Additions to the Elinor Evans art education collection!

We are delighted that Danny Samuels, Professor in the Practice, Rice School of Architecture, brought more Elinor Evans art education materials for her archives this week. Here’s a sneak peek at the kinds of items he brought. These works were created by freshmen taught by Elinor Evans, the Harry K. and Albert K. Smith Professor of Architecture, 1964-1965, in the Rice School of Architecture. They were featured in an exhibition, and the original wall labels are included in these images.

“Stick and String. This stick and string problem is an exploration of possible ways of creating a continuous structuring process, using only limited designated elements. The variety of solutions is endless.”
“Burlap. Using burlap, this problem is about the altering of an existing simple structuring process to create a new structuring process.”
“Wire. This is a problem about forming: Using wire to invent a continuous structuring process.”

See the guide to the Elinor Evans papers, to which these will be added soon.

Fondren Library supporting research in Rice’s history in relation to slavery


William Marsh Rice business ledger, noting “Negro property worth $1450.” Source: Early Rice Institute records, call # UA 101, box 2, page 88,  Woodson Research Center / University Archives, Fondren Library. Ledger is being scanned in full for public access.


William Marsh Rice business ledger, noting the exchange of large sums of cotton.  Source: Early Rice Institute records, call # UA 101 box 3, page 130. Woodson Research Center / University Archives, Fondren Library. Ledger is being scanned in full for public access.

Rice University is engaged in exploring its legacy, and sharing that information publicly, with Fondren Library and the Woodson Research Center / University Archives serving as key research support in that effort. The Task Force on Slavery, Segregation, and Racial Injustice, appointed by President David Leebron in June 2019, has over the past year engaged faculty, students, staff, and the community in research to spark dialogue and to better document our history. Led by faculty members Dr. Alex Byrd and Dr. Caleb McDaniel, the Task Force is supported by Fondren Library in a variety of ways.

Research guide to Resources on Slavery, Segregation, and Racial Injustice at Rice University

Research guide to Resources on Black Lives Matter

  • E-books and other materials accessible remotely are highlighted, and suggestions for additional materials are welcome – email

The Woodson Research Center, as home to the Rice University Archives, works to make resources accessible to the public.

Recent activities: 

  • Working with students involved with Rice4BlackLives to provide research support regarding African Americans at Rice over time, for display as a physical and digital exhibit, coming Fall 2020.
  • Digitizing documents and making them available publicly online with the existing Rice history materials, here and here, where photos. documents, The Thresher student newspaper, Campanile yearbook, and General Announcements (faculty and classes listed by year) can all be found.
    • Rice University Charter Trial records, which document the legal process of desegregation at Rice, as well as community response, are already being digitized as an entire group. The archival guide to that record group is here.
    • Documents from the Early Rice Institute records (archival guide here), and other archival collections, are being scanned in collaboration with the Task Force on Slavery, Segregation, and Racial Injustice.

Fondren Library is also engaged in efforts to build diversity in its collections and work with community members in social justice. Examples include:

    • Collaborating with the Center for Engaged Leadership to host a postdoctoral fellowship beginning July 2020 in Data Curation for African American Studies.
    • Funded a student exploration of expanding Rice’s art history curriculum in Global Art, specifically looking at African art, as part of the Fondren Fellows program, in 2019-2020.
    • Woodson Research Center received grant funding to make available online archives from the African American community and Jewish community in Houston. Yesterday’s blog post features materials from the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, which are currently being digitized. 
    • Staff at the Woodson Research Center are working with area school districts to provide supplemental teaching materials on convict leasing, for the African American history curriculum approved by the Texas State Board of Education. This relates to the Reginald Moore Sugar Land Convict Leasing System research collection, which also has a related research travel grant for research in activism and social justice.


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.

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.