The Rice Institute’s Other Location

The Scientia Institute recently hosted a “Betterment of the World” lecture given by Fay Yarbrough and Caleb McDaniel. They showed the connections between Houston’s Black Fourth Ward community and the early Board of Trustees, who attempted to force people to sell their land. It’s important historical work that was made possible by some of our materials.

If you’d like to learn more, the lecture is now available online.

VHS Digitization

When we have smaller VHS digitization jobs (a collection with 10 or fewer tapes), we can digitize them in-house. We use our laptop, VHS/CD combo player, RCA cable, and a program called Power Director. The output is a mpg video file that we convert to an mp4 using Handbrake.

Laptop in the process of recording sitting atop a DVD/VHS combo

Right now, I’m digitizing a live performance of The Mighty Orq playing at the Artery on January 4, 2008. The video is from the Houston Blues Society records, which are almost fully processed and ready for research.

Carping about “Soldiers’ Pay”

While looking for something completely different, I ran across this letter from Larry McMurtry. He’s worried about a set of first editions that he had donated to the library and that they are not getting the care they deserve. He asks for them to be moved to the rare book room, which was the Kyle Morrow Room. The head librarian’s response is that there isn’t room, but it does seem like Hardin Craig, Jr. did do something.

Page 1 of letter. The letter is summed up in the text of the blog post.
Page 2 of letter. The letter is summed up in the text of the blog post. Letter is signed by Larry McMurtry

Although the slip cover is damaged, this is most likely the first edition that McMurtry referred to. Based on this image via AbeBooks, our cover has faded over the years. McMurtry’s book has some wear and tear, but we’re keeping it safe now.

Cover of Soldier's Pay. Arch design is purple with fading along the edges. The bottom of the paper cover is bent and torn.

Huxley and Evolution

As archivists, one of our tasks is reference, not just in-person in the reading room but via email. Over the last several years, we’ve been working with Alison Bashford. She did archival research in the various Huxley collections pre-Covid. While she was finalizing her manuscript, An Intimate History of Evolution: The Story of the Huxley Family, we, more specifically our former processing archivist Gabby Parker, assisted with scanning and reference checking. Amanda Focke assisted in permissions for images for the Huxley papers.

Although this work sometimes flies under the radar, Alison Bashford was kind enough to thank Amanda and Gabby in the acknowledgements. In addition, the gift book Bashford sent will be added to the Huxley rare book collection.

We’re happy that our work could in a small way contribute to greater scholarship.

Spooky Andreas Gryphius

Spine of book with vellum cover

Because of another issue, which might eventually make it into a blog post, I discovered this frightfully weird book Freuden- und Trauer-Spiele auch Oden und Sonnette. I can’t tell you what it’s about other than it’s German and written by Andreas Gryphius.

Cover page with German title

It does have a delightfully spooky and very perplexing frontispiece.

Frontispiece with a woman holding a piece of paper with the author's name and the title of the book, a winged man holding a torch, a cherub crying, and a skeleton on one knee toasting them.
What is going on here?

Because notations are always fascinating, inside the front cover is an outline of some sort.

Handwritten notes in German

Blues Society Newsletters

Within the boxes of the Houston Blues Society records is a snapshot of the world of regional U.S. blues and music-related newsletters.

15 Blues newsletters on a table

This grouping of newsletters mainly hails from the mid-to-late 1990s. They offer a glimpse into how the medium fulfilled a need to spread information about performances and engage with small audiences in the years before its generation of readers fully embraced email, message boards, and/or websites. It’s also interesting how many different types of blues societies exist/ed and how many of them loved the name “Blues News.”

The Houston Blues Society records will be fully processed in the couple of weeks.

Rice vs. University of Houston

Tomorrow we play our city rivals UH in the annual Bayou Bucket Classic. Let’s look back at our previous clashes.

Rice players holding the trophy
Winning the trophy in 1993
Rice player #44 running towards the defense while being protected by #42
Future NFL player Earl Cooper on the move against UH, 1979

If you feel like watching games of yore, here’s a highlight film featuring Arkansas, Baylor, and UH from 1987.

Your ears aren’t deceiving you. There is no sound.

Watson Mystery Solved, Part 2

If you remember back a few weeks ago, we had re-discovered a collection of books by William Watson. We figured out why his book became dispersed. Warning it’s a bit technical. In the online library catalog, some of our onsite rare books can be identified by location as WRC – [name of collection]. When Watson lived on the shelves in the Woodson, the collection was safe and a distinct unit both physically on the shelves and in the catalog.

But…Watson moved offsite to the Library Service Center. When that happened, the location designation changed to LSC-WRC and that’s it. With the location change, what tethered the collection together (proximity and the Watson location name) fell apart. There’s only one other rare book collection that lives offsite and that one has a special note that ties the collection together.

stack of books
Complete set of Odes and Other Poems

Lauren DuBois, trusty cataloger, is now ordering the books by title (There are multiple editions for each title.) and making the requisite changes in the catalog as well as providing more descriptive updates. For example, Watson wrote two poems (published elsewhere) into the first couple of pages one of the books.

But folks, that’s not all. We temporarily proved Rudyard Kipling wrong.

Newspaper clipping: Mr. Rudyard Kipling said of Sir William Watson last night: "He did magnificent work. He never wrote a bad line. His work has gone to the general account and will never be lost."

The Watson books, which now formally go by the title the James Wade Rockwell collection of William Watson poetry, will become a complete collection again (not lost) with a proper title including the donor’s name.

RIP Gorby

Mikhail Gorbachev passed this week, which made me think of his visit to the Baker Institute. Yes, this is a re-use of a photograph from a past post, but it’s a good one.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian sitting at a table talking, 1997
Mikhail Gorbachev and Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian, 1997

We also have a “To the Point” radio program featuring Frances Loewenheim talking about Gorbachev from 1985.

My Dear Watson, Part 1

Headshot of William Watson. A white man with a large moustache, probably in his 20s.
William Watson, 1858-1935

Last week we encountered a big mystery at the Woodson. After trying to make this rare book page look pretty with non-pixelated tiles, we realized there were only three books in the William Watson rare books collection. Usually, our rare book collections contain more than three books, more like 100 or more. The books themselves didn’t make sense, one is by Watson, one by John Dunne, and one by Thomas Otway.

We realized that we couldn’t even find this mystery collection in the Woodson, where the vast majority of our named rare book collections lived. What was going on?

We realized that we do have the William Watson papers, purchased in 1972, which is a rather small collection of items from the poet. We looked in the control folder (where we keep information about purchasing, etc.) and discovered that there was a rare book catalog which contained a list of Watson books with checkmarks and other notations next to them. Typically, our named rare book collections are named for the donor and not for the writer(s) covered in the grouping. There was a bookplate in the folder, which provided a name for the potential donor of the books, James Wade Rockwell via the Rockwell Fund.

Fingers holding a book plate

There are a bunch of Watson books offsite, but would they have been part of the original Watson collection? We had to order them to find out.

We selected one title, Excursions in Criticism: Being Some Prose Recreations Of A Rhymer (1893), as well as ordered the Watson book that was already part of his collection entitled The Hope of the World and Other Poems (1898), and the John Dunne book.

Let’s start with Excursions.

While the book is not fancy, it contains three bookplates, including the Rockwell tucked into the back pages. In the rare books, we place paper ID slips with call numbers. The slip included the name Watson on it, which would be typical of a rare book collection.

The Hope of the World, listed as part of the Watson book collection, contains an inscription from Watson to the meteorologist Rollo Russell. It also had a Rockwell bookplate.

The Dunne book had nothing to link it to Watson like the ID slip or a bookplate. It did have a bookplate demarcating that it had some from Edgar Odell Lovett’s library. Looks like this might need to be removed from the Watson collection.

For our next steps, we are going to continue ordering the rest of the Watson books from offsite and inspect them to see if they belong in the Watson rare book collection. There might also be supplemental materials, too. I’ll write with another update when or if we learn more.

If you’re wondering why this happened, most likely information was lost when the info moved from the card catalog to a library information system (computer program) or during data migrations to new library information systems.