History Revealed at the Briscoe Center for American History
With support from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), staff at the Briscoe Center for American History (BCAH) at the University of Texas at Austin recently completed a two year endeavor to increase access to over 1,600 archival collections.
The Briscoe Center’s collecting strengths are varied and extensive, and include Texas History, Southern History, Civil Rights and Social Justice, Congressional and Political History, and News Media History, to name a few. At the outset of the “History Revealed,” project nearly 4,500 collections were “hidden,” with documentation of their existence and contents available only in the Briscoe Center’s Reading Room or through a mediated exchange with the Briscoe Center’s Public Service staff. In many cases, these collections had no records at all in a public venue.
Researchers now have access to over 1,600 previously hidden BCAH collections on the Internet via online finding aids on the Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) website (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/index.html) or library catalog records in OCLC and in the University of Texas Libraries online catalog.
Of particular note during this 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the “History Revealed” project at the Briscoe Center has shed light on over two hundred “hidden” collections, or several thousand documents, illuminating the experiences of soldiers and civilians during the Civil War. Including correspondence, diaries, reminiscences, muster rolls, financial records, scrapbooks, and military orders, the collections paint a telling picture of the activities of Confederate and Union armies, the political and social repercussions of the war, and daily life in the 1860s. Collections such as the Francis H. Nash Diary, the Jacob R. Cressinger Papers, and the Joshua K. Callaway Papers provide eyewitness accounts of conditions within regiments as well as various military engagements, including the battles of Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. Other notable collections like the Pritchard Von David Papers contain an official copy of Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appottamox, while the Nathaniel Wych and Malcolm Kenmore Hunter Family Papers chronicle the effect of the war on family life. Additionally, the Fleming W. Thompson Letters yield a vivid account of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the papers of Sam Houston, Jr. contain a remarkable sketch of a battle scene.
Although the project has unearthed collections illuminating both Union and Confederate sentiments and perceptions of the war, the breadth of the Briscoe Center’s holdings represent Texas and the South more generally. As a result of NHPRC support, these collections, which underscore the ways in which the war fundamentally changed life in Texas and the South, are now discoverable to researchers.
NHPRC has made it possible for the Briscoe Center to make these important collections available.
To learn more about the Briscoe Center’s History Revealed project, visit the project website, which includes a comprehensive listing of all collections newly uncovered by the History Revealed project, with links to their online finding aids at www.cah.utexas.edu/projects/nhprc/index.php.
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