Have you seen the tents in front of the grocery stores, bursting at the seams with blossoms and blooms? You had not forgotten, had you? She raised you better than that.
Mother’s Day is this weekend, April showers have brought on May flowers, and, as I cannot move about our fair city without the sweet waft of offerings for Mom in my nose, there seems no better time to highlight the work of some of Houston’s green thumbs. Their toiling ready to bear fruit, May is typically the time of year that garden and flower clubs in Houston begin to wind down their activities and meetings and take some time to bask in their handiwork.
In Houston, we are fortunate to be home to a number of garden and flower clubs that assist in the obvious, the beautification of the city, but also benefit the community in more subtle ways, through various service projects. In addition, historically these types of organizations have allowed for an arena of subtle political action for women. Having secured a right to vote early in the 20th century, equality remained elusive. Prior to the Women’s Liberation struggles of the 1960s, it was not uncommon to think a woman “unladylike” for vociferously proclaiming her political opinions or for simply asserting herself in the public sphere. These clubs and organizations, dominated by women and out of sight to about half the population, provided almost a parallel system of local political maneuvering. Members were able to negotiate and channel their politics through the selection of service projects and causes championed, thereby impacting public life.
The Houston Council of Texas Garden Clubs Records collects a number of scrapbooks and documents detailing the history and work of the chapter, including documents related to shows and service projects. The River Oaks Blossom Club Records date back to 1939 and include scrapbooks, yearbooks, photographs, and administrative files.
Of course, if all of this beauty has you reassessing your stewardship of the environment, and you want to make sure you’re taking care of that other Mother of yours, our Houston History Archives hold a number of resources documenting the environmental history and activism of the Houston and Gulf Coast region. Collection highlights there include the Park People Records, the Bayou Preservation Association, and, of course, the Terry Tarlton Hershey Papers.
Don’t forget to take care of your Mother on Sunday and be sure to come examine these wonderful resources and collections during the week. Caps and gowns are fluttering across campus, but we remain open and at your service Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm.
To mine, to yours, to all, a Happy Mother’s Day!
This weekend the Houston Saengerbund Maennerchor will host the 67th annual Texas State Saengerfest in League City. Houston’s oldest music organization will lead this two-day celebration of German music and culture while showcasing new and original music from Rebecca Oswald, R. Michael Daugherty, and Carlie Hunder Burdett.
During the 19th century German immigrants were drawn to Texas, spurred on by a number of factors. Early settlers like Johann Friedrich Ernst (or Friedrich Diercks) sought independence and economic opportunity. Ernst’s letters home championed the cheap and readily available land through Empresario Austin, the mild winters, and the wide-open landscape teeming with game and natural resources. These letters were published in Germany and they spurred on a wave of wide-eyed optimists ready to make their new lives. Later, a number of colonization programs would try to capitalize on this popularity with Germans and ramped up immigration into Texas. By the 1890s rural German enclaves peppered across the Texas landscape while significant percentages of the population had been established in San Antonio, Galveston, and Houston, creating a virtual German Belt.
This German influx led to the establishment of a number of singing societies, not only in Texas but around the country, embracing the old Germanic culture of the Saengerfest. Those longing for the Fatherland could return home, if only in song, for those few happy hours of meeting and celebration. However, during the first half of the 20th century, membership numbers would reflect concerns over anti-German sentiment as horrific warfare dominated the European landscape and spilled over into the rest of the world. Shortly after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Houston Saengerbund changed their name to “The Houston Singing Society,” ceased singing German songs, and began using English as their official language of operation (as reflected in the recorded minutes). Following World War II, as tensions subsided, the club restored their official name and purpose — the celebration of German music.
Today, 130 years after its founding, the Houston Saengerbund continues that celebration.
At the University of Houston Special Collections, our Houston Saengerbund Records stand ready to share in that rich history of celebration. The collection contains materials dating back to the society’s inception up to the present day, including records, Saengerfest songbooks, and programs (some as early as the 19th century). Whether you are a vokalist looking to add to your repertoire or you just want a little sampling of the Vaterland, drop by Special Collections and have a look.
On April 3, the UH Libraries hosted Elliott Shore, Association of Research Libraries Executive Director, on his “listening tour” of ARL libraries. While at the library, Dr. Shore visited Special Collections to hear about the department’s work and view some of the items in the archive.
Dr. Shore spoke with department librarians and archivists about a number of topics, including the Special Collections fellows program, department outreach activities, and ideas for ARL-sponsored educational opportunities. Curators told Dr. Shore about the materials in the collections, and he got a first hand-look at a number of great items. These included a copy of the Daily Cougar from the university’s first day as a full-fledged university in 1934, telegrams dating to 1918 regarding the organization of women’s suffrage in Texas, a letter from President Andrew Jackson regarding sending troops to Texas, a Book of Hours, a map of a 1937 Harris County Flood Control plan, and a notebook from Houston rap artist HAWK.
Special Collections was delighted to have the opportunity to share our collections with Dr. Shore!
Student library assistant Thuan Vu from Special Collections has been awarded a prestigious Hamill Library Scholarship! This merit-based scholarship is awarded to library student assistants in good standing, who exhibit leadership qualities, and who are full time students with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
Thuan, a senior majoring in Electrical Engineering at UH, has worked in Special Collections for almost three years. In addition to being the “face” of the department by working at the reception desk and greeting patrons, Thuan also retrieves and shelves rare books and archival materials; assists in processing collections; makes archival book covers; enters metadata; performs general office duties such as filing and copying; and handles anything else thrown his way.
Thuan is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and also volunteers for Project C.U.R.E., troubleshooting and repairing medical equipment that will be donated to developing countries around the world.
2013 marks the 25th anniversary of The Engines of Our Ingenuity, a nationally-syndicated radio program that started at UH. Professor John Lienhard created, wrote, and hosted 1856 episodes of the show, including episode 1, which was broadcast by KUHF-FM Houston on January 4, 1988.
The show was soon airing nationally and resulted in Dr. Lienhard giving talks around the country as well as publishing a book. The Professor John Lienhard Papers in Special Collections document both the history of Engines through audio recordings and transcripts, as well as Dr. Lienhard’s professional career through correspondence, personal papers, and drafts of published works.