Artists in the Archives – Gertrude Barnstone (b. 1925)

Gertrude Barnstone at Association of Rice Alumni Honors Dinner

Gertrude Levy Barnstone was born in Houston, Texas on September 5, 1925, and began studying art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston when she was 7 years old. Since there were no children’s classes available at the time Gertrude joined the adult classes, and discovered a life-long love for sculpture. She received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Rice University in 1945, and after a brief period working in acting she married Houston architect Howard Barnstone, with whom she has three children. Throughout these life changes she continued to pursue her art.

In 1953, Barnstone was commissioned to create a sculpture for the exterior of the S. & H. Green Stamp building on Holcombe Blvd. in Houston. After her divorce in 1969, Barnstone studied welding at Houston Community College. She worked at a factory making plexiglass skylights, a job that gave her the skills to incorporate glass into her colorful and intricate metal sculptures. During her career she contributed artwork to local exhibitions and created sculptures for private residences, working largely with steel, and also with wire, glass, mirrors, fabric, and other materials.

Gertrude Barnstone with garden sculpture

In addition to her art, Barnstone made community involvement a large part of her life. Educating her children in the Houston Independent School District of the 1960’s ignited a passionate commitment to grass-roots activism. She was elected to the school board in 1964 and strongly promoted the desegregation of Houston schools. From 1970-1973 Barnstone produced the KPRC-TV educational children’s program “Sundown’s Treehouse” and from 1972-1973 served as Director of Development for the Institute for Storm Research. Barnstone served as President and Treasurer for the Texas ACLU Foundation, President of the National Coalition of Women’s Art Organization, 1981-1982, and president of the Houston Women’s Caucus for Art, 1980. In the early 1990s she founded Artist Rescue Mission, an organization that provided aid to people in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. In 1995, Barnstone received the Lifetime Achievement in Civil Liberties award from the Greater Houston chapter of the ACLU. In 1999 she received a Distinguished Alumni award from Rice University. More information on Barnstone’s life and art can be found in this article published in Cite, the publication of the Rice Design Alliance. The guide to her papers in the Woodson Research Center can be found here.




The CAMH at the Woodson


Merce Cunningham Dance Company performs “Suite for Five” in April 1965 in conjunction with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston exhibition “Robert Rauschenberg.” Courtesy Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) recently donated their extensive archive to us. For more information, please read the recent Rice News & Media article about the transfer.

We are incredibly excited by this donation and cannot wait to share it with the public after it has processed.

Artists in the Archives – James H. Chillman, Jr. (1891-1972)

Dr. James H. Chillman, Jr., seated outside Faculty Club, Rice Institute














James H. Chillman, Jr. was born in Philadelphia in 1891; he attended the University of Pennsylvania (William Ward Watkin’s alma mater), where he studied architecture and fine arts, and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, before moving to Houston in 1916. There he began a career at the Rice Institute, serving as professor in the Architecture Department, art historian, and artist. In 1919 Chillman, a Classicist and Renaissance scholar, received a Furnham Fellowship in Architecture at the American Academy in Rome, and took a leave of absence to spend three years in Italy. In Rome he met his wife, Dorothy Dawes, an artist who specialized in interior design. Upon his return to Houston in 1922 he resumed his appointment in the Architecture Department, and became the founding director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He divided his time equally between working as the museum director and working on the faculty at Rice.

Chillman’s puckish sense of humor made him the perfect person to design the reliefs of student life at the Institute which were carved into the Chemistry Building (now Keck Hall). These carvings can be found in the capitals in the cloister alongside the Chemistry Lecture Hall, and include a caricature of William Ward Watson and an allusion to dreaded freshman class Chemistry 100. (Extra points for those of you who can identify the difference between the reliefs as executed and the original designs.)

Pencil sketch of Panel for Pier Caps facing East of Chemistry Building (now Keck Hall)

Described as a sparkly and inclusive wit, Chillman made it his goal to help Houstonians learn to enjoy art. He developed exhibits of local artists, notably the Houston Artists Annual Exhibition, and annual touring exhibitions organized by the Southern States Art League which brought art works to communities throughout Texas. In the 1950’s he wrote and aired a very popular radio show called “Art is Fun” which discussed art relating to Houston, popular currents, and new art, all aimed at getting the Houston community interested in art. Chillman worked at the Museum of Fine Arts until the early 1950s, and he was Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Fine Arts at Rice into the early 1970s. He died in 1972 after 55 years of service to the Rice and Houston community. A more thorough examination of Professor Chillman’s life and work can be found in this article published in the Cornerstone, the Rice Historical Society newsletter. The guide to his papers in the Woodson Research Center can be found here.


Warren Skaaren’s Screenplays


In our Masterson Texana rare book collection, there are four screenplays written/co-written by Rice’s own Warren Skaaren: Beverly Hills Cop II, Beetlejuice, Batman, and Top Gun.









At Rice, Warren Skaaren became the voice of students during the Masterson Crisis. There are now three audio files via the KTRU Rice Radio archive that are online: Masterson Mass Student Meeting, William Masterson addressing students, and Masterson Crisis phone interviews.

Disaster Recovery


The Woodson Research Center and its collections on an off site suffered no damage from Hurricane Harvey. We sincerely hope that you and yours made it safely through the storm.

If you did suffer any damage, we are sorry. If you are dealing with recovering precious items or know someone who is, we have created a research guide filled with information and tutorials.

We are doing a little bit of disaster recovery of our own. Melissa Kean brought in damp materials from the United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston on Greenwillow St. We took the wet paper out of its binder and spread out the pages to dry.

The Life and Legacy of Jesse H. Jones (1874-1956)

We are happy to announce that our new exhibit, The Life and Legacy of Jesse H. Jones, is now available online! The following is a report from our Fondren Fellow Corinne Wilkinson, who worked hard over the summer to create this exhibit:

This exhibit explores the impact of Jesse H. Jones on the city of Houston and the United States as a whole through Jones’s lifelong work as an entrepreneur, politician, and philanthropist. Jones rose from humble beginnings to build a significant portion of downtown Houston in the first half of the twentieth century, then took his talents to Washington, D.C. to help rescue the nation’s finances. In his role as chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Jones became known as the second most powerful man in Washington (after President Roosevelt himself) and was responsible for stabilizing the nation’s banks and mobilizing the country for World War II.

The exhibit highlights items from several of the Woodson’s collections, including the Jesse H. Jones Family & Personal Papers, the Jesse H. Jones Corporate and Property Records, and the J. Russell Wait Port of Houston papers.

Location of Jones’ buildings in Houston

Jones was responsible for building a large portion of downtown Houston in the mid-twentieth century; many of his buildings are still standing today. This exhibit includes an interactive map showing the location of 25 of Jones’s buildings downtown. Clicking on a point on the map reveals a photograph and more information about each building, including the date it was built and demolished.

While Jones had a significant impact in Washington with his role in reconstruction finance, his story is particularly pertinent to Houstonians, as his name and legacy is prevalent throughout the city. Together with his wife, Mary Gibbs Jones, he established the Houston Endowment, dedicated at its inception to supporting educational opportunities for minorities.

Jesse Jones is a fascinating man to research, and his collections in the Woodson Research Center hold a wealth of documents and photographs that truly showcase his character and dedication to his greater community.


KTRU Tuesdays: KTRU Now Online


The KTRU digitization project has taken around two years to complete.

This includes:

  • receiving the donated 2-track reel-to-reel player from KTRU and station manager Will Robedee
  • getting the unit repaired
  • learning how to play and digitize reels with the help of Bill Coxsey and Scott Carlson
  • digitizing over 1200 reels, DATs and cassette tapes. Perhaps, 250 reels and DATs were digitized by a vendor.
  • listening to it all
  • creating metadata for it
  • embedding the metadata into the WAVs and MP3s with the help of Scott Carlson
  • creating a spreadsheet of Dublin Core metadata so that the audio files could be ingested into our institutional repository with the help of Amanda Focke and guidance from Monica Rivero
  • our programmer Ying Jin running a batch ingest

Without further delay, the finished product is here, waiting for you to find it. You’ll notice on the right side, the files have been organized into subjects, including: interviews, news, musician interviews, speeches and lectures, and sports.

This will also be the last KTRU Tuesday post. We hope that you’ve enjoyed it. Now, you can make the discoveries and share them with your friends.

Eclipse Monday: Celestial Observances

Today marks the first total solar eclipse in 38 years. Everyone in North America plus parts of South America, Africa, and Europe will see at least a partial solar eclipse.

From our History of Science book collection we have examples of 17th-19th century astronomers observing solar and lunar eclipses to test scientific theories and gain knowledge about the sun and our planet. James Ferguson, a Scottish self-taught astronomer published the 1756 bestseller Astronomy Explained upon Sir Isaac Newton’s Principles and Made Easy for Those Who Have Not Studied Mathematics and included a chapter “Of Eclipses: their number and periods. A large catalogue of ancient and modern eclipses” and feature these beautiful plates:

phases of solar and lunar eclipses

Plate XI. Solar and Lunar eclipses. 1803.

The Geometrical Construction of Solar and Lunar Eclipses

Plate XII. The Geometrical Construction of Solar and Lunar Eclipses. 1803.

From a more recent book, we have James Turrell’s Eclipse published in 2000 to commemorate the total solar eclipse of August 11, 1999 and Turrell’s creation of a perceptual space: The Elliptic Ecliptic, a Sky Space built on a hillside facing St. Michael’s Mount, in Cornwall, England. The book includes this beautiful aquatint:

aquatint solar eclipse print

Aquatint response print. James Turrell’s Eclipse. 2000

Today, we’ll be (safely) looking to the skies!