Oral History 201: Oral History Processing


In our last Oral History blog post, we gave a brief overview of the holdings of the Southwest Collection’s oral history program (of which there are thousands!) This week we would like to show you what our oral history department has diligently been working on lately. The SWC Audio/Visual Department curates all of the new interviews currently being conducted by our field historians, and after almost 2 years of work we are proud to unveil our new transcripts that debuted on the SWC’s DSpace this month!

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Our transcripts are the culmination of a lengthy project dedicated to creating the best product possible for researchers. Within these transcription documents you’ll find an interview summary, a general synopsis/table of contents, keywords, and a transcript of the entire interview. For our style and formatting, we are indebted to the Baylor Institute for Oral History’s style guide, which helped build the foundation of our work. These transcripts will provide researchers all over the world access to our newest oral histories, and we are eager to hear from researchers who use these documents.

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To process our oral histories, we start with our student assistants transcribing each interview (which typically takes roughly 8 hours per hour of interview). The transcript then undergoes at least three reviews by both A/V staff and the interviewer to ensure accuracy (especially of proper names and idiosyncratic language). The A/V staff then sends the interview to the SWC’s cataloging librarians, who place it on Worldcat where other libraries can discover the interview. Finally, we upload the transcript onto DSpace.


Some of the first interviews cataloged with the new transcript template include a set of eight conducted with members of the American Agriculture Movement (AAM). We are highlighting these interviews to coincide with the exhibit that is on display through mid-June in the Southwest Collection.

The interviews conducted by Andy Wilkinson and David Marshall deal with all areas of AAM: from the original tractorcades and protests, to later political involvement in Washington, and their ongoing work with Farm-Aid. The Southwest Collection is dedicated to preserving the history of these hard working farmers and will continue interviewing all interested parties of the American Agriculture Movement. If you would like your story heard and preserved, please call Andy Wilkinson at (806) 742-3749 or email andy.wilkinson@ttu.edu. And if you’d like to hear the stories already gathered, our Reference Staff is always happy to see what they can arrange in that regard.

by Elissa Stroman

San Jacinto Day and the Temple Houston Morrow Papers


San Jacinto Day is today, Monday, April 21st, and that’s why we’re sharing with you our Temple Houston Morrow Papers. Morrow was a longtime president of Traders and General Insurance Company of Dallas, Texas, and more importantly the grandson of Sam Houston. Sam Houston was a leader of the Texas Revolution (which we also wrote about here), the 1st and 3rd President of the Republic of Texas, a U.S. Senator, and the 7th Governor of Texas. Forces under his command defeated the Mexican Army led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21st, 1836. Among other things, the Papers contains letters to and from Houston, his wife Margaret, and his son Sam, Jr.

The letter above is one of the most precious of our materials related to Sam Houston. Written by Governor Houston on December 2nd, 1860, to state Comptroller Clement R. Jones, this letter requests the transfer of funds from Texas University Land Sales in order to supply soldiers fighting along the frontier, which was, in Houston’s words, “being savaged by Indians.”


As you can imagine, Houston was a national celebrity for much of his life as evidenced by this March 1861 note. Theo Sutherland (about whom our collections sadly provide no further mention than this note) asks herein for Houston’s autograph. Note Sutherland’s use of the title “General” when addressing Houston. This title, rather than Governor or Senator, is by far the most frequently used in any our documents written after 1836 regardless of the office he held at the time.


Correspondence between Sam Houston, Jr. and his father and mother comprise more than a third of the Papers. This is one such written in Huntsville, Texas, the city in which Houston would eventually retire in the midst of the Civil War. Houston passed away in Huntsville in 1863, and not coincidentally Sam Houston State University is now located there. In this 1859 letter, Sam Jr. encourages his father, who had been absent from home for some time while serving as a Senator and campaigning for Texas governor, to return for a visit with Sam Jr. and his mother.


Not all items in the collection were familial. This is a receipt of purchase written by F. D. Elberfield. Apparently the Houston family needed a sewing machine, and they got one for a mere $125 (which might correlate to as much as $2,000 today, although calculating currency across 150 years is not an exact science.) Elberfield also provided a warranty for replacement of the machine…provided it “is kept clean and oiled, the loop check is in order, the tension and lenght [sic] of stitch properly regulated.”


Our final example comes from the hand of Margaret Lea Houston, Sam’s wife. It was written on April 18th, 1837, nearly a year to the day after the Battle of San Jacinto. Fittingly, Mrs. Houston mentions a speech that Sam was recently invited to give at Independence, Texas on the anniversary of the battle a few days later.

There are so many more incredible items in this collection that this blog could easily stretch much, much longer. Rather than do that, however, we encourage you to get ahold of our Reference Staff to arrange a look the Papers. Fortunately, many of them may soon be digitized and made available online among our many other digital holdings. Keep an eye out for that!

Hispanic Church Music: the Suppe Collection


This Sunday, April 20th, is Easter Sunday, celebrated by Christians worldwide, and that’s why this week we’re taking a look at the Gertrude C. Suppe Hispanic Church Music Collection. Suppe was an ethno-hymnologist who lived in Southern California. Beginning in 1976, she became involved in the identification, transcription, translation, liturgical use, and promotion of Hispanic hymns, working with groups both nationwide and internationally. Suppe retired in 1996 as Secretary to the Editor and Consultant to the Ecumenical Spanish Hymnal Committee just after she and her peers finished a five-year project authoring El Himnario, “a compendium of traditional and contemporary hymns as well as songs and choruses representative of a large variety of Hispanic cultures” covering languages from Spanish to Portuguese to Catalan.

To compose that work, Suppe gathered cancioneros; small song books used in worship. The image above is a cancionero entitled Today I Return from Afar. The bottom of the image shows one of the hymns it contains, “Christ Surrendered for Us.” suppe004Cancioneros were not the only hymnals included in the Suppe Collection. The work pictured above, The Paschal Mystery, is a full-sized publication containing songs to be sung during Paschal week. The Paschal Mystery is a central tenet of Christian faith for both Catholics and Protestants. It revolves around the passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus its celebration, and the performance of these tunes, occurs at Easter. Many of the works found in Suppe’s collections relate to such holidays, as well as Saints’ days and festivals. suppe005A large portion of the Collection documents Suppe’s participation in workshops and conferences in the United States, Canada, and a number of Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking nations. She also worked with scholars, private individuals, and various organizations to assemble her impressive collection. The letter above comes from Rev. G. R. Sanchez in Lima, Peru, who asked not only to meet her in person if possible, but also thanked her for her efforts to preserve these materials and, by extension, this aspect of international Hispanic culture.suppe001This final image is of another cancionero. This book was one of dozens of cancioneros published as a part of a series entitled “Cantado al Señor.” Many cancioneros were published in similar series, organized either by theme or as collections of specific composers and authors’ pieces.

For those interested in seeing these materials, as well as the other items such as correspondence and research notes that document Gertrude Suppe’s work, our Reference Staff would be happy to help. Why don’t you give them a call!

The Sowell Natural History Conference at the Southwest Collection

1a.B.Lopez-Arctic DreamsThis April 10th through 12th, the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library will host the Sowell Collection Conference. Created through the generous support of James Sowell, the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World contains the personal papers of some of the country’s most prominent writers who are dedicated to documenting the ways in which we interact with our world and creating new ways of examining our world and our place within it. In 2001, the work of Rick Bass, William Kittredge, Barry Lopez, Bill McKibben, Doug Peacock, David Quammen, Pattiann Rogers, and Annick Smith comprised the core of this collection. Writers recently added include Susan Brind Morrow, John Lane, and Sandra Scofield. In addition to published books, materials available for research purposes include correspondence; drafts of manuscripts; research notebooks; diaries and calendars; and photographs, computer files, and film.

Barry Lopez, for example, is an essayist, author, and short story writer. The relationship between physical landscape and human culture lies at the core of his nonfiction work, while his fiction frequently addresses issues of intimacy, ethics, and identity. His books include Arctic Dreams, the cover of which can be seen above. It received the National Book Award, and another of Lopez’ works, Of Wolves and Men, was a National Book Award finalist. Lopez has received fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the John Burroughs Society, the Orion Society, and other institutions. For All Seasons

Roland “Ro” Wauer is another prominent author well-documented in the Sowell Collection. An internationally acclaimed expert on the birds and butterflies of North America, Wauer is also a thirty-two year veteran of the National Park Service. As chief park naturalist for Big Bend National Park and chief of the Division of Natural Resources, National Park Service, he is the author of some two dozen books and two hundred articles. Ro writes on topics that reflect his distinguished career, with titles that include Birder’s Mexico, Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, and Naturalist’s Big Bend. For All Seasons, seen above, chronicles a year of his life in Big Bend in an effort to share both the beauty of and his passion for that park.QuammenBook Cover-Kiwi Egg
David Quammen is known for writing concise and highly accessible articles on scientific topics. His book, The Song of the Dodo, in which he investigates the rate of species extinction in island ecosystems, won the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing and several other awards. Quammen is a frequent contributor to Outside magazine and his work has also appeared in Harper’s, Esquire, and Rolling Stone. He has received a Lannan Foundation Fellowship as well as the National Magazine Award and the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. The human drama and scientific basis of Darwin’s twenty-one-year delay constitute a fascinating, tangled tale that elucidates the character of a cautious naturalist who initiated an intellectual revolution. In The Kiwi’s Egg (above) Quammen uses the personal letters and notebooks of Charles Darwin to explore the biography of Darwin with a focus on the history of the scientist’s most famous theory.
Rick Bass Broadside
Rick Bass is a writer and environmental activist. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1958, but spent much of his youth in Houston. He graduated from Utah State with a degree in geology and then worked as a petroleum geologist in Mississippi. In 1987 Bass moved to Montana and began writing full-time. He is the author of numerous short stories, novels, memoirs and essays. Much of his work focuses on the reasoned benefits of preserving wilderness areas, such as the Roadless Yaak Valley of Montana. Our Rick Bass papers include almost all of his early work, as well as drafts of short stories and essays, correspondence and Yaak Valley Forest Council material, and over 100 letters from Rick Bass to James Linville, editor of the Paris Review.

As always, those interested in seeing these collections, or any of our other holdings, are always welcome to contact our Reference Staff, who would be happy to arrange a visit.

– Diane Warner and Robert Weaver