Summer at The Texas Collection: Students Share Their Findings

September 16, 2016 Brian M. Simmons

This month we are featuring two students that worked at The Texas Collection over the summer. Check out the collections they worked with while they were here!

History doctoral student Joel Iliff

While scholars of pedagogy speak of “flipping the classroom,” I feel that my work at The Texas Collection has been an exercise in “flipping the archives.” By this I mean that as a historian I have long been accustomed to working with archival materials that others have preserved and organized, but now I have preserved and organized materials for others to use.

Photo of Julia and Finlay Graham with son James

Julia and Finlay Graham with son James. You’ll find this photograph in Julia and Finlay Graham papers #4003, box 38, folder 7, at The Texas Collection, Baylor University. Rights: Some rights reserved. E-mail txcoll@baylor.edu for information about the use of our images. Visit www.baylor.edu/lib/texas/ for more information about our collections.

Instead of letting me get my feet wet with a small collection, the processing archivist, Paul Fisher, began my internship with a metaphorical cannonball into the 72 document boxes of the Julia and Finlay Graham papers. Hailing from Texas and Scotland, respectively, Julia and Finlay Graham met in post-World World II Palestine and served in the Middle East as Southern Baptist missionaries for the next forty years. Though most of the collection documents their teaching and evangelistic ministries, their papers also contain glimpses into the politics of the Middle East, as the Grahams witnessed events such as the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and the Lebanese Civil War. After removing hundreds of duplicate pages, I reduced the 72 box leviathan to 50 boxes and a finding aid.

Closer to home, I also processed and created a finding aid for the records of the Waco Regional Baptist Association. Founded in 1860, the association remains a vital institution for Baptists in central Texas. I was particularly interested in the association’s records from the 1950s through the early 1970s, which provide a wealth of information on race and religion in central Texas in the era of the Civil Rights movement.

The historian in me constantly envisioned how these collections could contribute to studies of the modern Middle East, twentieth-century Baptist missions, the Civil Rights movement, and a myriad of other topics. Although these studies will have to be written by other scholars, I hope that I have made their jobs easier through my work over the summer.

Museum Studies graduate student Valencia Johnson

Photo of Valencia Johnson, Museum Studies graduate student

Valencia Johnson, Museum Studies graduate student, at The Texas Collection.

For an aspiring archivist with my disposition and imagination, spending time with papers is ideal. At a certain point in processing archival documents, the collection becomes a real entity; life reenters the boxes, and a complex picture emerges. This reanimation is what I learned in my time at the Texas Collection working on the W.R. White papers. His world, voice, and experience had been locked away for decades, and now they are tangible again.

The collection has been a joy and a challenge. I processed a small four box collection for The Texas Collection in the spring, but W.R. White’s collection held 226 boxes—I had entered the big leagues. Undertaking such a vast and diverse collection has deepened my knowledge and appreciation of archival work.

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