¡Yo Creo en Pancho Clos!

The Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library recently debuted a new exhibit entitled “¡Yo Creo en Pancho Clos!” Items in this exhibit come from the SWC’s Bidal and Olga Agüero Papers and the Robert Narvaiz Collection, with some artifacts are on loan from Olga Agüero.

Chicano music legend Lalo Guerrero recorded his song “Pancho Claus” in 1956. The tune was a Chicano adaptation of the famous “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and created a figure that Chicano and Latino children could identify with. In Lubbock, Pancho Clos has become an endearing West Texas twist on Santa Claus, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The figure highlights the Mexican American community’s desire to incorporate a bit of their own culture into the city’s landscape.

According to SWC oral histories and local media articles, the tradition began in 1971 after Agustín T. Medina, Sr., Jesse Reyes, and Bidal Agüero presented the idea to the Lubbock American G. I. Forum. The membership loved it. After a flurry of ideas and suggestions the beloved character was born. Pancho Clos would have a full black beard, wear a serape, and don a sombrero. 

The first event was an instant success. 3,000 children posed with Pancho Clos and received a sack filled with candy and other treats. As local churches began clamoring for Pancho Clos, his joyful spirit spread across the region. Soon, Pancho’s giving nature appeared in San Antonio, cities throughout Texas quickly adopting their own iterations. Houston’s Pancho, for instance, adopted a Pachuco-like flair, wearing a flashy red zoot suit and delivering gifts by lowrider.

Over the years the event has relied on numerous volunteers, organizations, and people believing in Pancho Clos. Local bike and car clubs, the American G. I. Forum, Fiestas Del Llano, Girl Scout Troops, the Maggie Trejo Center-City of Lubbock, Los Hermanos Familia, and El Editor have stepped in to keep the tradition alive. Many have embraced the chance to wear the suit: Mike Torres (the first Pancho Clos), Edward Quirino, Gonzalo Garza, and Julian Perez are just a few.

Additional tales of Pancho Clos can be found not just in the collections mentioned above, but also in the SWC’s Hispanic Oral History Collection, including the oral history interviews of Robert Narvaiz, Christy Martinez-Garcia, and Gonzalo Garza.

New Hispanic and Latino Collections!

The Southwest Collection has recently been processing new manuscript materials from Olga Aguero and the late Bidal Aguero. The materials, consisting of photographs, newspapers, business records, and correspondences, highlight the vital and lasting impact of Chicano publications and culture in Lubbock and its surrounding areas. The diverse collection will contribute to Bidal Aguero’s pre-existing Papers as well as other Southwest Collection holdings that include the Miss Hispanic Lubbock Papers, the Lubbock Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Records, the digitized run of El Editor—the South Plains’ Spanish-language newspaper—and other important bi-lingual publications such as the West Texas Hispanic News. Historical gems such as a letter from Bidal Aguero to the Fiestas planning committee in 1977 illustrate how Mexican-Americans organized to create culturally relevant events for the Lubbock community while navigating political ambitions.

A Chicano activist, publisher, and businessperson, Bidal Aguero graduated from Texas Tech University in 1972. While at Texas Tech he joined the student organization Los Tertulianos and later assisted in founding the Texas Tech chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (MECHA). In 1972 Aguero was instrumental in founding COMA (Commerciantes Organizacion Mexicano Americano), the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce, and he was heavily involved in political movements and community organizing in Lubbock and the surrounding areas. Moreover, he found and published the bilingual newspaper El Editor, a publication that highlighted and addressed issues related to the Latinx communities in the region. The newspaper has had a lasting impact in Lubbock and remains a cornerstone of Chicano cultural productions in the South Plains.

A native of Wilson, Texas, Olga Aguero is a Chicana activist and business owner. After high school, she worked with seasonal farmworkers in the Texas South Plains as well as for the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project. After this effort, she began working for El Editor. She also worked for the Texas Tech University Press, became the first female president of Lubbock’s LULAC chapter, and now leads El Editor. Moreover, she was a co-founder of the regions Hispanic Association of Women. Olga and Bidal’s Papers reflect their long history of activism, community engagement, and publishing in Lubbock and the surrounding South Plains region.

Many of the artifacts included in the Bidal and Olga Aguero Papers relate to El Editor and their other publishing endeavors with Amigo Publications,and illustrate the history of Chicano publications in Lubbock. The first edition of El Editor, along with announcements of publication for the newspaper and El Portovoz, a bi-monthly Chicano magazine, showcase Chicano printing culture in the 1970s. Volume One of El Editor, published on October 12, 1977, introduces the newspaper to its readers and features a story written in Spanish about the ordination of 14 priests, while detailing the adverse living conditions that the community of Barrio Arnett-Benson faced in English text. The bilingual edition invokes Mesoamerican iconography typical to Chicano publications during that time and speaks to some of the issues concerning Mexican-Americans in 1970s Lubbock. Furthermore, the announcements demonstrate the purpose and goals of such publications: El Portavoz and El Editor will “reflect the rich cultural heritage of the Chicano in the United States.”

The Bidal and Olga Aguero Papers also document the history of various Chicano, Hispanic, and Mexican-American organizations in Texas. It contains correspondence, photos, conference programs, political party platforms, and flyers for organizations such as the Hispanic Association of Women, La Raza Unida, and COMA.  One interesting item is the directory from COMA, which explains that the item is “the first of its kind every printed in Texas or the nation. . . .  The purpose of this directory is to promote the Mexican American businesses.” 

Photos in the collection helped capture the moment in other ways, and include women such as Maria Mercado, Esther Zepeda, and Carmen Salazar. There is a conference program for the 3rd Annual Hispanic Women’s Conference held in 1984, an event that attracted hundreds of Hispanic women from Lubbock and area small towns. The conference schedule details workshops that addressed child abuse, accessorizing, trauma, financial planning, and strategies to navigate a patriarchal work place.

Other items highlight the political and economic impact of Chicanos, Mexican-Americans, and Hispanics. A program for the Raza Unida Party’s State Convention in 1976 serves as evidence or Lubbock Chicanos’ engagement in statewide political movements. The state convention included 6 delegates from Lubbock. In fact, the whole event was led by current Lubbock City Council member, Juan Chadis.

If you’d like to view the papers of Bidal Aguero, or these other treasures from our holdings, don’t hesitate to contact our Reference Department and they will get you set up!

Reading Room Now Open by Appointment

Starting on September 1, 2020, the Southwest Collection reopened to all patrons. For the last month or so, we have been open to the Texas Tech research community, but we are happy to expand our operations to encompass all researchers needing access to our collections in person. However, our Reading Room procedures have slight modifications that we wanted to make everyone aware of: 

Entering our Reading Room.
  • All visits must be scheduled in advance. Walk-ins are discouraged due to limited staffing. Please contact Weston Marshall at james.marshall@ttu.edu or (806) 742-9070 to schedule your visit.   
  • We have a small number of reference staff members working at any given time. Please have patience, be as precise with your request as possible, and contact as far in advance as possible to allow time for your materials to be pulled.  
  • Masks are required and must cover the nose and mouth at all times while in the building.  
  • Each service desk has a plexiglass partition installed. Please respect our staff’s space and observe social distancing! 
  • We will be spacing researchers out in our Reading Room to encourage social distancing.  
  • All surfaces and computers are sanitized daily.  
  • Please take note of all signs and notices. Our reception area and Coronelli Rotunda remains closed at this time to the public. Once in our building, please enter our reading room area on the east side (see picture) and exit through the west doors. 
Reference staff member Weston Marshall, hard at work to assist you with all your research needs!

If you requested research materials or duplications in the last six months but have not heard back from the Southwest Collection, please feel free to contact us again. Our staff have been working diligently to fulfill all requests, and we continue daily to tackle our immense backlog. We are looking forward to having you in our building once again. 

Reference staff will assign you a table and chair to ensure social distancing measures are observed.

Update on Reference Services During COVID-19 Times

This week, Archival Associate Weston Marshall is providing us reflections on handling reference requests for the past few months from home, as well as an update on operations as our Texas Tech campus shifts to Phase III services.


My job as an archival associate for the SWC Reference Department revolves around patron interaction. I am used to visiting with researchers, discovering their interests, evaluating their needs, and providing the necessary materials. With social distancing continuing to be a priority, the way that I help patrons with their research needs has drastically changed. Thankfully, the digital age has allowed us to continue communications and retain a bit of normalcy in our daily operations. I continue to receive reference requests on a regular basis and learn a little about what people are currently researching. Some interesting trends have emerged as people are remaining safely indoors.

Generally, I believe people have utilized this time of self-isolation to reflect on the parts of life that matter most. The majority of pending requests have to do with topics involving communities and family. While we are not able to fulfill every request at this time, our reference staff is committed to helping find as many available resources as possible. Whether patrons are interested in community events or family history, the SWC has some wonderful online resources at https://swco-ir.tdl.org/.

The website can be browsed by collection or resource type. These categories are listed on the homepage and include topics such as maps, newspapers, oral history transcripts, photographs, etc.

For more specific topic results, patrons can utilize the search feature on the right-hand side of the DSpace homepage. Results can then be filtered as indicated by the below visual. Use the dropdown menu on the left to specify collection or material type. The filters located to the right allow users to narrow search results by topic and date.


Our digital collection is a fantastic way for patrons to interact with archival material on their own. Not all of the SWC’s materials are available in digital form, but our reference staff is happy to help with inquiries. For assistance, please contact the SWC Reference Department at (806) 742-9070 or via email.


Our building may remain closed, but many of our resources are still accessible online!


I would also like to provide you with an update to the Southwest Collection’s COVID-19 operations. This week, the university has entered Phase III of operations and some of our employees will begin returning to work. A limited number of faculty and staff will follow a modified work schedule.

We want to let researchers know what we are currently able to do this month and what requests we are still unable to fulfill during Phase III.

Please note that our Reading Room will remain closed to researchers at this time. However, some of our reference staff (myself included) will return to the building for a few days a week where we will be able to access our holdings and answer some researcher questions. If you contacted us between March and May, please be patient. We will be working through requests in the order in which they were received. Any new requests will go to the end of the queue.

In Phase III, duplications will not be mailed out. We cannot process duplication payments at this time as some of our archival staff remains at home. For example, oral histories for family members require an audiovisual staff member to burn audio discs. Please be assured that our reference staff will pull your materials and get them ready. We hope to fulfill your request when we enter Phase II. More information on that will be forthecoming.

If you are a donor, our registrar will be on limited duty to begin catching up on deeds of gift and other paperwork.

Our employees remain available as they continue to work from home and can answer questions to the best of their abilities remotely. We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time in our organization’s history.

Quarantine blog – Manuscript Department 

This week’s blog is written by Robert Weaver, assistant archivist of the Southwest Collection, and provides an update on what the manuscript department has been working on while at home.

Six weeks of working from home, with two weeks to go. Can an archive do real, legitimate work in such an environment? Of course it can, and shame on you for asking. Even without our physical archival materials close at hand, the Southwest Collection has been churning out archival goodies!

Take for example our nearly 1,000 finding aids on Texas Archival Resources Online (http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/browse/browse_tech1.html). The Southwest Collection curates nearly 500 of these, with our fellow TTU archives (The Sowell Collection in Literature, Community and the Natural World; the Texas Tech University Archives; and the Crossroads of Music Archive) maintaining the remainder. And of the SWC’s 500, 421 required extensive revision in order to ensure that researchers like you can more easily discover them online. And now, after years of having this on our plate, and weeks of work-from-home effort, those changes have been uploaded. You’re welcome!

Screenshot 2020-05-18 10.47.18

Browsing the SWC’s TARO website.

Now, you may not know this, but the Southwest Collection has been around since the founding of Texas Tech University and was officially designated a campus entity in the 1950s. Decades of labor have led to just shy of 2,500 manuscript collections available for public research. “But Robert!” you might exclaim. “You said you only have 500 finding aids!” Calm down! I did say that. But through the efforts of two amazing student employees—Alison Pruitt and JoHanna Haiduk—who worked daily through the Fall and Spring semesters (right up until the campus closed and, fingers crossed, once the University re-opens), we are flying through that backlog. Those two were able to inventory over 600 collections, putting us over a quarter of the way there! Told you they were amazing.

However, making a finding aid isn’t simply a matter of uploading an inventory. From the moment a collection gets dollied into our stacks we document who created it, why they created it, how it relates to other collections, and a wealth of other information. This “metadata” gets organized and input into the XML code of an online finding aid, where its presence ensures that researchers can determine whether the collection is useful to them. The finding aid for the papers of Texas Governor Coke Stevenson are a good example of such metadata done right: http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/taro/ttusw/00394/tsw-00394.html.

Screenshot 2020-05-18 10.48.12

Governor Coke R. and Marguerite King Heap Stevenson TARO Finding Aid

That part of the job is time consuming. Archival Associate Sarah Stephenson, who recently left us for the urban sprawl of Austin, Texas; Zach Hernandez, added to the staff mere days before TTU closed its doors; and myself have since last October slowly worked one finding aid at a time, piecing together this data. And we’re making progress! Over the work from home weeks, Zach alone has finished up over 200 finding aids that I will absolutely upload as soon as I can get the FTP program to work properly through my home firewall.

And there you have it. A manuscript archive run from the comfort of pajamas, home-ground coffee, and music turned up as loud as we want because we’re not at the office. And always remember, we’re doing this for you, the researcher. If you need something, contact our ever-helpful Reference Staff (https://swco.ttu.edu/refaccess.php) and they’ll get these things into your hands.

Stay safe and healthy out there, y’all!

The Lubbock Tornado, Fifty Years Later

May 11, 2020 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the deadly F5 tornado that devastated Lubbock Texas. Prior to COVID-19 times, the Southwest Collection had planned a symposium entitled “The Lubbock Tornado, Fifty Years Later” that would have explored weather, history, and culture on the South Plains. Two full days of over thirty-five speakers would have discussed initial recovery efforts, art and music born out of the disaster, the history of and research from the National Wind Institute, the memorial gateway project, and reexaminations of the tornado itself.

At this point, most memorial-ization events across the city have been postponed to 2021, including the dedication of the aforementioned memorial gateway project. We have penciled in May 7-8, 2021 for our symposium’s rescheduled date. If this become untenable, we hope at least that our presenters will write up their talks so that we can provide a digital repository. The Southwest Collection’s goal has always been to preserve the history of this milestone Lubbock weather event. Regardless of the end medium or venue, we will continue that mission.

This week and next, in the absence of the symposium, the memorial dedication, and general gatherings to commemorate the lives lost and forever changed by this weather event, we wanted to highlight some of the Southwest Collection holdings that can assist researchers.

First, please check out a previous blog postthat covers many of our holdings, along with a specific write up on the Ted Fujita papers.

Lubbock AJ Photos

Prior to our building shut down in late March, photos from the immediate aftermath of the May 1970 tornado from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal were added to our dspace. Some of these images are black and white versions of images found in the Lubbock Tornado picture book published in June 1970.


Downtown business Fields & Company was hit especially hard by the 1970 Lubbock tornado. “Image 128- Fields Building” https://hdl.handle.net/10605/358050


Oral Histories

As might be expected, the Lubbock tornado was a frequent topic of discussion in oral history interviews. This author (our AV Unit Manager) is currently writing a history of the oral history documentary efforts done in the aftermath of the tornado (which was to be presented at the symposium). Abstracts of interviews have been grouped together here: https://swco.ttu.edu/ohc/index.php?title=Category:Lubbock_Tornado

Many of our recently transcribed interviews also discuss the tornado. Check out our dspace and search for “tornado.” One example is Andy Wilkinson’s 2014 interview with Heenan Johnson, who was part of the disaster committee and city rebuilding efforts.

Image_36_Untitled_image_of_tornado_damage_1970_05_11 - Copy.jpg

Looking out of a downtown building, tangled blinds, and broken windows. “Image 36- Untitled image of tornado damage,” https://hdl.handle.net/10605/357957

Other Research and Reports

One thing that our symposium and exhibit sought to highlight was the research efforts that grew out of the Lubbock tornado disaster. The National Wind Institute, for example, began when Texas Tech scientists authored a damage investigation of the tornado (a hard copy is available in our Reading Room). Other reports are available online:

“A Report on the Lubbock Tornado” was produced by the city of Lubbock and presented in October 1970 by Mayor James Granberry

“The Economics of Federal Disaster Relief: Lubbock, Texas, A Case Study” was written in 1972 for the city by Texas Tech College of Business Administration faculty

Also a quick search of our Texas Tech theses and dissertation digital repository can highlight the immense research students have done in the past 50 years in various avenues of wind science, disaster preparedness, engineering, etc.

The city of Lubbock and the National Wind Institute also has more scanned documents and reports.

Finally, we want to mention that on May 18th, PBS’s American Experience will premiere “Mr. Tornado,” a documentary on Ted Fujita. The documentary film crew spent extensive time in our Reading Room, and worked a great deal with our reference staff.


More on Texas Tech and the tornado in next week’s blog post.


“For Rent – no pets-” Found in the AJ photos were many examples of humor that Lubbock citizens exhibited even in the midst of sheer and utter devastation. “Image 70- Ridge Road” https://hdl.handle.net/10605/357991



1918 Influenza Pandemic on the South Plains

The past two weeks of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal’s Sunday series “Caprock Chronicles” have featured articles that outline the history of the 1918 influenza pandemic on the South Plains. Part one, written by Chuck Lanehart, provides an overview of the flu as seen in AJ articles. Yesterday’s article, written by this author (Elissa Stroman, AV department Unit Manager), highlighted some of the Southwest Collection’s oral histories that discuss the flu.

Little research has been done diving into the impacts of the flu on the South Plains, and so this blog is meant as a guide for SWC holdings that have been found thus far. If you know of other resources in our collections, or if you find this interesting and would like to add onto this, please let us know.


Our dspace has newspapers dating back to 1918 (and earlier). A careful search of issues from that time period uncover many stories of daily life in times of global pandemic. In addition to general reports about the flu across the world, these papers also have death notices, business/church/school closures, as well as advertisements purporting miracle cures.

It should be noted that for the city of Lubbock specifically, the University of North Texas’ Portal to Texas History has 18 issues of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal from 1918. Direct link to those issues here.


On October 25, 1918 the Colorado Record (of Mitchell County) discusses lifting their quarantine. http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12255/188426


This small notice from the Texaco-Farwell State Line Tribune News, December 20, 1918 seems to suggest that news of the virus was often delayed in some areas of the South Plains. http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12255/142075

Oral Histories

Many of the Southwest Collection’s earliest interviews include mention of the 1918 Spanish flu—it was a common question asked of early 20th century settlers to this region (in addition to questions about childhood traditions and home life, transportation, World War I, the Great Depression, Dust Bowl conditions, etc.) The flu became a milestone event much like subsequent generations who discuss their experiences of World War II, Vietnam, the moon landing, or 9/11. While I have found no interviews focused solely on just their flu experiences, some interviews discuss healthcare in greater detail. Particularly notable interviews are as follows. (Please note: these interviews have not been transcribed and are only available to listen to in our Reading Room.)

  • Mrs. W.W. Anthony and Annie Bailey were nurses during the pandemic.
  • Fern Cone and Dr. H.E. Cone, whose father was Lubbock mayor in 1918.
  • Mose Hood was a railroad worker in Amarillo who got very sick with the virus.
  • W. Hamilton Wright also worked on the railroad and saw the virus first arrive in Abilene.
  • Mrs. C.G. Bloom lived in Thurber at the time. Her husband was a doctor, and her entire family was ill (including her 6 month old infant). Similarly Thelma Sechrist Caudle gives insights into taking care of sick relatives at home.
  • Blanche Bean Wilson and Robert Bean separately tell their family’s 1918 experiences.
  • Edith Courtney Sanders, Floydada resident, tells of the particularly rough Christmas Day 1918.
  • A few interviews feature interviewees whose fathers were doctors and detail differing treatments: Mrs. George B Long and Harry Kelley.
  • Finally, an interview of Kurt and Margaret Keidel from Fredericksburg tells of an eerily similar 1918 scene to what was seen during the black plague and more recently in Italy: church bells had to stop tolling for the dead because it was panicking the community.


Healthcare on the South Plains

For researchers interested in medicine especially in Lubbock, a 1979 thesis by William Rush Dunnagan gives early history (including the suggestion that only five individuals died of the 1918 flu in Lubbock). The “Establishment and Growth of Lubbock, Texas as the Medical Center of the South Plains” can be found on the Texas Tech libraries’ digital repository for TTU thesis and dissertations.

Finally, thus far, one photo has been found that shows the first ambulance and first class of nurses in front of the new Lubbock hospital in 1918. It is found on our dspace in three iterations. Link in caption. If you know of any other images from this time period, or images relating to this region’s response to the 1918 influenza pandemic, please contact us!


Newspapers Update

Note: This week’s blog is written by Austin Allison, Section Supervisor of our Cataloging and Technical Processing department. Like last week’s blog on oral history remote work, he provides us an update on newspaper preservation efforts from home.

Newspaper digitization still trudges along during the COVID-19 pandemic! Even though being unable to work from the office and limiting social contact has temporarily halted new digitization of historic newspapers, we are slogging through our backlog of already digitized newspapers that had been awaiting online publication. Over the past few weeks, we have been processing and uploading newspapers to several collections including The Big Spring Herald, The Midland Reporter-Telegram, The Floyd County Hesperian, and others.

Working from home to keep the newspapers rolling has been a relatively easy transition. The only thing we need is computers with Adobe Photoshop capabilities and a connection to the internet to transfer files and access our work computers to process the completed files. The bulk of newspapers being processed and uploaded these days are microfilmed newspapers, since we cannot scan physical, hard copies in the office. Fortunately, microfilm yields the largest volume of newspapers, so we are still making great progress on many of the projects we have been working on.

Of course, this remote arrangement presents new challenges to preserving West Texas history. Occasional slow connections, problems with monitoring remote processes, and other intermittent distractions top the list of things plaguing the current state of the project, but the transition to a work-from-home environment has proven to be effective at reminding us of the importance of West Texas newspapers. While we still are making a lot of progress on the projects we are focused on, being able to take a step back and actually read some of the newspapers is beneficial to understanding the context of their place in West Texas history.

While processing pages of The Floyd County Hesperian from the 1930s through the 1970s, I took note of the annual “Old Settler’s Reunions” that took place in Floydada, among other communities, to celebrate the history and residents of the county. Floydada often associated this celebration with the yearly rodeo, but these particular newspaper issues contain the names of many early residents of the county along with many local businesses that sponsored events. The May 25th, 1966 issue of The Floyd County Hesperian, soon to be available online, urges residents to adopt a “Western mode of dress” to get into the spirit, and the succeeding issue reported the winners of contests for Best Antique Window, Best Old Fiddler, and Oldest Man and Oldest Woman at the celebration. One of these issues is a great resource for researchers; a year-after-year collection of them available freely online is a treasure trove that documents not only the Old Settler’s Reunion celebrations but the history of the county through time.


The Floyd County Hesperian, May 25, 1966 issue

About the Project

From Spearman, Stratford and Pampa in the northern Texas Panhandle to Sonora, Ozona and Brackettville near the U.S.-Mexico border, the Southwest Collection digital newspaper project covers over 60 counties across Texas and includes over 120 different newspaper titles. Each of these individual, text-searchable newspaper issues is available to download in PDF format for free from the collection’s website, http://newspapers.swco.ttu.edu. As of April 2020, the project contains over 266,000 issues of newspapers with more becoming available online every week.


Our newspapers can be found on the SWC’s digital repository. Visit http://newspapers.swco.ttu.edu

Oral History Remote Access and Update

Full disclosure: the author of these COVID-19 blogs is Dr. Elissa Stroman, the Audio/Visual Unit Manager. And so this week, she wanted to take a moment to explain what her department is doing during our work from home times, as well as provide an expanded explanation of oral history remote accessibility.

Overview of Our Oral Histories

The Southwest Collection’s oral history collection of over 6,500 recordings has traditionally been abstracted only, wherein our staff listens to interviews and generates a list of topics and keywords. Thousands of these abstracts have been placed on our oral history wiki. In 2013, the Audio/Visual department shifted to create full-text transcripts of all new interviews conducted, and since that time, over 1,000 interviews have been transcribed, many of which are available on our dspace.

In 2013, this blog featured a three-part overview of our oral history holdings, discussing the collection generally, our shift to transcripts, and the various recording formats of our interviews. Since those blogs were published, in Fall 2018, the A/V department completed digitizing all SWC oral history interviews in our holdings. This was especially advantageous in COVID-19 times, because mp3 copies of the entire collection can be backed up to a portable hard drive and easily worked on remotely.

Working from Home and Expanding Operation

In early March 2020, as the Southwest Collection realized that remote work was a matter of “when” not “if,” the A/V department began making arrangements for remote oral history transcription work. We recognized early that transcription was a task any employee could take with them, whether or not they had an internet connection. It is also work that can be soothing—the act of transcribing allows transcribers to focus on the interview at hand and tune everything else out. But more importantly, our researchers frequently ask for transcripts from older interviews, and we have been unable to keep up with the demands—until now. Because of all this, the Texas Tech libraries administration realized this opportunity and made this a priority project of our building: let’s see how many transcripts can be created in this time.

Typically, the A/V department consists of three or four part-time student transcribers and one staff member editor. In the days leading up to the Texas Tech campus shutting down, more and more USB drives with mp3s were disseminated, as were links to a shared onedrive folder. At last count, almost thirty Texas Tech library and SWC employees have been assigned to remote oral history transcription work (whether it be their only assigned task or just an extra project). The interviews prioritized for remote transcription work are interview series with release forms, under-represented voice projects, important themes/collections from the SWC’s holdings, and some of the earliest oral history recordings in our collection that document pioneers of the South Plains region.

What This Means for Our Researchers

The first thing researchers will notice is a wave of new transcripts put onto our dspace. Our department had a backlog of hundreds of transcripts that needed final edits and uploading. We now have the staff and time to do that. These transcripts are more recent interview series and projects that were transcribed by our students over the last few years. We also plan to expand our oral history wiki, which at this time only has about half of our interviews represented.

The interviews that are being transcribed remotely will not go on dspace immediately. They will still need to go through our editing queue, which takes time. Further, many of these older interviews have release restrictions that means they are only available in-house. But in the long term, it is notable that while we transcribed 1,000 interviews in about seven years, we have over 2,500 interviews queued to be transcribed during this quarantine time. Consequently, potentially in the post-COVID-19 world, over half of the Southwest Collection’s oral history collection will be transcribed (and with potential for more to be done if there’s time and people needing more work).

Oral History dspace page

Our oral history transcripts can be found on the SWC’s digital repository: http://collections.swco.ttu.edu , scroll down to “oral history interviews.”

Accessing Oral Histories Online NOW

Many people ask about accessing our oral histories online, right now, today, from home. Here is the short response:

  • No audio is available to stream or listen to online.
  • In “normal” times, we can provide audio copies of interviews to family members ONLY. However, because our building is closed, we cannot fulfill patron requests for physical media at this time. We can put your request on file and fulfill it when we are back in the office.
  • If you are working on an immediate research project, we highly suggest you look to our dspace transcripts first, as that will provide you full-text versions of our interviews that you can cite directly.
  • If you are planning a future research trip, then look to our wiki for other interviews and research topics that may only be available for listening in our Reading Room.
  • If you find a particular interview you are interested in that does not have a transcript, feel free to contact us, and we can look into release restrictions. If the interview is from the 1990s onward, there is a good chance that its transcript can be placed online. You can make a request for it to be transcribed, and it will be prioritized it in our transcription queue. I anticipate that it will take about six weeks to get the transcript onto dspace.
  • See previous blogs for more information generally about digital holdings and our policies during our COVID-19 closure.

Keep your eyes on our dspace and wiki sites in the upcoming weeks/months, as we continue to expand our digital holdings of our oral histories.

Screenshot 2020-04-13 14.11.09

Our oral history wiki will also be expanded while we are working from home. The site contains general information and abstracts of our interviews. http://swco.ttu.edu/ohc

Southwest Collection Digital Remote Resources Overview

Since our Reading Room is closed, we wanted to take a moment to provide an anchoring blog post for researchers interested in continuing their work remotely. Below are some links and general guidelines for accessing Southwest Collection materials from the comfort of your home.


Though our Reading Room may be closed, many archival materials can still be accessed on our digital repository.

Digital Collections:

Our digital repository contains materials from all special collections in our building: Southwest, University Archives, Crossroads of Music, Rare Books, the Sowell Family Collection, and Oral History. Click on any “community” to browse collections generally, and then there is the option to browse “sub-communities.”  https://collections.swco.ttu.edu

Specifically regarding newspapers: Our dspace contains over 126 different newspaper titles from across West Texas that encompasses 264,000 text-searchable issues, with more added daily. The direct link for these newspapers is: https://newspapers.swco.ttu.edu (click the community “newspapers” for a full list of titles).

Tips for navigating dspace:

  • Each community will display the most recent submissions first at the bottom.
  • Sub-communities allow our departments to group archival material by collection or topic. They are incredibly helpful if you are trying to find specific thematic materials.
  • For more general research, the search bar on the right side allows you to search the entire digital repository. Once you click on any community, you can further narrow your search to the specific community you are currently browsing.
  • The search function crawls titles of files, as well as any text-searchable documents.
  • Further, the tool bar on the right allows you to filter or narrow the material you are viewing by author, subject, and date within the community.
  • Because of the variety of ways to describe archival materials, we highly recommend searching utilizing different keywords and terms. Alternative phrases might allow you to find information in multiple collections that you would not have anticipated. Also, sometimes it is helpful to just browse entire collections—with extra time at home, you never know what gems may be lurking in our digital repository!
  • Once you click on an item, click on the “view/open” link below the thumbnail to access the file. Most materials are either .pdf or .jpg format, and your browser setting will determine if the file opens in a new window or if you are prompted to download.
  • For more information and metadata on each file, scroll down on the page and click on “show full item record.”
  • The URI link on each item page provides a permanent web link if you need to access the file again. We recommend you use that link for any research citations.


Many empty tables await researchers for when our building reopens!

Digital Resources for Collections Accessible Only In-Person

If you want to jump-start your next research trip to Lubbock, here are a few places you’ll want to check out to get started.

TARO Finding Aids

The Texas Archival Resources Online provides finding aids for collections throughout the SWC/SCL. These materials will not necessarily have been digitized, but they do provide detailed inventories and general information on collections housed in our building.

More information on how to use finding aids can be found in this previous blog post.

Manuscript Guide

The Southwest Collection also has many collections without TARO finding aids at this time. More general information about those collections can be found here.

Reference Files

The Reading Room has over 14,000 files with general information about West Texas and the greater Southwest region. These reference files contain news clippings, brochures, inventories, and oral history information. They can normally be photocopied in-house, and provide an excellent starting point for researchers.

Oral Histories

More information on the Southwest Collection’s prodigious oral history collection of over 6,500 interviews can be found on our oral history wiki. These recordings have traditionally been abstracted, which are included on this site. If an interview has been transcribed, it will be housed on dspace.

The SWC also has donated oral history collections (with thousands of recordings); a preliminary list is found here. Any links to finding aids or other information are given when available.

Catalog Generally

If a more traditional card catalog is your preferred method of research, here is the direct link to the Texas Tech University Libraries online catalog.

Tip: if you want to search for just SWC/SCL materials, click the “advanced search” link to the right of the search bar. It will allow you to limit the scope of your search, and from there you can choose either “Southwest Collection/Special Collections” which focuses on physical materials in house (books, collections, oral histories) or “Southwest/Special Collections Digital Content” which focuses on our dspace holdings.


As always, our Reference Staff is a phone call or email away with any questions researchers have. Feel free to reach out to them, as well as any employee of the Southwest Collection. Our contact information can be found here.