans in Texas.

We have a selection of programs to view online here.

Please help preserve this history by donating your funeral programs. You can either mail them to us or drop them off during regular business hours:

Tuesdays and Wednesdays   10am - 6pm

Thursdays                               12pm - 8pm

Fridays and Saturdays           10am - 5pm



Thanks for doing this! It is a wonderful resource for lovers of genealogy. Also why is the Martin L. King program unavailable for viewing?

Is this a digitized program you are trying to view online?

Due to the item's rarity, viewing of the digital copy is restricted to in-house use. Currently, the original is on display at the Houston Holocaust Museum, until January 31st.

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