Panning for Historical Gold

Since its official founding in 2006, the University Archives has received hundreds of linear feet of materials from a wide variety of campus offices. For the first time, departments have a place to transfer historical materials that had been sitting in storage for years. Rescuing this history is a wonderful thing for the institution, but the down side is that many boxes transferred lack any kind of descriptive information about the contents.


For example, a set of 16 boxes marked “old black and white negatives” dating from the 1960s are believed to have originated in the yearbook offices. There is no catalog or index of topics, so the thousands of unlabeled negatives are effectively inaccessible. Another 58 boxes of negatives dating from the 1970s have only basic descriptions for each negative set.

The Digital & Web Services Department, which has both the equipment and the student workers to handle large volumes of negatives, volunteered to start scanning highly-used as well as some of the unlabeled negatives to improve access.


Homecoming 1962-0122_03

Homecoming 1962-0122_03



During an archival review of the first 1021 scans, some of the images were identified as Homecoming 1962,

Misanthrope 1962-0027_3

Misanthrope 1962-0027_3








a theatre production of Misanthrope,





Basil Rathbone 1962-072_04

Basil Rathbone 1962-072_04





and visiting actor Basil Rathbone performing on stage and signing autographs.





Dana Jean Smith and Gloria Odoms

While watching the Digital Media Specialist review scanned images on November 5, the University Archivist was surprised to see Dana Jean Smith in one of the images. A closer examination indicated that these photos were likely taken on the day Southwest Texas State College was officially desegregated in February 1963. It was believed that no documentation of the registration existed as interviews with administrators suggested that reporters and photographers were not allowed to document the registration process.


These images are highly significant to Texas State – historical “golden nuggets” that document a transformational event in our institutional history. A total of 34 negatives of the registration process were identified, and include images of Ms. Smith, Georgia Hoodye, Gloria Odoms, and Mabeleen Washington. Helen Jackson was the fifth African-American woman to enroll in the spring of 1963. She is not pictured as she enrolled the following day.

The University Archives created a resource guide to the 1963 Desegregation of the University containing additional photographs.


The Bluebonnet Lady of Texas

sally-beretta_1947-pedagogThe first name that came to mind reading the title of this post was probably not Sallie Beretta. However, Sallie Beretta became known as the “Bluebonnet Lady of Texas” because of her efforts to preserve and plant bluebonnets throughout the State of Texas in the 1920s and 1930s. This was years before other notable Texans also took up the cause.

Sallie Ward Beretta is mostly known to members of the Texas State University community through her long history of service and philanthropy to the University. Mrs. Beretta served eighteen years (1933-1951) on the State Board of Regents for the Teachers Colleges of Texas.  In 1951 she donated to the University her 125-acre scenic Wimberley ranch on the Blanco River. Currently called University Camp, it is still used as a recreational area providing an area for hiking, biking, swimming and fishing.   Since 1963, The Sallie Beretta Outstanding Senior Woman Award has been given to an outstanding senior woman “based on leadership, scholarship, character, potential, and loyalty.”

In recognition of her generosity and service, the regents voted to name a women’s dormitory in her honor in 1947. A portrait of Mrs. Beretta, presented at the dedication ceremony, hung in the common area of the dormitory for many years. Unfortunately, at some point the portrait was vandalized and the defacement severe enough for it to be removed from view and sent to the University Archives.



Beretta_cleanupThe 30” X 36” portrait provided an opportunity for us to test our new reprographic digital camera and copy stand on a larger sized object. The resulting high resolution image allowed us to use Photoshop to undo the worst of the defacement to the painting, and print a life-sized reproduction suitable for framing and reinstallation in the dormitory.


(Click for before and after GIF

(Click for before and after GIF)

Helen Keller visits the University

0001One of the first projects we are working on is digitizing the early issues of the student newspaper.   The University Archives holds all the known issues of the paper, although the collection is incomplete as many issues that have been lost to time.  Originally titled the Normal Star (1911-1923), the paper’s name changed as the institution grew – it became the College Star (1923-1969) and then the University Star (1969-present).

0002While photographing the papers, Jeremy spotted an interesting article in the March 17, 1916 issue (Vol. 5 No. 4).  A short article describes a visit by Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, to the Southwest Texas State Normal School campus on Monday March 13th, 1916.  Following an introduction by her teacher, Helen Keller delivered an address on “Happiness.”  The tradition of bringing prominent guest lecturers to campus continues today – a century later – with events such as the LBJ Lecture Series and the Common Experience.

Helen Keller’s story is well known to most, particularly through the Oscar winning 1962 film, The Miracle Worker. Helen Keller, born in 1880, was left permanently deaf and blind at the age of nineteen months through illness. Her parents engaged Anne Sullivan Macy as her teacher, who successfully brought the outside world to her. She eventually learned to read Braille and lip reading, by covering the speaker’s mouth with her fingers. She published several books and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. Keller and Sullivan traveled the country giving lectures in support of the American Foundation for the Blind.