Destroying Digital Media

There will be times when our content creators, especially those that are deceased, have no say over what digital files will end up at the Woodson Research Center. Due to the nature of digital files, future donors may not want to sort through what files should or should not be donated. All of this is to say that sometimes we get media that contain files that are of a very personal nature, have no research value, and could be seen as an invasion of privacy.

When that happens, and we can’t offer it back to the deceased owner, we destroy the media. Erasing the files from the media is not enough. The content can still live in the slack space until it is covered up with new content. Obviously, we will not re-use media, so destruction is the only answer.

We did just that recently with these two thumb drives. We soaked them in water and then smashed them with a hammer. The soaking phase can be skipped next time, but the smashing phase was definitely a winner.


Phrenology – bumps on your head defining your aptitudes?


Phrenology model and Human Skull

Phrenology model and Human Skull

The Woodson Research Center is collaborating with Rice’s Humanities Research Center and the Houston Academy of Medicine – Texas Medical Center Archives to host local high school students on field trips to Rice exploring the medical humanities.

Lecture portion of the field trip
Rachel Conrad Bracken, a Civic Humanist Fellow at the Humanities Research Center, has developed a lecture entitled “Diagnosing Deviance: How Social Norms Influence our Definitions of Health and Disease,” with the 19th century science of phrenology as a case study to “explore how cultural understandings of race and gender biased medical diagnoses and popular perceptions of “ideal” facial features. ”

Archives portion of the field trip
After Rachel’s lecture and discussion, the students gather in one of Fondren’s collaborative spaces, and have a hands-on experience with archival materials which relate to phrenology and other outmoded models of medicine.

Phrenological chart

Osterhout Phrenological chart

From the Woodson Research Center, the John P. Osterhout Phrenological Chart ( shows a 19th century doctor’s evaluation of Mr. Osterhout, measuring his relative powers on a scale of 1-7, and suggesting appropriate careers for him. Strangely, even though he was rated as having a low level of perception and memory of sizes, it was suggested he might be a good mechanic.

Another example from Woodson includes the Mirabeau B. Lamar travel journal of 1835, in which Lamar (who went on to become the second president of the Republic of Texas) describes a speaker in a local church on the topic of phrenology, and whether one can tell from the shape of a man’s head whether he will commit murder (Lamar journal, pg 12).

Students examining phrenological materials

Phil Montgomery and students examining phrenological materials

The Houston Academy of Medicine – Texas Medical Center Archives, represented by Phil Montgomery, brought a phrenological model, a human skull from their research collection, and handed out blank charts for the students to use in trying their own analysis.

Phil also brought a variety of older medical tools such as an early surgery kit, a lancet for bleeding patients, and an early electric shock therapy tool.

The students really enjoyed seeing the tools of the trade for these outmoded medical models and were inspired to include archives in their future research. Seeing the original tools in person helped the students see how seriously these concepts were in their day, even as we see them now as quack medicine. To quote Rachel’s lecture, “by learning to recognize the flaws in outdated models of medicine and anatomy, students can begin to see how contemporary medicine, too, is shaped by the diagnostic technologies and scientific knowledge available to us—knowledge always mediated by our culture and subject to change.”

Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation oral histories online

Kathy Khanh Han Hoang interview, 2011

Kathy Khanh Han Hoang interview, 2011

Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation (VAHF) oral history interviews, part of the VAHF’s national 500 Oral Histories Project, 2011, are now available online at

These 88 video format interviews were conducted by the Vietnamese American Heritage Foundation in 2011 and donated to Rice University via the Chao Center for Asian Studies in 2012. The interviewees are Texas-based — some were born in Vietnam, some born in the U.S. Most interviews are in Vietnamese, although some are in English. No transcripts exist at this time for the interviews but brief abstracts for each are being created to offer some initial English-language insight into the interviews.

In addition to these 88 video format interviews, the Chao Center for Asian Studies has conducted over 100 interviews here in Houston, and 95 of them are available online as part of the Houston Asian American Archive (HAAA). These interviews are in audio format, mainly in English, with full transcripts.

Learn more about Asian-American archives at Fondren Library.

Rice Thresher newspaper online, full text searchable 1916-2000

Rice Thresher masthead, first issue, 1916

Rice Thresher masthead, first issue, 1916

Fondren Library is happy to announce the Rice Thresher, student newspaper since 1916, is now available online in a full-text searchable PDF format for the years 1916-2000.

The Thresher archive is available as issue-level PDF files in Rice’s institutional repository at In this way, the digital Thresher can be searched with many other Rice resources and will be reliably preserved. These issue-level files maintain the look and feel of the print, including the layout, the advertisements and the experience of browsing the pages.

It is also available in the Portal to Texas History, hosted by the University of North Texas, at Being present in the Portal to Texas History allows the Thresher to be searched in the company of a treasure trove of other Texas heritage resources.

Issues from the year 2000-current day are available directly from the Thresher online at, presented as a Table of Contents with links to individual articles.

Fondren Library is working towards microfilming and digitizing the print issues from 2000-current day, so that they will also be available as issue-level PDF files later in 2013.

We hope you will enjoy this lens on life at Rice over the years!

Want to see more about Rice online? Visit University Archives and Rice history!

Autry collection next in line for digitization

Autry family and Winton car

Autry family and Winton car, ca. 1910. Front seat: chauffeur on left, James Lockhart Autry, III. on right. Back seat left to right: James Lockhart Autry, II, Allie Kinsloe Autry, and Allie May Autry.

The James Lockhart Autry Family Papers have a significantly updated finding aid online and are next in line for digitization. Selections will be made and materials placed online in 2013.

The collection includes business papers, correspondence, photographs and memorabilia related to the James Lockhart Autry family of Texas (1875-present) and of North Carolina (1832), Tennessee (1824-1840) and Mississippi (1840-1875) which show the life style of a family who moved into Texas and played an important role in developing both the social and economic framework of Houston. Among the business papers are correspondence and legal briefs from the terms Autry served as general counsel to the Texas Company, president of Fidelity Trust Company, and vice-president and general counsel of the American Republics Corporation.

New exhibit online: William Marsh Rice and founding of the Rice Institute

Newsclipping "Murder by Hypnotism: A startling new theory. Does it explain the Rice mystery?"

Newsclipping “Murder by Hypnotism: A startling new theory. Does it explain the Rice mystery?” New York Journal, Oct. 21, 1900, pages 1-2. Early Rice Institute records, 1844-1941 (bulk 1880-1916), UA 101, box 35, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.

A new exhibit online highlights the life of Rice University founder, William Marsh Rice, the sensational trial of his murder, and how his generosity made the university we know today possible.

New Exhibit Online: “Literary Societies at Rice”

Pallas Athene Literary Society - 1927

Pallas Athene Literary Society – 1927

The new “Literary Societies at Rice” exhibit outlines the history of women’s literary societies at Rice from 1914-1980s. These societies provided Rice women, who were unable to live on campus until 1957, a chance to organize, socialize, and plan functions.

Featuring items from scrapbooks, photographs, programs, administrative materials, personal items, and correspondence, the exhibit shows the growth and change of the groups through the decades.

To read more about these societies, visit the online exhibit.
A physical exhibit is on view during Spring and early Summer 2012 in the Fondren Library, on the 3rd floor outside the Kyle Morrow Room.

New exhibit online: “Dick Dowling and Sabine Pass in History and Memory”

Dick Dowling statue, Houston, Texas

Dick Dowling statue, Houston, Texas

Dick Dowling and Sabine Pass in History and Memory – a new online exhibit which was developed by Dr. Caleb McDaniel, Asst. Prof. of History, Rice University, and his students, in collaboration with Rice’s Fondren Library and the Houston Public Library’s Houston Metropolitan Research Center.

Dowling is most famous for his role in the Battle of Sabine Pass, fought
on September 8, 1863. A statue of Dick Dowling was the first public
civic art in Houston, and this exhibit looks at who Dowling was and how his memory has been presented over time, partly through the lens of the Dowling statue.

The exhibit consists of two major sections, the first on the public memory of Dick Dowling in Houston since 1863 and the second on slavery and the battle of Sabine Pass.

This exhibit and others available at are powered by the open source software, Omeka, housed in a cloud-based server which is administered by Fondren Library.

Rice architectural drawings, panoramics & maps!

"Rice Institute land survey created by first engineering class." 1917.

“Rice Institute land survey created by first engineering class.” 1917.

Rice architectural drawings, panoramic photos and maps, as well as many oversize manuscript materials are listed individually in a new guide which is available online in three parts:

Part 1: (Drawers 1-50 of 164 drawers)

Part 2: (Drawers 51-99 of 164 drawers)

Part 3: (Drawers 100-164 of 164 drawers)

These records include architectural drawings, maps, posters, oversize manuscript materials, and photographs ranging in dates from 1840s-2010. The majority of architectural drawings relate to Rice University and include the original drawings for buildings such as Lovett Hall and Baker College – and much, much more!

The collection also contains oversize material from other manuscript collections, such as the Illuminated Sacred Music Manuscripts.