2017 was an incredibly busy year for the Woodson. It included completing an inventory of all of our rare books, creating new online and physical exhibits, growing our fine arts and Jewish history collections, exhibiting the history of Camp Logan, placing the KTRU Rice Radio archive online, co-hosting the Houston Folk Music Archive Celebration with the Friends of Fondren Library, participating in the Oh Project collection, and helping our Fondren Fellow discover and map the hidden bits of information in our Civil War diaries.
Here’s some of what’s coming up in 2018:
- We’re continuing our participation in the OSSArcFlow project to improve our digital preservation workflows and discoverability.
- We’re going to be the home base for the Harvey Memories Project. This multi-institutional group will working to document the stories, images, audio, and video related to Hurricane Harvey. We will be taking the lead in digitally preserving any donated items.
- We will be making new collections available for research from Audrey Jones Beck, Brochstein, Inc., and Contemporary Arts Museum Houston [CAMH].
- We’ve continued to work with the Chao Center and are expecting new additions and improvements to the Houston Asian American Archive website.
- Starting last year, we began working on our legacy media backlog. Over the past few months, the old floppies and zip disks have been preserved. Soon, our finding aids will contain descriptions of the files contained on that media.
As we complete some of the projects above and add new ones, we’ll update you on the results. Here’s to a great 2018.
We are happy to announce that our new mapping project, Mapping Civil War Narratives, is now available online!
This series of maps uses ArcGIS to highlight some of the WRC’s numerous Civil War collections (1861-1865). Researchers can now explore the multiple geographies of over 300 Civil War-era letters. From military operations to disease to courtship, these maps convey the potential of our archives’ diverse stories. You can, for example, follow the particular route of a soldier in the Army of the Potomac through his letters or explore the communication in and out of a single city. Use filters to see where men and women were discussing slavery, politics, battles, or military medicine.
Visit the website to take a tour of these maps. Or, if you are familiar with ArcGIS, scroll to the website’s last page to go directly to our two feature maps.
View the connections between where letters from each collection were sent and received.
Or look at individual locations to see where letters were written, where they were received, and what locations the authors mentioned within their letters during four years of war.
You can explore the collections by mutual themes, as well. See where authors discussed battles, politics, or particular officers.
Part of an ongoing effort under the new Fondren Fellows program, we expect to continue to grow and evolve this project as more and more of the WRC’s collections are added.
We want to thank Christina Regelski, our Fondren Fellow, for all of her hard work over the fall semester. She did more with our letters than we could have imagined.
Colonel Cyrus Burnet Smith
A few months ago, our Assistant Head of Special Collections, Amanda Focke, started corresponding with an individual interested in our collection, Colonel Cyrus Burnet Smith U.S. Civil War papers.
Scot Huntington did not start doing research on Dr. Smith’s war career or his groundbreaking medical writings because he studied Civil War history or was a descendant. Instead Huntington found his name (“Cyrus Burnett Smith pumped this organ” 1850-1854) inscribed on the biggest pipe of an organ that Huntington and others had taken apart to restore.
Because of that bit of graffiti from young Smith, Huntington tracked down the man’s origins. Smith originally from North Hadley, Massachusetts attended Berkshire Medical School and graduated in 1859. His graduation thesis became an important text in the 19th century. He outlined the proper way to administer chloroform without asphyxiating the patient.*
Dr. Smith joined the 34th Massachusetts Volunteers in 1862 as Assistant Surgeon. On March 15, 1865, he accepted a commission as Surgeon in the 11th Massachusetts Volunteers, spending most of the Civil War in hospitals in Virginia and the Maryland/D. C. area. He was discharged in Washington D. C. July 31, 1865. After accomplishing so much, poor Dr. Smith died in a fire after his house was struck by lightning at the age of 40.
Scot Huntington used the sources that he acquired from us and others to write, “Wm. A. Johnson Opus 16, 1850: Its History and Restoration” a chapter within the book Johnson Organs 1844-1898 Wm. A Johnson Johnson Organ Co. Johnson & Son: A Documentary Issued in Honor of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of His Birth 1816-2016.
We’re so happy that our small collection helped tell the story of Dr. Smith and an organ.
*Source used: “Wm. A. Johnson Opus 16, 1850: Its History and Restoration” by Scot Huntington
The Woodson’s latest online exhibit highlights the lives and times of the James Lockhart Autry family. “Autry Family from the Alamo to Rice University” describes the journey of 4 generations of the Autry family. Included are digitized letters written by Micajah Autry who travelled west from Tennessee to seek out new opportunities in Texas and joined the Texas Revolution. The letters written by Autry to his wife describe the fighting with Mexico. Micajah Autry would fight and die at the Alamo. For his service, Anson Jones, President of the Republic of Texas presented his widow 1,920 acres in Navarro County, Texas. His grandson, James Lockhart Autry II would come to Texas as a young man to study the law and maintain the land.
James Lockhart Autry II would become an influential lawyer and align himself with the burgeoning oil industry in Texas. He was secretary, director, and general attorney for The Texas Company (now Texaco). His family would become prominent Houstonians and lifelong supporters of Rice University. The exhibit includes photographs of Autry House, the first “student center” at Rice, a community house gifted by the family as a place for all students and faculty to gather.
This digitized material forms part of a larger physical collection accessible at Fondren Library, which 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). These materials 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. Finding aid to the collection is available at: http://library.rice.edu/collections/WRC/finding-aids/manuscripts/0003
Albert Sherrad Campbell’s Signature
Part of our physical collection includes a wide array of journals, diaries, and log books. We have digitized some of these, most notably from the Civil War era. There are four notebooks from Albert Sherrad Campbell who describes battles and other military events in Missouri, Virginia, and Maryland. Although we only know where Campbell was from, based on his opening epigraph by George Washington, he was a Union supporter.
We also have Alexander Hobbs’ diary and his sketch of Galveston harbor. In addition to reporting the Battle of Galveston, he tells what he did on Thanksgiving in 1862.
Finally, we have John C. Crosby’s diary that details his time in the Union army as part of the Seventh Maine Regiment. Instead of writing about battles, he focuses on life inside a hospital, where he might have been an orderly. His diary also records his life post-war as a farm worker.
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
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 exhibits.library.rice.edu are powered by the open source software, Omeka, housed in a cloud-based server which is administered by Fondren Library.
Dunban to parents, from Camp Stanley, Victoria, Tex., November 29, 1865
We are working towards posting all 12 of John R. Dunban’s letters to his family. As of today there are four online, with more to follow.
This collection consists of twelve letters written by Union soldier John R. Dunban to his family in the last years of the Civil War (1864-1865).
The content of the letters is mostly personal but also contains descriptions of the states Dunban was stationed in and news of his regiment. Locations include Headquarters at Blue Springs, Tennessee; Strawberry Plains, Tennessee; Camp Harper, Tennessee; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Camp Harker, Alabama; Camp Jackson, New Orleans; and Camp Stanley, Victoria, Texas.
Dunban writes about war-related issues such as the “dumb ague” sickness, treatment of army deserters, and elections held within the regiment.
The finding aid for the Dunban collection also contains links to the individual letters.
Did you know there were U.S. Civil War prisoners of war in Houston?
The diary of Alexander Hobbs, a private in the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, reflects on his role as a northern soldier, his first and only journey to the Deep South, the distinct wartime culture of the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts, the immorality of slavery, death, the battle of Galveston in January 1863, and life as a prisoner of war.
Read more about it or view the original diary at the Woodson Research Center.