Historic Texas documents restored, brought to library

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    A rare piece of Texas History was celebrated Thursday at the Mary Couts Burnett Library with the unveiling of the Texas Legation Records.”This is a historian’s dream,” said June Koelker, dean of the library. “Not to sound cliche, but this truly is the real thing.”

    For the next five years, TCU has 270 texas legation records from the first two years of the Texas Republic, said Chris LaPlante, state archivist at the Texas State Library and Archives. The documents were written by both Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston, LaPlante said.

    The 270 documents had been lost for 161 years. During this time period, the documents survived both a hurricane and a house fire, said Mary Volcansek, dean of AddRan College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

    “The Houston-Jackson family had these documents with them and were rescued by their neighbors from a hurricane,” Volcansek said. “The documents continued to get passed down until J.P. Bryan, an amateur historical collector purchased them at the Texas State Historical Dinner.”

    John Bryan, a 1993 graduate from the Ranch Management program, was at the unveiling, representing his family’s foundation.

    “I am so glad to have a reason to come back to TCU,” Bryan said. “I have not been back since I graduated, and I am proud that TCU will have these documents for the next five years.”

    The records have been restored and went through a $77,000 paper conservation that was funded by the Texas State Archivist, the J.P. and Mary Jon Bryan Foundation, the Lowe Foundation and alumni donations, Volcansek said.

    The parties agreed that the records will be kept at TCU for the next five years. When the five years is over, the records will then be taken and kept at the Texas State Archives, she said.

    Todd Kerstetter, interim director for Texas Studies, talked about what these documents meant both professionally, as a historian, as well as personally.

    “Historians do not have labs; we have archives,” Kerstetter said. “This is truly a great part of Texas History. To be looking and holding these documents is inspiring.”

    The records will be a big part of TCU, both locally and nationally, Chancellor Victor Boschini said.

    “This was a big day for TCU and for Texas,” Boschini said. “The records will be used by TCU students and faculty, as well as scholars from all over.”

    Scholars will be able to come to TCU and do original research on these documents, Boschini said.

    The history department is currently using the Texas Legation Records as part of a graduate seminar, said Gregg Cantrell, professor of history.

    “The graduate seminar currently consists of six TCU graduate students,” Cantrell said. “The class is in transcribing and editing documents, which is what we will be doing with the records.”

    Not everyone will be able to view the papers, said Mike Strom, senior archivist at the library.

    “Work is currently under way to scan the documents,” Strom said. “Since these papers are so special, special permission will have to be given in order to see the actual documents.”

    No current decision has been made on whether to post the records on any TCU affiliated Web site, Strom said.

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