Reading About Libraries, Archives, and Museums: SHC Kicks Off New Quarterly Book Club

The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center (SHC) in Liberty has announced a new quarterly book club starting February 27.

Featuring fictional works with a connection to the world of museums, archives, and libraries, the Sam Houston Center book club is open to all and will take place from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday in February, May, August, and November 2024, meeting in the Center’s main building at 650 FM 1011 in Liberty. Home to extensive archival holdings documenting Southeast Texas, a library collection, and a museum, the Center offers an ideal setting for discussions about novels tied to these fields. Each meeting will be led by SHC staff.

The first book club on February 27 will focus on The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. Based on a true story, this novel focuses on financier J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian, Belle da Costa Greene, who curated the collections for his library in New York City in the early twentieth century. Greene was keeping her identity, and the fact that she was African American, a secret as she operated in New York’s intellectual and artistic circles. This work of historical fiction has been a popular book club selection and fits nicely with the theme of libraries, archives, and museums.

Future quarterly book club titles include:

The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes
May 28, 2024, 6:00 pm

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis
August 27, 2024, 6:00 pm

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
November 26, 2024, 6:00 pm

Interested participants may obtain a copy of the novels through their local library or favorite bookstore to prepare for the conversation. For more information, contact SHC staff at (936) 336-8821 or via email at

The Sam Houston Center is a component of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and serves as the official regional historical resource depository for the 10 Southeast Texas counties of Chambers, Hardin, Jasper, Jefferson, Liberty, Newton, Orange, Polk, San Jacinto and Tyler.

The Center’s primary mission is to collect, preserve and provide access to historically significant state and local government records and publications of the designated region and secondarily to serve as a library of Texana and genealogical resources.

We’re Hiring! Help TSLAC Care for Our Collections as Conservator

The TSLAC conservator mends a bound volume.

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s Archives and Information Services Division welcomes applicants for the position of conservator. The TSLAC conservator manages a well-equipped lab and performs complex treatments on rare and unique archival and library materials. The conservator develops and monitors work procedures for the unit, establishes priorities, and makes treatment decisions.

Muster roll after de-silking in the TSLAC conservation lab.

In addition, the conservator assists with exhibits and other outreach and educational programs, preservation planning and surveys, emergency response; and environmental control. The position is available December 1, 2023. Those interested in this position should apply by November 30.

The TSLAC conservator plays an essential role in exhibit planning, preparation, and installation.

Learn more about the conservation work at TSLAC on the Conservation blog:

Find details about this position and apply by November 30 here:

Declaration of Independence Broadside

After delegates gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos in March of 1836 to form the new government of the Republic of Texas, they sent a handwritten copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence to the town of San Felipe de Austin for printers there to produce a broadside version for wider distribution. The printers were Baker & Bordens, a small company that handled other orders from the Texas government and published the newspaper, the Telegraph and Texas Register. Baker & Bordens took the order to publish 1,000 broadsides of the Declaration of Independence from Mexico. They also printed the text in the March 12, 1836, edition of their newspaper, where they apologized for neglecting to add the names of two signers of the document, including the author of the declaration, George Childress.

July 6, 1836, printing record, Baker & Bordens. Texas Secretary of State public printing records, 1835-1836.
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THRAB Presents Free Finding Aid Workshops

Introduction to TARO: Encoding and Submitting Finding Aids

The Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) presents free training opportunities on encoding finding aids to enhance the collection access efforts of historical and genealogical societies, archives, museums, libraries, colleges, local governments, and other institutions who hold Texas’ archival collections. Through these workshops, archivists will learn the hands-on basic skills needed to participate in the Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) finding aid platform, Trainers will offer day-long workshops in Lubbock (3/20), Edinburg (4/17), and El Paso (5/25). Registration is free but limited to 15 participants at each site.

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Apply for Free Registration to AASLH Basics of Archives Online Course

Through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) has partnered with the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) to offer free registration to their popular online course, Basics of Archives from March 27 – April 28, 2023. Meant for those with little to no archival experience, this self-paced course takes place over five weeks, with lessons covering the essential components of archives work from acquisition to outreach. The time commitment is about 15-20 hours to be completed within the five-week period.

Registration is limited to 30 attendees residing in Texas and working for a repository or organization charged with preservation responsibilities but lacking in formal training. Preference will be given to employees or volunteers of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, or smaller institutions that serve rural areas and receive little or no funding for professional development. THRAB may limit registration to one person per institution to allocate space equitably.

Apply by March 10, 2023

The National Historical Records and Publications Commission (NHPRC) funds THRAB programming.

Texas Archives Month 2022

October is Texas Archives Month! Each year, the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board (THRAB) and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) team up to promote archives and archival work throughout the month. The annual celebration occurs in conjunction with the Society of American Archivists’ American Archives Month. The Texas Archives Month webpage provides a calendar of events, links to archival exhibits, proclamations, and more.

A key component of the Texas Archives Month celebration is an educational poster presented online with a range of resources related to the theme. The 2022 Texas Archives Month digital poster focuses on analyzing primary sources in the classroom and offers step-by-step tips for students and educators. The theme focuses on various types of primary sources students encounter and links to a webpage with helpful strategies for analyzing documents, photographs, and maps. Visitors will also find images from Texas archives to download and use with analysis worksheets provided by the National Archives Records Administration (NARA).

Texas Archives Month Poster 2022

If educators and students need more primary sources for practice and instruction, the poster webpage offers links to digital collections around the state providing access to thousands of images online.

Download the poster or just bookmark the webpage for quick reference here:

Texas Archives Month activities also annual archival awards administered by members of THRAB. THRAB is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2022 archival awards!

THRAB 2022 Archival Award Recipients

THRAB selected as the 2022 Archival Award of Excellence recipient the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas for their projects surrounding the reorganization and digitization of Radclyffe Hall and Una Vincenzo, Lady Troubridge Papers. Ransom Center staff collaborated to reorganize, digitize, and present online the collection as a digital archive available to an international audience. Additionally, they enhanced access with a of suite teaching guides to assist educators and students. Created in 2016, the Archival Award of Excellence recognizes significant achievements in preserving and improving access to historical records in Texas.

The Advocacy for Archives Award recognizes outstanding achievements and lasting impacts on the archival community and the historical record in Texas. The 2022 recipient of this award is Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO). TARO advocates for archives by coordinating with Texas repositories to create standardized, searchable online finding aids and offering a centralized portal for identifying and locating participating collections. TARO staff also train Texas archives personnel on how to use the software and employ the standards required to streamline access on the TARO platform, THRAB members believe TARO has helped revolutionize access to the historical record in Texas and looks forward to the growth and continued success of the project.

“The TARO steering committee is thrilled with this wonderful honor from THRAB that acknowledges the tremendous efforts of the countless volunteers across the dozens of member repositories contributing to this project. The award will also raise the profile of TARO and perhaps encourage even more repositories to join,” said TARO steering committee chair Samantha Dodd of Southern Methodist University.

The Society of Southwest Archivists (SSA) is the recipient of the David B. Gracy II Award for Distinguished Archival Service. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, the award recognizes the vital role the professional organization plays in the archival community. SSA Past President (2014-2015) Katie Salzman said, “It seems fitting that an organization whose early foundation and development was so influenced by Dr. Gracy should receive this honor. SSA embodies the dedication, advocacy, and leadership that were the hallmark of his own career.” SSA hosts an annual meeting, provides low-cost professional development opportunities, scholarships, and recently introduced an Archives-in-Residence program.

The awards will be presented at the next THRAB meeting on October 7 at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

THRAB programming is supported by funds from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

TSLAC joins the rest of the country in recognizing the contributions of those Americans with Asian/Pacific Islander heritage throughout the month of May. Though primary source documentation may be sparse at the State Archives, secondary sources like Nancy Farrar’s 1972 study, The Chinese in El Paso offer valuable descriptive information and data pulled from newspapers, census records and city directories.

The earliest arrival to Texas of Asians in any significant number were laborers from China who worked on the rail lines that were rapidly expanding across the state and connecting the country during the last decades of the nineteenth century. The Chinese migrants were young men who worked together on construction teams and would typically move from one site to another and often planned to eventually return home to China.

When the Southern Pacific Railroad was completed in 1881, the border city of El Paso was on the route to and from the west coast. While many laborers departed once the railroad line was built, some remained and established Chinese-run businesses located within a few city blocks of each other. A neighborhood referred to as “Chinatown” developed in downtown El Paso. A popular business to open was a laundromat, as the Chinese steam method had little competition in town

Image: Farrar, Nancy. The Chinese in El Paso. Texas Western Press, The University of Texas at El Paso, 1972. Texas Documents Collection, ZUA590.7 SO89 NO.33. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Socially, the immigrants lived separately from the rest of the city early on. Because of strict immigration laws aimed specifically at Asians, women were not joining the men who had made the journey. The area was therefore comprised almost entirely of men. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 stemmed the flow of laborers coming to the U.S. and the exclusion continued with the Geary Act of 1902. Some exceptions were made, such as for merchants and teachers, and the prohibition was not always strictly enforced.  

While the Chinese population in El Paso would start to decline in the early twentieth century, other groups from countries in Asia were creating communities in Texas. Farmers had arrived from Japan to work the rice fields of Southeast Texas and other Japanese immigrants opened restaurants and shops in Houston and the surrounding counties, for example.

Discovering information about the growth of Asian communities in Texas can sometimes occur by chance. A closer look at this Houston streetscape from about 1927 reveals a restaurant called the Chop Suey Café on the right side of Travis Street.

[Trolley car in downtown Houston], about 1927, Places Collection, 1/103-1011, Prints and Photographs Collections. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. View in the TDA.

Here is a close-up view of the sign for the Chop Suey Café. The restaurant is in the shadow on the right-hand side of the street.

After the immigration laws changed in 1965 and restrictions on Asian immigrants were lifted, many more groups from regions across Asia would make their way to Texas. Houston emerged as a particularly attractive destination for various groups and is today one of the most diverse cities in the country.

Learn more about Asian Texans with resources from TSLAC.

TSLAC has in our collections publications related to the history of Asian communities in Texas, along with historical newspapers, city directories, and other sources.

Search the library catalog for more titles.

Image: Brady, Marilyn Dell. The Asian Texans. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2004.Texas Documents Collection, Z TA475.7 T312AS. Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Find online events through the Library of Congress’ page dedicated to Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month

Elizabeth Howard West: Texas Library Pioneer

Gina Watts, Reference Librarian

Elizabeth Howard West, state librarian, 1918-1925. Prints and photographs collection, 1/103-124-West. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

When Elizabeth Howard West was hired as state archivist at the Texas State Library in 1911, she had been through library training, worked in manuscripts at the Library of Congress, and held a master’s degree in history from the University of Texas. Her first task was to organize more than a thousand boxes from the Comptroller’s Office that had been collecting in a basement, and she went on to create the calendar (annotated listing) for the Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar papers. She departed in 1915 and went to the San Antonio Public Library, where she served as director.

Today we recognize Elizabeth Howard West as a pioneer in Texas history. In 1918, she became the first woman to direct any state agency when she accepted the position as state librarian. West had a vision for a state library that expanded library services to reach all Texans. When she began as state librarian, only 16 percent of citizens in Texas had access to a free public library. She worked to improve this statistic by serving as president of the Texas Library Association and helping establish a county library system. West was so skilled at this work that she helped other states do the same.

Elizabeth Howard West, state archivist, 1911-1915. Prints and photographs collection, 1/122-9. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

West also provided library services to groups and individuals who had limited or no access to books. She initiated library services for the blind in 1916 while serving as director of the San Antonio Public Library and brought these services to the Texas State Library in 1919. She acquired books in earlier forms of braille to better serve this population. She also provided services to African American library patrons despite the segregation practices of the era. Schools serving African American students were regular customers of the Texas State Library, but these patrons were not welcomed by everyone working in the Texas Capitol at the time. West developed a process to serve this group by having their requests prepared in advance and ready for pick-up when they arrived.

West was a strong advocate for maintaining a professional staff and added staff raises to her budget requests. She also stipulated training requirements for library and archives positions so that the legislature did not place well-connected but unqualified individuals in library jobs, as was a common practice by Texas politicians of the day.

After years of battling for higher budgets, more space, and better staff support, West eventually sought work outside of state government. In her wake she left behind a library that was made better by her diligence and care. Most important, she left TSLAC as a library that served everyone, not just a privileged few.

Elizabeth West’s records can be found in several collections:


Gracy, David B. The State Library and Archives of Texas: a History, 1835-1962. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

Create Protective Enclosures for Fragile Books

By Heather Hamilton, Conservator

When faced with damaged or fragile books, conservators have several approaches they may take. A damaged book might be conserved by repairing a binding that is breaking. The covers may need to be replaced with new ones or the text block may have to be resewn. These treatments are intensive and time-consuming. At any given time, libraries and archives will have many books in need of conservation, and not every volume can be considered for full treatment. Another preservation option is to create custom enclosures for books. A common book enclosure is the phase box.

The term “phase box” has been in use for a long time, but it is often a misnomer. “Phase box” indicates that the book will be placed into the enclosure until the time comes when it can be more fully repaired.

However, many books remain in their phase boxes long-term, and that is a good thing, especially for leather bindings. Leather is inherently unstable over time. It becomes brittle and can develop red-rot, the dusty red powder we are familiar with on old leather books. Brittle leather is prone to breaking on the book’s hinge, where it flexes for opening. The leather spine piece, where a book usually has its title, will often break away from the binding when the hinges have failed. These damages can be repaired by replacing the damaged spine with new leather, but the replacement leather will age eventually as well. Nevertheless, leather rebindings and leather repairs are used by conservators. They are appropriate when a book’s binding is of particular artistic or historical significance. Book conservators are trained in historic methods and can repair or replicate leather bindings to restore the original appearance.

To build a phase box, the book’s length, width, and thickness are measured precisely in a measuring device made just for this purpose. Using these dimensions, two lengths of acid-free board are cut and folded to match the book. When the fit is just right, the book will be snug and will not shift inside the box.

There are a number of other protective enclosures used for library and archives collections. A clam-shell box is made much like a book binding and is usually covered in book cloth. These attractive and strong boxes are often made for high-value books. A portfolio with a four-flap enclosure inside can be used for thinner, lighter-weight books.

Phase boxes can be used for more than bound materials. Here at TSLAC, our historic photographs (daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes) are housed in individual phase boxes within a storage cabinet. The enclosures protect these glass and metal plates from physical damage and limit direct handling.

What about preserving family artifacts?

Protective enclosures are used in libraries and archives, but they are also appropriate for preserving family artifacts such as scrapbooks, family Bibles, and other bound volumes. For family documents that are unbound sheets, like photographs or certificates, another housing system is preferable. Place documents, unfolded whenever possible, into archival paper folders. Don’t overfill them. Place groups of folders into archival boxes. Choose a box that fits the folders well. If the folders are placed vertically and there is extra space in the box, fill it in with wadded-up, acid-free tissue so that folders do not fall over. Boxes and other archival supplies can be purchased from online stores. Look for high-quality, acid-free materials and comparison shop to make sure you are not over-paying for these specialty items.

More tips on preservation from the State Archives here:

TSLAC Releases Custom Zoom Backgrounds

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.

Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building entrance.

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.

Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building at night.

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?).

Zavala Reference Reading Room, about 1960s.

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.

Grounds of the Sam Houston Regional Research Center and Library in Liberty.

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

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.