Preserving the Past: Celebrating 20 Years in our New Home

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20 years ago, the Southwest Collection moved out of the depths of the Texas Tech University Math Building and into its current palatial home at 15th and Detroit. From September 2017 through February 2018, we’re exhibiting photographs and artifacts from that journey in an exhibit entitled “Preserving our Past: Celebrating 20 Years in Our New Home.” It also chronicles the many exhibits created over those decades that showcased the many amazing archival treasures housed here.

It all started with the architectural plans above. Drafted in 1994, they were the first step taken toward building our state-of-the art facility.

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The rapidly deteriorating TTU Speech Building occupied some of the space where the SWC now stands. Although the Agricultural Pavilion remains, the Speech building’s foundations were transformed into one-part exterior flower bed, and one-part eastern SWC Rotunda.

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The photo above documents the 1995 groundbreaking. SWC Director David Murrah, as well as the TTU President, members of the Board of Regents, and other luminaries attended the event. By late ’95 and early ’96, the land had been scraped clean. By the summer 1996, the skeleton of the building had risen over the site, as you can see below.

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This final photo is of the ribbon cutting that officially opened the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library in 1997. Director Bill Tydeman, long-time archivist Janet Neugebauer, and TTU’s President, Chancellor, and other officials all took a swipe at the ribbon with ceremonial scissors. Directly behind the bow stands Frances Holden, whose husband William C. Holden was a professor at TTU for many decades. Our Reading Room, where the ribbon cutting took place, is named after her and her husband.

So, y’all, drop on by and check out our exhibit, please! There are many other excellent photos to look over, including some of moving day, when thousands of boxes were laboriously transported to the new building to be housed in perpetuity.

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Dirk West: Sports Cartoonist

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It’s time for a new exhibit at the Southwest Collection! This fall we’re sharing a tribute to Dirk West, a Texas Tech alum and famed sports cartoonist of the Southwest Athletic Conference (among many other accomplishments.) On the evening of Friday, October 14th, we’ll be hosting a reception celebrating the exhibit’s opening. Come on by and visit! Or at least check out some of the exhibit’s fabulous images below.

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Gerald Glynn “Dirk” West (October 23, 1928-July 26, 1996) was a businessman, television personality, and former mayor of the City of Lubbock, Texas. Shortly after his birth in Littlefield, Texas, Dirk’s family moved to Lubbock, Texas. There, while attending Lubbock High School, Dirk created “Westerner Willie” for the school’s Westerner World. Dirk’s widow, Mary Ruth West, recalls Dirk stating that this was also the beginning of his nom de plume. After graduating high school Dirk continued cartooning at Texas Tech University (TTU).

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At TTU, Dirk created an oafish character named “Smedley” (above) for the Toreador, the Texas Tech student newspaper. Mary Ruth believes “Smedley” served as the precursor to “Ol’ Red,” the grizzled version of Raider Red that decorates the image below. The figure graced the Toreador’s pages until Dirk’s graduation in 1954 with a degree in Advertising.

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Some years later Burle Pettit, sports editor of the Lubbock Avalanche Journal, asked Dirk to consider drawing a Southwest Athletic Conference (SWC) cartoon for the paper. And so it was that on September 24, 1964, the first SWC cartoon appeared therein. It featured Texas Tech Football Head Coach J. T. King and his men preparing for the arduous task of playing the defending National Football Champions, the Texas Longhorns. He would go on to develop the mascots of all the SWC schools into recognizable caricatures, such as UT’s Bevo, below.

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So come on by and check out our exhibit! And if you’d like to see more of Dirk West’s work, as well as his archival papers, don’t hesitate to get ahold of our Reference Staff. They’re always ready to help you out however they can. We also hold the records of the Southwest Conference, the Big XII Conference, and a host of other sports organizations. They too are available to interested researchers.

When the Matador Ranch Came to the Southwest Collection

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The Matador Ranch was established in 1879 by Alfred Britton, Henry Campbell, and their associates. It covered one and a half million acres in Motley, Cottle, Floyd, and Dickens counties of Texas. In 1882 the founders sold their cattle and range rights to a syndicate based in Dundee, Scotland. And it is there that the story of one of the Southwest Collection’s first and greatest collections begins.

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With rare exceptions, such as during periods of drought, Matador stockholders received substantial dividends. In 1951, however, they sold their shares to Lazard Brothers and Company. Many of the ranch records that were now no longer needed were quickly given into the care of the Southwest Collection. The Matador Land Book, pages of which can be seen above and below (and here!) was one such item. Another was a Payroll Ledger that names every cowboy in the employment of the ranch. These are only 2 among thousands of treasures that were donated.

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But one thing continued to plague Dr. Seymour V. Connor, the director of the SWC when the records arrived. Although many items of interest to researchers–such as the map of Matador lands provided to the Texas Pacific Railroad (below)–were now housed at Texas Tech, the remaining records remained in Dundee, Scotland, home of the ranch’s international administrators. As long as these documents lay overseas, they remained out of the hands of eager researchers. And so Dr. Connor set out to bring them back to Texas. Years of heartfelt, patient negotiations with past and present Matador investors and their families paid off in 1957 when, at long last, boxes full of Dundee records rejoined their brothers in our archive.

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Some at the time hailed the now-complete Matador Records as “one of the most valuable collections ever received by a college in Texas.” Its contents back up this assertion: reams of legal documents, payroll records, herd books, range diaries, and international correspondence can be found alongside mile-by-mile accounts of herds driven north. Detailed outlines of time-tested methods used by ranch superintendents to manage herds are also present. How much money would a top hand (or significantly lesser hands) receive in wages? The Records can tell you. They even noted the location of lands set aside for community projects, such as the Lee County School Lands shown below. As the news program “Texas in Review” declared, the Southwest Collection could now boast “a complete portrait of one of the most fascinating ranch stories in history.” We may be a little biased, but it’s hard not to agree!

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Folks interested in the Matador Ranch’s history should contact our Reference Staff who are always eager to help get these items into curious hands. Also, The Handbook of Texas has published more in-depth online biographies of the Matador Ranch and the Matador Land and Cattle Company.

Oral History 101 – A Basic Introduction

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Over the past sixty years, historians at Texas Tech have conducted over 6,000 oral history interviews that now reside permanently at the Southwest Collection. Some of the earliest interviews in our holdings date from the late 1940s and were conducted by the Texas Tech History Department’s Dr. William Curry Holden, who spoke with local businessmen and ranchers about life on the South Plains. While our recording technologies have adapted beyond analog devices into digital voice recorders and video cameras, we continue to capture the stories of people in this region. Today we carry on the tradition established by historians like Holden, Fred Carpenter, Richard Mason, and David Murrah. Our field historians reach out to persons of interest all across the Southwest and are especially interested in politics, the histories of minorities, cultural heritage (specifically the arts and creative processes), Texas Tech history, sports, science and technology, and agriculture. These interviews are an invaluable tool for researchers interested in primary documentation and personal accounts. Field historians frequently go into interviewees’ homes, allowing the interview to be conducted casually; stories of major historical events are told first-hand, by eye-witnesses in their own words.

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In the Fall of 2010, the Southwest Collection began a massive re-evaluation of our oral history holdings. One of the biggest concerns was preserving our “reel-to-reel” recordings. Consequently, for the protection of the original recordings we now require patrons who wish to access such interviews to make their requests at least two weeks in advance. Upon receiving the request, the Audio/Visual department digitizes each recording, performs any sort of audio restoration that is required for audibility, and then burns the recordings to optical disc for patron use. We hope to have all of our 6,000 interviews in a digital format within the next three years, which will allow patrons easier access and less wait time. In future blog posts in the upcoming months, we will discuss further the various formats and preservation issues that we have encountered with this massive collection.

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Digitally transferring one of our oral history recordings on a reel-to-reel tape player.

If you are interested in our oral history holdings, at this time you can access information on the interviews conducted from 1949-2001, as well as search the collection by keyword, on the Southwest Collection website. Interviews from 2001-2011 are found in our dspace holdings. We are in the process of creating a new web portal for our oral history collection that hopes to go live by the end of 2013. Continue checking back on this blog for updates on this exciting new chapter in the history of the Southwest Collection’s oral history collection!

-by Elissa Stroman, SWC Audio/Visual Department