The Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) is now accepting applications for the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) Research Fellowship in Texas history. The fellowship includes a $2,000 stipend and is awarded for the best research proposal utilizing the collections of the State Archives in Austin.
The TSLAC Research fellowship in Texas history is administered in partnership with TSHA and made possible by the Texas Library and Archives Foundation, Inc. through a generous donation from the Edouard Foundation.
The application must include the purpose of the proposed research, collections of interest, a description of the medium of the product of the research, a complete vita and why the fellowship is necessary to complete the project. The recipient of the fellowship may be asked to present the results of their research at a TSLAC event. The award will be announced at the TSHA’s annual meeting in March 2021. Judges may withhold the award at their discretion.
Individuals should submit an online application, including completing the application form, research proposal and a curriculum vita by Nov. 15, 2020. Only electronic copies submitted through the link above and received by the deadline will be considered.
Past Recipients 2020 Sheena Lee Cox and Micaela Valdez 2019 Maggie Elmore and Deborah Liles 2018 Edward Valentin Jr. and William S. Bush
Too much time on your hands during the pandemic? Digitize your old home videos before it’s too late!
Staying at home during this period of COVID-19 has allowed many of us to appreciate movie watching at home. Now may be a great time to consider digitizing your old home video movies that have been collecting dust in the closet. Unfortunately, we are facing the obsolescence of videotape and VCRs (Video Cassette Recorders). Those of you who may have bought Betamax in the 1980s are already familiar with the difficulties of an out-of-date format. But the more common VHS format, and the dozen or so camcorder formats that came and went since the 1990s are to the point where they will become unplayable due to either the tape degradation or the loss of working playback equipment and parts to repair them.
There are several approaches to digitizing your videos. One is to send them out to a service and let the professionals do all the work. This service is provided by companies ranging from small internet startups to well-known large corporations. If you are among the many who could never program the VCR’s clock, then this might be your best option. But, if you like to tinker and happen to have an old VCR to dust off, or know family or friends who do, you might be able to do this yourself. Here are three different options to try depending on what type of media and equipment you have available.
TIP: Different video formats have different ways to protect the tape from being recorded over. Research your videotape formats and do whatever you need to your tapes to protect your video. VHS tapes have a tab on the back, just like audiocassettes do on the top edge. Simply break that tab to prevent an “oops” moment! Do this regardless if you are digitizing the tapes yourself or sending them out to a service! You can see the wide variety of formats here in the Texas Commission on the Arts Videotape Identification and Assessment Guide: https://www.arts.texas.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/video.pdf
OPTION I: VHS-DVD combination player transfer
If you already have one of these combo units around, you are in luck. These VHS players were popular in the 2000s and may be hiding in your closet, under the bed, or buried in boxes in your garage. If you don’t have one, you might look around at thrift stores, yard sales, and other outlets that may have old electronics. These units were already designed to convert your home video to digital video for DVD. DVDs were considered long-lived at the time they came out, but the writable and rewritable disks are not permanent and are prone to lose data over time – in as little as 10 years! They are not good preservation media and professional archivists don’t rely on DVD or CD media for sole copies of data in long-term archival digital storage environment. However, DVDs will work as a bridge to get your video into a computer.
What you need:
A VHS-DVD combination player
Blank DVD-R or DVD-RW disk media
Computer with a DVD drive (internal or external)
Free DVD video extraction software (such as Handbrake or VLC Media Player)
With the VHS-DVD combo unit, you can record your video onto the DVD, sometimes referred to as “dubbing” in device manuals. This DVD will be formatted to be played on a standard DVD video player. Follow the instruction manual for the unit to properly create and finalize the disk. Once complete, you will need a computer with a DVD drive attached or built-in (please note many computers today don’t include these drives, so you may need to use an older computer or borrow a USB DVD drive from someone). You can’t just drag and drop video from a DVD video disk – you will need to have software like the two in the list above that can read the disk’s data structure and repackage the video as a stand-alone file. Once you have extraction software installed (a.k.a., ripping software), you can copy the video (a.k.a., ripping) from the DVD and store it on your hard drive. A simple search online should uncover plenty of tutorials about the process for the software you choose to install. Remember, there is free open-source software that can do this, so you shouldn’t need to pay for any software to extract from the DVD.
In the professional archives field, best practice is to capture old analog video at its original resolution and uncompressed, which results in very large files not practical for most. For preserving your home movies, save it at the original resolution – here in the US that is NTSC at 720×480 pixels. DVD video already uses video compression to reduce its data footprint. Your best bet for video compression during extraction is to choose H.264 for the video and MP3 for the audio. This should provide you with the best balance between image quality and a file size. The final video file will likely have an extension of .mp4, although .mov or .avi may be found as well depending on your operating system and software.
TIP: Always inspect your media. If there is mold on it, you probably need to find someone to send it to for cleaning and digitization. Mold exposure can cause medical issues so don’t risk it at home. Look not only at the outside of the cassette but look at the tape pack through the window of the cassette. Any white or gray fuzz growing on the tape pack is a bad sign – it may also be yellow, green, black, or even dark purple in color. You do not want to contaminate all your other tapes by playing a moldy one in your VCR!
image: mold growing on tape
OPTION II: MiniDV camcorder transfer
If you have a VCR and are fortunate to still have a MiniDV camcorder, you can use the camcorder to pass the VCR video to your computer. Keep in mind, MiniDV camcorders typically use Firewire cables (a.k.a., DV) to connect to your computer.
For those with newer Apple computers, adaptors can be found for Firewire to Thunderbolt. For those with Windows computers, you may be able to find Firewire expansion cards or other video capture interfaces that allow for Firewire (or DV as they may be labeled) connections for your PC. Some interfaces have additional inputs making this MiniDV camera method unnecessary, so keep that in mind if you decide to purchase a video capture interface. Image: firewire cable
What you need:
A VHS player, or player for whatever format you have
Apple computer with Thunderbolt and Firewire adapters, or Windows computer with Firewire add-on card or USB video interface with DV connection
Movie software (Apple’s iMovie or Windows Movie Maker)
Once you have the MiniDV camcorder’s DV/Firewire cable plugged in, you should be able to find an AV input on the camcorder. Often camcorders have a miniature 1/8” jack for the AV input, similar to the small headphone jacks you are likely familiar with. The cable likely came with the camera, and it breaks out into three RCA connectors (sometimes referred to as “phono plugs” in consumer manuals) – one for video, one for audio left, and one for audio right. These RCA connectors are the common connections you find on VCRs and DVD players.
You can connect your VCR output to the RCA connections and plug the minijack into the camcorder. The camcorder should have a function selection on it that allows you to operate it in an “AV” mode instead of camera mode. This allows it to see the video from the VCR, convert them to a digital signal, and output them to the computer. If you have the camcorder in the correct setting, you usually should be able to see the video from the videotape playing on the LCD screen built into the camcorder. iMovie software on an Apple, or Windows Movie Maker software on a Windows PC, should be able to see the camera device and capture the digital video stream to your local computer. Review the section above for best settings for saving your files.
OPTION III: Video capture
Alternatively, if you don’t have a MiniDV player or the VHS-DVD combo deck, big box stores and online retailers carry USB based video interfaces that provide RCA connections for audio and video, S-video (an improved connection for video you might choose to use if you have it on your old playback equipment). These vary in quality and cost. Typically, the adage “you get what you pay for” is often true, but one of these should not set you back too much for capturing basic VHS quality video. If you have a lot of home video you would like to digitize yourself, this small investment may be worthwhile.
TIP: It’s best to keep your original tapes safe after digitization just in case you need to access them again in the near future. Always store your tapes in an air-conditioned environment if possible. The best place is a closet, and of course avoid any “wet” areas such as a bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, etc. Keep the tapes off the floor at least several inches. A water leak will easily ruin your tapes.
Trouble with Tapes
You might have your old VCR all set up, along with your box of home videos you pulled from the garage. Excitedly, you put the first tape in, and after a short while the image starts looking terribly crooked and distorted and the audio might have a distinct odd distortion to it – or the tape just grinds the player to a halt and stops playing. Hit stop immediately! Your tape may be suffering from binder degradation. Forcing your VCR to play a degraded tape can damage both the tape and the VCR. Tape is a plastic base film with a coating to store the magnetic recordings. These coatings absorb moisture and begin to breakdown over time. Maybe your decision to store the tapes in your hot garage or attic was not such a “hot” idea after all! Tapes need dry and cool conditions to survive a long time – and ideally should be stored in a rewound state and vertically on their side.
Certain brands commonly have binder degradation. Sometimes you can identify a tape with degradation by smell, but it is not 100% foolproof. A very crayon-like waxy odor may indicate that it is suffering from problems. However, some tapes may smell slightly when first removed from their sleeve, yet playback fine. Some may not playback fine but do not smell.
There is a way to remediate the binder degradation, but only temporarily. In the professional digitization world, we do what we call “baking” – heating a tape over low temperatures for a long time. This temporarily cures the “stickiness” of the tape and allows it to perform better on playback – typically for a few weeks only. After a few weeks it will likely revert to an unplayable state and would need to be baked once more to be played again.
IMPORTANT: This “baking” is NOT something you can do with your home oven –do NOT put audiotapes, videotapes, OR motion picture film in your home oven! You can damage or destroy the media, or worse you may start a fire!
The idea of tape “baking” is to dehydrate – not to cook. Sometimes just adding the tape to a sealed airtight plastic bag with desiccant (that stuff you find in boxed products that states “Do not eat”) to absorb the moisture can work. But often tapes are too far gone and need more extreme measures. Professional archives like ours often have laboratory ovens that can accurately maintain temperature and perform this treatment. Image: laboratory oven
There are some devices that allow you to perform this at home. Less expensive food dehydrators such as NESCO and Excalibur brands have been used to dehydrate tape. Some internet searches will turn up discussion forums on the use of these for tapes. It is NOT recommended to use a dehydrator for both food and tapes, and certainly not at the same time! The chemicals that leach out of plastics and tape coatings may not be something you want to eat! And you do not want to contaminate your tapes with byproducts of food either. A dehydrator for this purpose should have an internal fan to move air and should have a temperature control. I have used an Excalibur dehydrator at home to bake my own tapes at times when needed and successfully digitized them afterward.
Baking tapes is a lot like Texas BBQ, low and slow. If you find you need to do this for a videotape, keep the temperature no more than 130 degrees Fahrenheit – and bake for 12-24 hours. If the tape has been stored in humid conditions for a long time, it may take even longer. Before placing tapes in a dehydrator, test it over time with a quality oven thermometer to see how accurate the device’s thermostat is.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT heat these tapes at higher temperatures or you risk melting the tape and/or plastic components! And again, NEVER put motion picture film in a dehydrator. This suggestion only pertains to videotapes!
Your video is digitized. Now what?
Having your video digitized is great – unless your hard drive fails, and you lose your data. Then you are back to square one. It’s best to follow the LOCKSS (Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe) concept – keeping a digital copy on your hard drive, a backup drive, and on the cloud provides you some extra security in case of a drive failure or other catastrophic loss of the physical storage device. You should have at least three copies of your digital files, and one copy should not be physically stored near the others.
Each year in October we recognize the value of our archives and the efforts to preserve and provide access to the historical record by celebrating Texas Archives Month. Archives across the country create state-level activities and promotions in conjunction with American Archives Month. Live and in-person events are not expected this year due to COVID-19, but online activities and virtual programming will be happening throughout October.
Be sure and keep up on social medial with the hashtags #TSLAC, #TXArchivesMonth and #AmericanArchivesMonth. Bring your curiosity and your questions to Twitter on October 7 when archivists respond to your queries online for #AskAnArchivist Day.
Texas Archives Month Poster 2020
THRAB kicks off the virtual activities with the annual Texas Archives Month poster, now available for download. The 2020 Texas Archives Month poster theme acknowledges the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and how this milestone for women’s suffrage in the United States created opportunities for progress for women in Texas. THRAB presents the poster with a “Texas Sampler” listing of online exhibitions detailing women’s suffrage in Texas with images and documents from archival collections. For those interested in exploring the guides to papers in Texas repositories, a link to an online search tool is also available. Happy Texas Archives Month!
We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a look at a photograph collection from the Rio Grande Valley. The Harry Lund collection contains more than 200 photos from the Morales Studio depicting the people of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in the first half of the 20th century. The “RGV” developed along the borderlands of Mexico and the southernmost point of Texas, with the town of Brownsville serving as a hub of commerce and social activity. Though the individuals are mostly unidentified and photos undated, we are able to experience visually the lifestyle and culture of the region for a population of Hispanic Texans at the turn of the last century.
Learn more about how to explore the Prints and Photographs Collections by visiting our research guide on the Archives & Reference website.
In recognition of the thirtieth anniversary of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in July of 1990, we offer a sampling of our collections and publications related to disability history. As part of our mission to preserve records produced by state government and agencies, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) houses materials relevant to the historical efforts to provide services to Texans with disabilities. TSLAC also preserves materials from other entities and individuals that contains information related to this theme. Our reference library serves as a federal depository and therefore includes numerous US government publications on the ADA along with titles specific to Texas. All of the publications listed are also available online.
Archival Collections Related to Disability Historyin Texas
Texas State Board of Control records, 1854, 1885-1890, 1909-1979, undated (agency with oversight of the state schools and hospitals, and schools for the deaf and blind from 1920-1949).
Anne Michel valedictory address (valedictory address made by Annie Michel at the Texas Institution for the Blind, dated 1884).
Zachary Taylor Fulmore biography (contains photographs, correspondence and biographical notes pertaining to his support for education in Texas including the Stuart Female Seminary; Austin Public School; State School for the Blind; Colored Deaf, Dumb and Blind School and others, dated 1954. Fulmore (1846–1923) was a lawyer, judge, author and charter member of the Texas State Historical Association).
“The Lone Star” Graduation Numbers (Graduation editions – referred to as numbers – of the “Lone Star,” a magazine produced by the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, Texas. The magazines are dated 1933-1938).
Republic Claims, particularly pension claims, which may include claims by veterans injured while serving in the Republic of Texas:
As our archives staff work on an ongoing basis to arrange, preserve, describe and make available to the public the materials under our care, we spotlight new additions to the website in a regular feature from Out of the Stacks. The column lists new and revised finding aids recently made available online. We close out the piece highlighting fresh uploads to the Texas Digital Archive, our repository of electronic items.
Archivists create finding aids for collections once they are processed and add these descriptive guides to Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO). TARO hosts finding aids from institutions around the state and researchers may determine whether or not to limit searches to the State Archives. Not all collections have been processed and therefore the list of finding aids does not represent the entirety of our holdings. The Archives & Manuscripts page of the TSLAC website provides more information and guidance on how to access archival collections.
Contact email@example.com or 512-463-5455 with questions about using TSLAC’s archival resources. For a comprehensive list of all recently added and updated finding aids visit Archives: Finding Aids (New & Revised).
Administratively attached to the Texas General Land Office, the Special Board of Review considers various aspects related to the development of real property belonging to Texas, the Permanent School Fund, or any other dedicated state fund. Records consists of agenda, minutes, and exhibits, dating 1995-1998.
Press staff of the Texas Governor’s Office were responsible for issuing press releases and media advisories on the activities and actions of the governor, writing speeches for the governor and collecting, copying, and distributing information about the governor and first lady. Records are the press files for Governor Allan Shivers and consist of clippings, press releases, speeches, notes, publications, proclamations, correspondence, and related records, dated 1937, 1941-1943, 1946-1957, bulk 1946-1957.
A portrait of Governor Allan Shivers,January, 1953. 1983/112 M-351-1, Texas Department of Public Safety photographs.Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
As the chief executive of the State of Texas, the governor has many responsibilities and duties that require a full schedule to fulfill. The governor’s scheduling files document Governor’s Office responses to requests for the governor’s time as well as logistical organization of the governor’s attendance at local, state, national, and international events. Records are the scheduling files of Governor Allan Shivers and consist of correspondence, invitations, schedules, and related records, dated 1949-1964 and undated, bulk 1951-1957.
TSLAC has released a group of custom Zoom backgrounds featuring scenes from the State Library and Archives. They are free to download and may be used by the public.
These 26 new background options include both indoor and outdoor scenes from the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building in downtown Austin, the State Records Center in Austin, and the Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center in Liberty, Texas.
Users can choose to virtually “appear” in various locations, including the TSLAC Reference Reading Room, outside the building (in the daytime or at night), or in front of the famous lobby mural depicting scenes and people from Texas history. Also available are scenes from inside the cavernous stacks at the State Records Center, inside and outside views of the Sam Houston Center, and even a historical photo showing how the Zavala Reference Reading Room looked back in the 1960s (Throwback Thursday, anyone?).
With these colorful and interesting custom backgrounds, you can now attend your Zoom meetings from in front of an impressive shelf of books, under the six flags of Texas, or outside near the green trees of Atascosito.
The images are available below. Browse to find the right one for you! Click the image to open the full-size version in a new window, then right click to download to your local device. Use the back arrow on your browser to return to this page.These images are also available at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/freebackgrounds.
You can read more about how to install these or other custom backgrounds on the Zoom website. Please note that older computers may not allow full functionality of Zoom features, including the ability to use custom backgrounds.
TSLAC has been serving patrons and customers across all our locations throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, both remotely and in person. Read more about our current programs and services.
For information about access to TSLAC collections please contact our reference staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-463-5455.
The Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) is pleased to offer an educational opportunity free of charge to individuals working with historical collections and who lack a background or formal training in archives. Through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), THRAB has partnered with the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) to reserve a select number of spots in their upcoming beginner’s course, Basics of Archives. Designed for those with little to no archival experience, the AASLH instructor presents modules online over five weeks, with lessons covering the essential components of archives work from acquisition to outreach. For more information about applying for free registration, visit: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/workshops.
Call for Nominations for Archival Awards of Excellence, Advocacy, and Distinguished Service
The Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) is pleased to announce an expanded awards program for 2020. In addition to the Archival Award of Excellence for an individual and institution, THRAB seeks nominations for the Advocacy for Archives Award and a Distinguished Service Award. Organizations, individuals, programs, and institutions are all eligible for the new honors. Send nomination packets to THRAB coordinator Jelain Chubb at the address below by August 10, 2020. THRAB announces award recipients as part of Texas Archives Month celebrations in October.
Advocacy for Archives Award acknowledges an individual or organization that has made significant contributions to ensure the preservation and availability of the historical record of Texas.
Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual, archival institution, education program, or nonprofit/government organization that has provided outstanding leadership, service or contribution to the archives profession in Texas.
Archival Award of Excellence recognizes significant achievements in preserving and improving access to historical records in any format by a Texas archival institution and individual achievements.
For institutions: All Texas institutions responsible for archival records that provide public access to at least a portion of their collection are eligible. Achievements include recent projects and/or on-going programs that build collections, enhance access to archives, develop effective digitization programs, or implement preservation strategies.
For individual: An archivist or individual who has made an outstanding contribution in the areas of management, preservation, access, advocacy, or use of historical records in Texas. Nominees must have accomplished the work within the state of Texas during the five years preceding the year in which the award is presented. Current THRAB members are not eligible.
Nomination Process: Submit a complete nomination packet to THRAB coordinator Jelain Chubb. Nomination packets include the appropriate award nomination form, a statement of work accomplished, two letters of support and any supporting materials. For more information, visit https://www.tsl.texas.gov/archivalaward.
While our Sam Houston Center exhibit, Atascosito: The History of Southeast Texas is not currently open due to the coronavirus, we are offering a bit of off-site fun and games for kids with a museum activity book available for download. Atascosito chronicles the region’s past through informative displays from the Center’s collections of artifacts, photographs, maps, and historical documents. Although the exhibit appeals to an audience of all ages, the displays serve as engaging educational tools for teaching the history of the area. Interactive devices built into the exhibit are aimed at capturing the attention of younger visitors. TSLAC celebrated in 2018 the museum renovation with a “grand reopening” party and tours. View images of that event here.
The exhibit showcases the developments of this corner of Texas, including its river economy, timber industry, rice agriculture, and expansive oil fields, while also sharing stories of the thousands of years of growth and movement of people through what has become the ten-county region of Jasper, Jefferson, Hardin, Liberty, Orange, San Jacinto, Polk, Newton, Chambers, and Tyler. Two bases of Clovis points dated to around 11,000 B.C.E. that offer the earliest evidence of human activity in the region are highlights of the exhibit, along with a tooth fragment from a Columbian mammoth. More recent items on view are an executive record book kept by Texas Republic President Sam Houston and artifacts from 19th century steamboats. The museum activity book references subjects covered in the exhibit and other Texas themes in word puzzles, coloring pages, and more.
DIY Museum Activity Book
Explore themes related to the Atascosito District of Texas with the puzzles, games, and coloring pages inside. Click on the image or the link below and print out your own color copy.