A Night for Guy

Verlon Thompson playing guitar
Verlon Thompson, longtime friend and accompanist to Guy Clark

Last Wednesday, we co-hosted an event with Shawn Parks and Matt Harlan that celebrates the life and musical legacy of Guy Clark. Enjoy these great shots from campus photographer Jeff Fitlow. You can read more about the event from a wonderful write-up by the Houston Press’s Gladys Fuentes.

Matt Harlan playing guitar and singing
Matt Harlan, co-planner and performer
George Ensle on stage
George Ensle – The Woodson has his archival collection.
Libby Koch playing guitar
Libby Koch
Verlon Thompson, surprise guest Shawn Camp, Noel McKay performing, playing guitars
Verlon Thompson, surprise guest Shawn Camp, Noel McKay

To see more images of the event, check out the Rice News post.

The Woodson staff will be participating in a regional conference this week and will be taking a reading room break next while working on collection management. Our reading room and reference services will resume on May 31st.

J. P. Miller and Steven Stayner

Missing sign for Steven Stayner

A few years back the family of James Pinckney Miller donated his materials to us. A 1941 Rice graduate, Miller wrote the teleplay and the screenplay for Days of Wine and Roses and the teleplay for Helter Skelter.

Draft of
Draft of I Know My Name is Steven

In the 1980s, he tackled another true crime topic, the story of the kidnapping and reappearance of Steven Stayner. Our J. P. Miller collection contains drafts of the mini-series, I Know My Name is Steven, which aired in May 1989. It also contains the preliminary research that Miller did with the Stayner family and others related to the case.

Interview questions

Recently digitized tapes from Miller’s collection form part of the research and the larger story for the new Hulu docu-series, Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story. During the series, actors from the original mini-series lend their voices to transcripts created from the tapes in Miller’s archival collection.

While Woodson materials are used by researchers in different ways, the docu-series was an interesting way for Miller’s research to be re-purposed.

Envelope containing cassette tapes with dates listed. 2 cassette tapes outside of envelope.

Returning back to the original mini-series, it was successful. It received four Emmy nominations and had high viewership. Reflecting on his work, Miller wrote the letter below.

Letter from JP Miller to Ruth Slawson.

Big Walter’s Bullets

A couple of weeks ago Sandy Hickey and Jomonica Phoenix invited me out to a container unit that had the archives of the Houston Blues Museum. One collection in the unit belonged to Big Walter “The Thunderbird” Price. Years ago, it was retrieved by Sandy and Jomonica from a storage unit. It contained all of Price’s possession before he passed.

Leather holster with bullets

Including a holster containing handcuffs and bullets from a .38 special. In addition to being a barrel house piano player and recording artist, Price had a variety of other professions/jobs, such as: record label owner, stage and film actor, crime scene photographer, restaurant owner, and security guard.

Instead of keeping the bullets, I took them to RUPD for proper disposal. Thanks to David Anderson for assistance.

David Anderson inspecting bullets.
Forgive the crazy reflections from the protective glass.

One last note on Big Walter Price, we already had possession of part of his collection from an earlier donation by Hickey and Phoenix. Last fall, I made selections from it to be digitized as part of the grant funded Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) project “Digitizing hidden selections of Houston’s African American and Jewish heritage.” This post won’t be the last on this larger than life man.

The Royal Math Book

Vellum cover with decorative detail
Beautiful vellum cover, which is in good condition

Princes of Orange need to learn math, too, and maybe he/they did using this early-mid 1600s math book. While I would definitely admit that math is not my strong suit, I have to say that none of this makes much sense to me.

There is a little explanatory material about the book in French.

Last used page of book featuring a paragraph written in calligraphy that ends with "fin."

Maybe there’s a bit more information on the last page.

Forgive the dreaded cell phone shadow.

If you want to get into the specifics about the Orange lineage, technically whatever prince or very important child used this, they weren’t technically from the original line. It had ended around 100 years earlier with René of Chalon. If you don’t want to a deep dive into the Oranges, then enjoy some painted doodles.

Impossible Exhibits

We recently updated our exhibits around the library. One which is located in the metal hallway, in the front cases near the main entrance, and the 3rd floor next to the Kyle Morrow Room is in conjunction with Archives of the Impossible conference. If you want to read more about the archives, Wired published an article about Jacques Vallée and his papers.

Inside the Woodson is an example of Covid-related art that has been donated.

Outside Woodson and across from the central elevator are exhibits of James Fraher’s photography for the books Zydeco in Texas and Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues written by Roger Wood. The focus is on the Black women highlighted in the books.

As always, please forgive the exhibit case photos. With all of the glass and without great equipment, they are hard to make pretty.

MS 1000

Two photographs on a table featuring John Prine and Bonnie Raitt
John Prine and Bonnie Raitt

We have officially made it to 1000 special collections. It’s such a big accomplishment that we’ll have to add a zero to all of our three digit collections.

Red satin jacket photographed on table
A very limited number of these jackets were made.

If you are wondering what MS 1000 might be, it is the Gregg Fleishman collection. It is devoted to Fleishman’s love of the Houston music scene and includes goodies like a custom Rockefeller’s jacket.

Two photographs on a table featuring Emmy Lou Harris and The Neville Brothers
Emmy Lou Harris and The Neville Brothers

The collection also has photographs of performers like Bonnie Raitt, the Neville Brothers, and more. This is a collection that will keep growing over the next few years. We’re happy that it’s 1000.

Pottery and a Skull

Earlier in the week, while prepping our boxes for the move from Iron Mountain to the Library Service Center, I opened up a rather light box and discovered some pottery. I decided to revisit the box later.

Here are some of cups in the box.

But there was more . . . a male human skull. While it makes sense that the artist Hannah Holliday Stewart would want a skull as a model, it is rather odd that she chose this one. There are a variety of marks on the skull, along with tape residue. If you have any other thoughts on this, please share.

human skull from front
human skull from side
human skull with top of cranium removed

In case you are intrigued by skulls and have a strong stomach, you can check out this article on how human remains were made into skeletons in centuries past.

Exhibits Around the Library

Small statue of Doc C - Dr. Gilbert Cuthbertson

August has begun and it will soon be time to welcome everyone (faculty and students) back to campus. They will be now be greeted with new exhibits. Here’s a look at some of them.

Crowdsourcing transcription of historical documents – Location: 1st floor main hallway

This exhibit reveals a new software that we have been using to help small groups and/or the general public transcribe/translate historical documents. If you’ve got time on your hands and want to transcribe William Marsh Rice’s ledgers, we’d love to have your assistance. Click through the gallery to see how you can participate.

Remembering “Doc C” through his collection – Location: 1st floor exhibit case near front entrance

This exhibit, assembled by Doc C Copy Cataloguer, Lauren DuBois, shares highlights that she has discovered while working through his book collection.

Image of exhibit case of Doc C items.

Stewart Alexander Collection: Books and original recordings of trance and physical mediumship – Location: 1st floor exhibit cases outside of Woodson

These two exhibit cases showcase items from the newly acquired Stewart Alexander collection, which makes up part of the Archives of the Impossible.

Beauty from Above: Book Covers from the Anderson Collection on the History of Aeronautics – Location: 1st floor inside Woodson

In case anyone needs a dose of pretty, this exhibit simply puts a spotlight on some of the beautiful books in the Anderson collection.

Image of Anderson book covers in an exhibit case

Jimmy Don Smith collection

Image of embroidered bell bottom jeans that say "BLUES POWER," an LP, and two photographs of Jimmy Don Smith

We recently got in a new collection featuring Jimmy Don Smith. It includes posters, fliers, photographs, newspaper clippings, and other interesting items. Check out those embroidered jeans.

Smith (1948-10-28 – 1986-01-25) was a Houston transplant and made his name as a Blues guitarist and founder of The Cold Cuts, as well as other bands throughout the 1960s-1980s. He/His bands opened up for Blues musicians like Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Albert King, and Freddie King, the King trifecta. He had also been the lead guitarist for Billy Joe Shaver and Roy Head.

Two Liberty Hall posters: one for Freddie King and the other for Willie Dixon and the Chicago All-Stars

The collection includes a variety of unique posters that generally showcase the opening act, but Jimmy Don Smith or his band at the time served as an opening act.

Lady Ottoline Morrell

While taking care of a reference request for images of Julian Huxley from the 1910s, I ran across a rather striking woman in a scrapbook from the Julian and Juliette Huxley papers, MS 512. But first let’s backtrack a bit. I had noticed a man with the name B. Russell. Because it was a Huxley scrapbook (any famous Brit could be in there), my brain jumped to Bertrand Russell, which was correct.

5 photographs pasted into a scrapbook
Top left to right: Julian Huxley, Aldous Huxley; bottom left to right: Bertrand Russell, Lady Ottoline Morrell (both pictures)

The woman in the picture next to him reminded me a bit of Virginia Woolf, but upon further comparison, was definitely not Woolf. I couldn’t read the writing (Huxley’s handwriting is horrible.) that identified the woman. There was though a loose photograph of her that had a more complete name written on the back. A Google search led me to Lady Ottoline Morrell, an aristocrat and patroness of artists and writers, including Aldous Huxley. She also had a long time affair with Bertrand Russell, so that’s why he might be at the same get together sitting on the same bench.

5 photographs pasted into a scrapbook with one loose one.
Top left and bottom left: Lady Morrell. Top right loose photograph is of Lady Morrell with a girl on a horse.

You should really check out Lady Morrell’s Wikipedia page. It is fascinating. I’m glad I got to know her today.