Last night, in an event celebrating National Archives Month, we threw a party.
Now the interesting thing is that we don’t usually throw parties. We’re not the party-throwing type of agency. Programs at our place are usually pretty formal affairs held in our lobby or our reading room and feature an author or a talk on a serious subject.
Last night we broke the mold and introduced a new type of event with a program called Archives in ATXion, the Texas Picture Show. A brainchild of TSLAC Communications Officer Steve Siwinski, we invited the public to gather together on the east lawn of the capitol across the street from our building, throw down a blanket or a lawn chair, and sit and listen to some classic Texas music and watch some archival films spanning the last 100 years. The music was provided by Jason Roberts, a 20-year veteran of the legendary Texas band, Asleep at the Wheel. The songs of Bob Wills and Cindy Walker drifted across the Capitol grounds drawing in even more people.
Then came the films, a series of nuggets from the collections of TSLAC and the Texas Archive of the Moving Image (TAMI). Viewers were treated to views of Congress Avenue in 1912, Texas Highways Department travel promotions from the 1970s, A young Willie Nelson in 1973 just after he moved back to Austin, inaugural footage of Gov. Ann Richards, Art Linkletter emcee-ing a beauty contest, and even a commercial for Hot Dr. Pepper (a mercifully brief marketing campaign that some of us still remember).
The films were fun, but they also underscored an important message for Archives Month. For anyone that thinks of archives as yellowing documents on dusty shelves, these films demonstrated that archival materials take many forms and are vibrant, fascinating windows into the way that people looked at the world in decades and centuries past. They are a form of time-travel taking us back to a collective memory and shared history, speaking to us of what it means to be Texans and Americans.
So we had fun. We heard some good music, watched some cool film clips, and broadened some horizons about what we do and who we are.
All in all, a very good evening.