HMRC Newsletter | October 2018

Archives Month

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.


HMRC Joins Area Partners for Harvey Memories Project
Celebrating Archives Month 2018
Family History Interviewing Tips
Research Spotlight: Archival Collections


Harvey Memories ProjectHMRC Joins Area Partners for Harvey Memories Project
Matthew Richardson, Photography Archive Supervisor

The Harvey Memories Project is a community-driven digital archive created through a partnership between Rice University, Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library, and the University of Houston Libraries. It's funded by the Rice Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort and by the Rice Humanities Research Center's Public Humanities Initiative.

The Harvey Memories Project created a website where the public can share memories of Hurricane Harvey and its impact on the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area and Texas, more broadly. The Project collects, publishes, and preserves images, videos, audio, and text-based stories which are shared on the website and securely stored according to archival standards. As it attempts to document people’s experience of the storm, the Harvey Memories Project invites a wide spectrum of stories—including rescue, resilience, and loss—and aspires to represent Houston’s diversity in its collections.

woman being interviewed on cameraOn August 17, HPL's Kashmere-McCrane Multi-Service Center hosted the first major event promoting the Project and inviting community contributions. The event was put on through the hard work of archivists from HMRC and The African American Library at the Gregory School, HPL's International Services team, Project partners from Rice University, and Kashmere-McCrane's dedicated staff. People on an assembled panel shared their Harvey stories, as did members of the audience. Archivists helped people upload their memories to the website, and recorded interviews with community members impacted by the storm. 

By collaborating with HPL neigborhood libraries and other partners, HMRC and The African American Library at the Gregory School will continue to promote the Harvey Memories Project and encourage community contributions, particularly from heavily impacted and/or under-represented areas. The Harris County Public Library will also be hosting related events at their library locations.

We hope that these digital artifacts documenting the storm will be of interest and use to the general public, as well as to students and researchers studying the history of Houston and the surrounding area during this time.

Please help spread the word about the Harvey Memories Project, and consider contributing your own memories. Photograph courtesy of Jeff Fitlow, Rice University Public Affairs


archival papersCelebrating Archives Month 2018
Emily Scott, Lead Archivist

Each year in October HMRC celebrates Archives Month to raise awareness about the value of archives, and the keepers of our important historical records. Those valuable records are preserved and are available to you, whether you want to see if they contain clues about your home’s history, need to prove the existence of a historic place, or are researching a historical topic that interests you.

Archives are a place where people can go to gather firsthand facts, data, and evidence from letters, reports, notes, memos, photographs, and other primary sources. Staff who work in archives are specially trained in preserving the original material and helping people obtain it.

The Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC) is an archive that is a part of your Houston Public Library. We collect and save the history of the city and its people. Please join us for 5 different programs introducing you to different aspects of the archives! Programs are free and open to the public. 

Hispanic History Loteria! Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and Archives Month with an afternoon of loteria! Questions will highlight Houston's Hispanic history and feature images from HMRC’s Hispanic Archival Collections. Come join us for games, crafts, and fun! You could win prizes, including reproductions of historic images from HMRC. October 6, 2018 at Discovery Green.

Aquatic Book Rescue! Whether the water damage comes from rain, flooding, or extensive humidity, the effect on your important records can be severe. So, what can you do? Join HMRC’s Preservation Librarian to learn about preventing and responding to water damage. October 11, 2018 in the Heights Neighborhood Library.

Family History Interviewing! The holiday season is around the corner, a time for family gatherings and family stories. Interested in holding onto your family history? Learn the basics of oral history project development; from project planning, equipment, interviewing, to preserving and sharing your interviews. October 18, 2018 in the Julia Ideson Building.

Where’s the book on my house? Curious about your home’s history? Don’t know where to start? HMRC's Architectural Archivist will give a basic overview of how to research a historic property, highlighting useful resources in HMRC collections. This program includes a tour of the Texas Room to introduce you to our collections and how to access them. October 25, 2018 in the Julia Ideson Building.

Houston: The Poetry of Us! Does Houston have a poetry scene? Share your experiences at our collecting event, which is aimed at gathering the voices of Houston poets and perspectives on the history of poetry here in the Bayou City. This oral history project is a partnership between HMRC and Lupe Mendez, poet and founder of Tintero Projects. Staff will be available to film brief interviews with attendees interested in sharing their voices. All participants will receive a copy of their interview. Call 832-393-1662 to reserve a spot. Walk-ins welcome. October 27, 2018 in the Julia Ideson Building.

We hope to see you there!  Pictures feature archival material from Huelga Schools of Houston (RG G 0003) and E. Richardson Cherry Papers (MSS 0027)


Family History Interviewing Tips
Abra Schnur, Processing Archivist, Assistant Oral History Archivist

With the holiday season around the corner, HMRC has a few tips and tricks to help with family interviewing and the preservation of family memories.

Tip #1: Start planning

Now is the time to start planning who you will be interviewing and what types of material you would like to capture.  Do you want to document your mother’s Thanksgiving recipes and cooking process?  How about your uncle’s traditional folk music that was taught to him as a child?  Possibly your great-grandmother’s life history? Each of these scenarios will require different preparations.  

Tip #2: Interview older relatives first

I’ll never forget the lost opportunity I had when my grandfather more-or-less asked me to interview him.  I told him I would like to, just not now, right after our Thanksgiving meal.  And plus, I didn’t have my recorder.  He proceeded to tell me all about his childhood, up to his time in the Navy.  I listened intently.  He ended up passing away two months later.  While I’m a big planner, sometimes you just have to seize the moment, hit the record button on your phone, and worry about file transfer later.

Tip #3: Use photographs and mementos to trigger memories

There is nothing like using a photograph or other memento to help trigger a remembrance.  When it comes to this type of interviewing, it is more about the how and why people remember something the way they do, versus what specific facts and details (such as dates, names, and locations) they can recall.  That information can be captured in other ways, without the added stress of being recorded.

Tip #4: They are the narrator, not you

A good interviewer is a guide through the interview journey, but it’s the interviewee who is behind the wheel.  When driving through the memory countryside, it’s good for you to have that road map of questions or topics, but they are the ones picking the route.  If they go off-roading for a bit too long, you can always guide them back to the path.

Tip #5: Choose sustainable formats for access and preservation

Like sand through the hour glass, so are recording and file formats. Don't get stuck with family history research on a format that is most likely to be inaccessible in 10 years (I’m looking to you, MiniDisc). Plan to record and save on digital file type that is considered more stable than others; such as .MP3 and .WAV files for audio, and .MP4 and .AVI for video files. Be on the lookout for upcoming personal digital archiving lectures presented by HMRC.

Tip #6: Share it!

Share these histories and the stories within them! There are so many cool ways to do this now.  Listen to your recording to be able to pick out certain segments and clips that would be of interest to the family at large.  Share that information in the form of a book, podcast, or website.

Event: Family Interviewing Tips
Archivists from HMRC and The African American Library at the Gregory School will be giving a presentation on Family History Interviewing.

Julia Ideson Building
Thursday, October 18, 2018
6:30 PM -7:30 PM 

Papazoglakis Family Portrait," MSS 0199-0108, Houston Public Library, HMRC


Research Spotlight: Archival Collections
Natalia Kapacinskas, HMRC Processing Intern, Summer 2018

As an archival processing intern at HMRC, I spent the summer arranging and describing a collection of legislative papers donated by former Texas legislator Kay Bailey.

Bailey represented Houston for two legislative sessions in the Texas House of Representatives, in 1973 and 1975. She was also involved in the Constitutional Convention of 1974, which intended to create a new Texas State Constitution. When she was first elected in 1972, she was one of only nine women in the legislature.

Bailey’s two sessions in the Texas House began a long career in politics. She was elected as Texas State Treasurer in 1990, a position she held until her election to the U.S. Senate in 1993. Bailey was the first female U.S. Senator from Texas and held her seat for two decades. Today, she serves as the U.S. Permanent Ambassador to NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization).

Bailey's bipartisan efforts are shown in her legislative papers, such as in documents of collaboration with other Representatives on pieces of legislation. One example of her bipartisan work is House Bill 284, which she developed with Democratic colleague Sarah Weddington. Also known as the "Rape Victims Bill," this successful piece of legislation affected trial procedures for rape cases to better protect the privacy of rape victims. Within Bailey's papers is a large amount of material related to this bill, including research files, drafts, folders of constituent correspondence, notes between other senators, and press releases. The volume of material reveals Bailey's deep investment in the bill's passage, along with the attitudes of her constituents and fellow legislators toward such crimes.  

Bailey's collection also includes physical objects like bumper stickers, which provide unique insight into Texas politics in the 1970s. The designs and slogans display the different strategies that politicians used to attract voters during this period. Materials like these and the collection of commemorative pins show Bailey's own evolution as a politician over the course of her career, from her first elected position through the 2010s.

For more information on the collection, contact the Texas Room at txr.reference@houstontx.gov.   Pictures feature archival material from Kay Bailey Papers (MSS 0018)


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