Sunday, June 3, 2012

Galveston Research Summary #17 - Galveston and Texas History Center at the Rosenberg Library

This weekend I had the great pleasure of visiting the Galveston and Texas History Center (GTHC) at the historic Rosenberg Library in Galveston, Texas.

The Galveston and Texas History Center collects, preserves, organizes, and services materials that document the history of Galveston and Texas.  Their collections consist of:

    Architectural drawings
    Oral histories
    Vertical files

While I was there, I had the privilege of looking at several items, including the 1861 logbook of Confederate lookouts stationed atop Galveston's Hendley Building (more on that in a future post!), an 1863 diary of a Galveston civilian, and two scrapbooks of Civil War newspaper clippings.  My FAVORITE find of the day, though, was an 1844 letter written by an abolition-minded Galvestonian describing local slaveholders, the treatment of local slaves, and - most interesting - his description of how abolitionists were treated in the city (hint: not well!).

The full letter will appear in my forthcoming book on Galveston and the Civil War, to be published later this year, but this excerpt gives a flavor:

"To give an idea of these people; Mr. Andrews, a lawyer...came to this place to hold a discussion on the subject of slavery.  But he was placed in a boat and conveyed to the mainland to hunt for himself.   Another man, still a slaveholder, was threatened with the same fate if he opened his mouth on the subject..."

Mr.  Casey Greene, Head of Special Collections, and Ms. Carol Wood, archivist were most helpful in answering my question, pulling material, etc.

I wasn't the only one visiting that day; one fellow came in to see the 1830s/1840s diary of his ancestor!  Other people came in to ask some genealogical questions; a father and son came in but didn't really seem to know what they wanted to look at which made it difficult for the archivists to help them.

Therefore, now seems as good a time as any to repeat (see last summer's post here) some helpful advice that was given to me and which has proven MOST helpful in my own archival research efforts:

“First, do your homework, and be as specific as possible in stating your research interest,” he told me...His second suggestion is to allow plenty of time: “It takes time to locate microfilm or have paper records retrieved,” he said. He also noted that Civil War documents are generally handwritten and are difficult to read quickly. In short, he concludes: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking that any sizable project can be done in one day.”

So, first I did my homework!

The GTHC has some excellent online manuscript finding aids (here), which helped with making a list before I arrived of items I wanted to see.

Second, I limited the amount of material I would ask for, especially since the Saturday hours at the CAH were limited. I identified two collections I was interested in.  There was indeed more that I would have looked at (and will!) but the time spent in reading and transcribing didn;t allow for it, so be sure and prioritize!

It's also important to know the policies and procedures of an archive before you visit as to regulations for what paper, writing utensils, computers, photography, etc. are or are not allowed. The GTHC are here.

The staff at the GTHC was VERY helpful and courteous...I look forward to visiting again! 

And: please USE and SUPPORT your local archives...if people aren't using the GTHC, for example, they'll have a harder time justifying the necessary expense of professional archivists and proper storage and conservation.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Wow! Incredible stuff. So neat to hear varying perspectives within a single community, thanks for sharing your find:)