SAA Archives Tour: The Briscoe Center for American History

SAA Archives Tour: The Briscoe Center for American History

On Friday, September 9th, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) UT chapter hosted its annual Fall behind-the-scenes tour of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. This tour gave new and returning students an inside look at the resources available at The Briscoe, which is a premier research center housing archives, library, and artifact collections that document pivotal themes in Texas and U.S. history.  It’s also where I work as the Photo Archives Intern processing image collections, creating finding aids, and providing reference services for researchers. Even though I work there, I love coming on these tours because I learn and see new things every time.  There are countless treasures here, something for everyone to connect with.  

Our group was greeted by Stephanie Malmros (Assistant Director for Archives and Manuscripts) and Margaret Schlankey (Head of Public Services). We met at the LBJ School of Affairs since the Briscoe’s first floor is currently under renovation until February of 2017.  We made our way through the connecting tunnels of Sid Richardson Hall up to one of the processing areas where Neil Byers (Undergrad Intern and Natchez Trace researcher) showed us some of the unusual highlights found in collections of legal papers, as well as some UT ephemera.


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An early 1900s UT swim team suit. Photo by Nikki Koehlert.
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UT Undergrad Intern Neil Byers sharing an old legal document. Photo by Nikki Koehlert.

Our second stop was to the photo archives where Photo Archivist Amy Bowman had prepared a small sampling of images from the center’s collection of over 5 million photographs.  On the table were scenes of early Austin, campus life from the UT Student Publications Collection and a young Elvis Presley from the Bruce Roberts ArchiveBowman discussed what a typical work day is like and the strengths of the photo collection, including the recent acquisition of  renowned Civil Rights photographer Charles Moore’s archive (now featured in the Briscoe’s 25 Years/25 Treasures exhibit at The LBJ Library). To conclude our tour, AudioVisual Archivist, Justin Kovar, and Videogame Archive Intern, Jennifer Allen, showed us highlights from those collections and the type of digital tools used to preserve AV content

AV Archivist Justin Kovar talks preservation challenges, photo by Nikki Koehlert.
AV Archivist Justin Kovar talks preservation challenges. Photo by Nikki Koehlert.

One of the digitized videos on view was from the Archives of American Mathematics, a collection that Archivist Carol Mead noted has many interesting surprises you wouldn’t expect because Mathematicians can be an odd and eccentric bunch. This collection is the only archival repository in the United States solely dedicated to collecting and preserving the papers and records of mathematicians and mathematical organizations.

We wrapped up our tour with treats and good conversation in the break room, where students got to ask several of the archivists and interns, like me, Jennifer, and Neil what it’s like to work at The Briscoe Center and to talk about all the student opportunities available, whether it be an internship, a capstone experience, or just using the amazing resources the Briscoe has to offer for a research project. One of the many benefits of being in SAA-UT are these repository tours where we get to interact with professionals in the field and see the work up close. I highly recommend students to take advantage of these opportunities during their studies.  The UT campus is full of treasures waiting to be explored.

If you didn’t get a chance to go on this tour, SAA usually does another Briscoe tour in the Spring, but keep your eye out for upcoming tours and events. October is Archives Month and the Briscoe Center will be one of many organizations to participate at the Austin Archives Bazaar where they will have a fun, interactive presentation of materials in addition to a photo booth!


Society of American Archivists – University of Texas Student Chapter (SAA-UT)

SAA-UT is a student organization of the School of Information (iSchool) at the University of Texas at Austin. Throughout the academic year, SAA-UT invites guest speakers, arranges archival education events, and organizes trips to area repositories as a way of expanding UT’s archival-education opportunities.

Our mission, as outlined by the national organization, is to introduce and integrate new archivists into the profession, provide additional focus for students to discuss archival issues, and promote archival interests within the University, academic departments, and the public at large.

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Website: https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~saa/

Nikki M. Koehlert on Linkedin
Nikki M. Koehlert
Currently I am in my second year at the iSchool pursuing my MSIS and a Museum Studies Portfolio certification. My focus is archives, museums, and preservation. As the Photographs Intern for The Briscoe Center for American History, I am gaining valuable experience working with primary resources that are utilized by researchers and used in exhibits. The graduate program at the iSchool has enabled me to explore in depth my many interests for the purpose of finding a career that utilizes those skills to become the best cultural steward I can be. To really get the full experience out of my graduate experience at the iSchool, I have been involved with the UT Chapter of The Society of American Archivists acting as the secretary for 2016. Visiting archives and museums with SAA-UT, where you can see professionals in action and make those connections has been so fulfilling.

Nikki M. Koehlert

Currently I am in my second year at the iSchool pursuing my MSIS and a Museum Studies Portfolio certification. My focus is archives, museums, and preservation. As the Photographs Intern for The Briscoe Center for American History, I am gaining valuable experience working with primary resources that are utilized by researchers and used in exhibits. The graduate program at the iSchool has enabled me to explore in depth my many interests for the purpose of finding a career that utilizes those skills to become the best cultural steward I can be. To really get the full experience out of my graduate experience at the iSchool, I have been involved with the UT Chapter of The Society of American Archivists acting as the secretary for 2016. Visiting archives and museums with SAA-UT, where you can see professionals in action and make those connections has been so fulfilling.

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