Highlights of Southwestern’s Special Collections
The Special Collections department of the A. Frank Smith, Jr. Library Center at Southwestern University holds more than 13,000 titles, in addition to 1,390 linear feet of archival and manuscript collections. It is also home to the new Digital Texas Heritage Resource Center (DTHRC), a website that offers selections of key materials from Special Collections.
Jason Dean, director of special collections and archives for the university, says the selections in the DTHRC are “highlights of the large number of digitized materials we have in the Portal to Texas History and the Digital Public Library of America.”
The Center uses Omeka, which bills itself as a “free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions.” Jason says that anyone with an Internet connection can access the center at texasheritage.omeka.net. Once there, users can browse the curated collections or search by keyword.
Library staff and students selected the objects and collections of interest to highlight in the Center. The objects were then digitized and described with metadata before being published on the site. Users can, for example, learn about Texas frontier social customs by accessing the papers of Texas “cattle queen” and entrepreneur Lizzie Johnson, or they can read a letter from Thomas Falconer, written from a Mexican prison after he and other members of the Santa Fe Expedition were captured after that group’s attempt to gain more territory for Texas. Readers seeking Senator John Tower’s speeches can find digitized versions of them on the site, too.
After two years at the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville) Libraries, Jason joined Southwestern in August last year. He hopes that the DTHRC will entice people to use the library and Special Collections in person, since only a fraction of the library holdings are represented in the Center. He explains that “even with careful handling, frequently used paper materials have a finite lifespan. Providing digital access allows for reduced wear and tear on the paper objects.”
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