Conservation delays historical Texas papers’ arrival at TCU

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    A $23,000 security system was installed in the Mary Couts Burnett Library’s special collections to secure 161-year-old Texas legislation papers that were expected to arrive this month. However, the arrival of the documents, which TCU will host for the next five years, has been pushed back to early January because a third of the papers are still undergoing a conservation process.

    The conservation process will maintain the quality of the papers with a digital scanning process, and sharper images of the documents in their current state will allow TCU to reference the papers without damaging the original ones, said Mary Volcansek, dean of AddRan College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    The Texas Legation papers will be part of TCU’s special collections located on the second floor in the library, Volcansek said.

    “If you like history, and even if you don’t, these are priceless pieces,” Volcansek said.

    Priceless, though the expense to host the papers is $260,000 – a cost the chancellor and two donors paid, she said.

    Earlier this year, the papers were auctioned to be hosted for the next five years, and supposedly another bidder had been awarded the papers, Volcansek said.

    Volcansek said she received a phone call the Monday after the auction and was told TCU had won the bid.

    The legation papers will be an asset to the Center of Texas Studies at TCU and will fit in with curriculum, said June Koelker, dean of the Mary Couts Burnett Library. TCU is the only university in the state to have a center dedicated to Texas studies, Koelker said.

    “These documents have to do with the very early years before Texas became a state in the United States,” she said. “They are primary documents, which are important to historians and (provide) an opportunity to look at primary documents rather than just reading textbooks.”

    Texas leaders who corresponded with the United States on the issue of recognizing Texas as an independent country and negotiations dealing with Native Americans and Mexico are included in these papers, said Chris LaPlante, state archivist with the Texas State Historical Association.

    LaPlante said at least a portion of these papers haven’t been seen by researchers and there are correspondents in the papers that haven’t been documented before.

    The correspondent letters include one in which Andrew Jackson refused a treaty with Santa Anna because, according to the papers, he was a “scoundrel” and “scalawag.” Another letter included was written by Stephen F. Austin two weeks before he died, Volcansek said.

    “They’re just fun to read,” she said.

    The papers were inherited by Andrew Jackson Houston’s two daughters. A neighbor later found the papers and auctioned them off. That’s when the Texas State Historical Association found out about the papers, LaPlante said.

    “We were thrilled to know they existed and weren’t lost,” he said. “That’s an exciting thing to discover.”

    TCU will be able to use the digital scans, which are copies of the documents, for reference, Koelker said.

    Plans for display of the actual documents are still under question, she said.