HMRC Newsletter is Back!
The Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC)’s newsletter is back at last and better than ever. It’s been a few years since our last newsletter, but you can be sure that we’ve been anything but idle in that time. Our mission to locate, preserve, and make available the documentary evidence of Houston’s history keeps us busy every day. In the spirt of that third part of our mission, we’re reigniting our newsletter to give you a closer look at the work we do here and the materials we safeguard.
Our quarterly newsletter will offer updates on new and exciting happenings at HMRC. Our spotlight articles will give you a closer look at our materials, as well as tips and research help from our expert staff, and much more.
We have an exciting update about digitization! HPL and HMRC, in partnership with The Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI), will receive grant funding to digitize and make widely accessible historically important and previously unavailable Texas films. With support from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, these films will be described using standard metadata practices and discoverable online.
The films document significant events in Texas from the 1940s to the 1970s and are in fragile and deteriorating condition. Digitization will preserve their content and make them accessible nation-wide through the TAMI online library, the Houston Area Digital Archives, and HMRC.
But that's not the only digitization news. An amazing new opportunity is on the horizon. HMRC will soon be home to the Memory Lab—a new initiative which includes free, public digitization stations, as well as new programming on a variety of personal digital archiving topics.
The Memory Lab model offers a “do-it-yourself” public digitization lab with equipment for digitizing video and audio and scanning photographs, documents, and slides digital preservation classes and training information about storage and preservation for archival materials.
This project is made possible by HPL’s selection as a partner in the Memory Lab Network, a collaboration launched by DC Public Library and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The Memory Lab represents an exciting and innovative service for HMRC to offer our customers—stay tuned for upcoming programs and for the launch of the Lab! Two programs about personal digital archiving are already scheduled for this fall. Take a look at the Events at HPL page to find out what's coming up for HMRC.
By Mikaela Selley, Hispanic Collections & Oral History Archivist
HMRC celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month each fall, the 30-day period from September 15 to October 15. Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15 to commemorate the independence of several Latin American countries including: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, and Mexico.
To celebrate this heritage, HMRC highlights the documents, photographs, and oral histories that shed light on the experiences and contributions of the Hispanic community in Houston. This year will include a pop-up exhibit focused on Houston's Hispanic women and the unique archival treasures that tell their story. Since its founding in 1976, HMRC has collected numerous archival records documenting the experiences of Houston's Hispanic women. These materials show their contributions in all aspects of Houston life, from business and music to activism and politics.
One early example is the 1910 Houston City Directory where Jacinta Castro, Mrs. Eloner Gutierrez, and Pioquinta Marquez are listed in the Restaurants section. Occupation simply reads "chile stand." There in small print, hidden amongst names like Adams, and McGee is a window into a Houston past so often lost: the Mexican American women's experience in Houston. These women have contributed to Houston business and culture and this particular record offers clues into this history.
Another example, housed inside the Melesio Gomez Family Papers, is a rare gem known as the Chapultepec Letter. This 1937 document was written by the ladies of Club Femenino Chapultepec, a first-of-its-kind organization sponsored by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) exclusively for young Mexican American women. The document lists ten important issues facing the Mexican community in Houston at that time and reveals a history of activism among Mexican women in Houston as early as the 1930s.
Not all photographs and documents can capture an experience quite like a first-person account. HMRC's Oral History Collection contains many Hispanic women's voices. These rich and valuable interviews often tell the stories we'd never know otherwise, like how one of Houston's legendary Tex-Mex restaurants came to be. Janie Tijerina; entrepreneur, philanthropist, and wife of Felix Tijerina (owner of Felix's Mexican Restaurant); recalls taking a chance at the racetrack and turning a few hundred dollars into $1600. It was this money that helped launch her husband's second restaurant. An interview with Angelina Morales in 1979, co-founder of Morales Funeral Home, shares the significance of a particular diploma. She recalls "I became a professional embalmer in ’42. ... I was the first Mexican woman in Houston to obtain [this] diploma."
These are just a handful of histories and experiences reflected in the archival records and there are thousands more to collect and preserve. Certainly, the job is not done. Hispanic women have shaped Houston in significant, and often underappreciated, ways and continue to do so. HMRC invites you to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with us as we showcase this valuable history.
By Elizabeth Mayer, Preservation Librarian
September is National Preparedness Month and it is a great time to remember that being prepared for emergencies is a year-round concern. Houston is susceptible to a variety of natural disasters including tornados, flooding, and hurricanes. Just as there are preparedness steps to take to protect yourself and your family, there are also preparedness steps that can be taken to help protect books, photographs, and record collections from potential disasters.
Protecting personal and family collections is a complicated task that will be different for every individual. Here are a few tips that may help save your items:
The first step towards preserving personal collections is to ask yourself a series of questions. What do I need to save? How much can I save? Why is this item important? These questions will help to guide you on the choices that you make when preserving your collections. For example, if you are preserving the diary of a beloved family member, is the book itself that's most important to you or the contents of the diary?
Storage is a significant factor in preparing collections for natural disasters. Keeping books and paper collections on a high shelf away from windows will help to reduce the risk of water damage from rain or flooding. Keeping collections in a dark, dry, area also helps reduce fading from light exposure and damage from high humidity. When storing books on a shelf, it is best to store them upright with either the shelf or a bookend to hold the books up. Larger books should be stored flat so that they don’t fall apart under their own weight. When packing books into boxes for moving or long term storage, keep the spines of the books facing down to lessen the strain on the books.
Perhaps the best practice for preserving personal collections is to keep copies of everything that you would like to preserve. Even items that are digital such as photos and videos produced by current devices would benefit from having copies stored in multiple formats and/or on multiple devices. Photographs and manuscripts such as diplomas and birth certificates can be scanned so that a digital representation of these items can be maintained even if the original item is damaged. Books can also be scanned and digitized, though the process does take much longer.
If your collections get damaged in a flood or any other disaster, it is important to practice self-preservation first and foremost. If and only if an area is deemed safe should you enter a flooded area to retrieve water-damaged materials. The same principle applies to areas affected by any natural disaster. It is also important to know who to contact in case of emergencies.
The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) offers a free phone consultation service that will help guide you in salvaging collections after natural disasters. The NEDCC website also has a number of free preservation resources for helpful preservation tips and guides.
By Elizabeth Mayer, Preservation Librarian; Abra Schnur, Processing Archivist; Mikaela Selley, Hispanic Collections & Oral History Archivist
First developed in 2012, the Student Historian Internship Program (SHIP) has become a leading outreach and education initiative by the HMRC. Each June, several Houston area high school students have the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and learn about a range of archival management responsibilities during this month-long program.
The program begins with an overview of HMRC, including a tour of the historic Julia Ideson Building. The orientation introduces the interns to HMRC’s staff, which informs them of the various roles that make up our archive. Interns learn that archivists and librarians come from a variety of backgrounds and professional fields such as libraries, museum studies, public history, journalism, and genealogy.
Over the course of four weeks, the interns engage in hands-on experience in archival processing, oral history management, and conservation. Past projects have also included creating digital projects like online exhibits, how-to videos aimed at other students, and interactive timelines using digital images. The SHIP Supervisor helps direct the interns towards finished projects and an end-of-program showcase featuring the work they’ve completed.
Throughout the program, HMRC emphasizes that the role of an archivist is one that wears many hats. In the same week, an archivist might take on the role of curator, educator, editor, event planner, project manager, supervisor, conservator, and researcher. The desire is that interns leave SHIP with a realistic picture of what an archive is and what archivists do.
This year’s SHIP interns were Sebastian Hobday and Adeline Cheung. They were overseen by Bryan Salazar, SHIP Supervisor (Public History graduate student at the University of Houston and former World Geography teacher at Sam Houston High School). The interns processed the Councilman Jim Greenwood Papers (MSS 1067) and conducted an oral history interview with HMRC Photo Archivist Joel Draut. They also undertook a variety of conservation projects including rebinding city directories, making boxes for fragile books, treating old leather covers, and encapsulating fragile posters.
The SHIP program takes place in June each summer. If you know of a high school student who would be interested in participating, you can download the 2019 SHIP Application and informational flier now! Applications may be sent to Mikaela.Selley@houstontx.gov or call HMRC’s main line at 832-393-1662 for more information.
By Abra Schnur, Processing Archivist
As the HMRC’s Processing Archivist, my main focus is to arrange, describe, and house materials in a way that will be discoverable, accessible, and ultimately usable by patrons of the research center. To give you a little glimpse at the wide variety of materials we maintain here at HMRC, I have recapped a few collections that have stuck out to me recently.
General S. and Mary L. Johnson Papers (MSS 0119)
Mrs. Mary Lillian Jones Johnson was born in 1899 and grew up in the Fourth Ward. She attended Prairie View University and, in 1919, became the first woman to serve as Registrar for the school. She graduated from Prairie View in 1924 and began her career in the Houston Independent School District, serving at Booker T. Washington High School, Jack Yates High School, Phyllis Wheatley High School, and E.O. Smith Middle School.
Mary Johnson’s writing career began with the Texas Freeman, founded and edited by her uncle, C. N. Love. In 1972, she continued as newspaper columnist by writing for the Houston Informer and Texas Freeman, which had purchased her uncle’s newspaper in 1931. In 1935, she married General S. Johnson. Mr. Johnson served in World War I and was employed by the United States Postal Service for 30 years before retiring in 1945.
The Johnson Papers collection is reflective of Mrs. Johnson’s life and career, spanning mostly through the 1920s to the 1970s. A significant portion of the collection represent her time as a teacher and educator.
Ben C. Connally Papers (MSS 0457)
Ben Clarkson Connally (December 28, 1909 – December 2, 1975) was a United Stated Federal Judge for the Southern District of Texas. Born in Marlin, Texas, he was the son of United States Senator Tom Connally and Louise Clarkson. He received a B.A. from the University of Texas in 1930, and a L.L.B from the University of Texas School of Law in 1933. He then received a L.L.M. from Harvard University in 1934. He had a private practice in Houston from 1934 – 1949. He served in the United States Army Air Corps, from 1942-1945. On September 23, 1949, he was nominated by President Harry S. Truman to the new judgeship seat of the district and was confirmed by the Senate on October 12, 1949. He served as Chief Judge from 1962-1974 and obtained senior status in 1974, which he held until his death at the end of 1975.
This collection chronicles Connally’s time as a Federal District Judge from 1950-1975 in the fashion of court opinions, case and docket files, correspondence, memoranda, and documentation of judgeship matters. Also included is a selection of books from his personal library and various judicial publications used as reference material in speech and presentation preparation. Material to note is the sub-series of High Profile Cases (Series 3.2) which includes documentation related to Timothy and Susan Leary, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), and the Houston Independent School District desegregation cases. Though as historically significant as these cases are, the documentation could be considered lacking. Still, the overall collection includes judicial correspondence and dozens of letters of concerned citizens for and against the prosecution of these various cases which provides valuable insight to collective thought on issues such as race relations, narcotics, and the judicial system in the 1960s and 1970s.
Hausinger and Austin Papers (MSS 0477)
Mildred Hausinger and Marguerite Austin were born and raised in the Houston and Gulf Coast area and worked for the Spring Branch Independent School District. Their photo collection offers a view into their public and private lives as a lesbian couple living in Houston throughout the 20th century.
This collection consists of papers, photographs, audiovisual material, and objects. Material comes from Marguerite’s family, Mildred’s family, and the time they shared together. This collection is very genealogical in nature. A decent portion of the photographs and papers come from their families that preceded them. The older photographs also offer a good depiction of life in Houston, Orange, and the Gulf Coast region of Texas in the early to mid-20th century.
To learn about some of our other collections visit: www.houstonlibrary.org or call 832-393-1662.