banner for department blog

Flashback 1997!

Carey C. Shuart Women's Archive and Research Collection, Houston Hip Hop, In the News, University Archives

The Beloit College Mindset List, a must-read for anyone who wants to feel time quickly slipping away, was recently published for the incoming collegiate freshman class, the majority of which were born in that magical year of 1997 (?!). While it might make some of us feel just a little bit older, the list is worth a read and always provides some eye-opening perspective.

Ron Nief, Tom McBride, and Charles Westerberg (the creators of the list) provide some real marvels, reminding us that, “Among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.” They came into the world around the same time as Dolly the sheep and Michael “Prince” Jackson, Jr. In addition, these young’uns have never licked a postage stamp (#3) and, frankly, it can get a little confusing when old people say, “around the turn of the century” (#17). The one that makes these old bones ache a little more this evening? “The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.” (#26)

In a salute to the University of Houston Cougars Class of 2019, we have gone digging through the archives and share with you a few highlights from the year 1997 housed here at your University of Houston Special Collections.

And, no, we’re not trying just to make you feel old.

#LoveWins at Houston’s 36th Annual Pride Celebration

Carey C. Shuart Women's Archive and Research Collection, Events, Guest Posts, In the News

The following comes to us courtesy of Julia Taylor, Graduate Fellow of the Carey C. Shuart Women’s Archive and Research Collection.

While Friday’s SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality marks a milestone in the struggle for LGBTQIAP rights, Special Collections’ booth at this year’s Houston Pride documented the genealogy of LGBT activists who set the stage for this historic win.

Edward Lukasek’s copy of Liberace: Your Personal Fashion Consultant, a book of Liberace paper dolls emblazoned with life mottos, was a crowd-pleasing favorite.

Edward Lukasek’s copy of Liberace: Your Personal Fashion Consultant, a book of Liberace paper dolls emblazoned with life mottos, was a crowd-pleasing favorite.

This year’s Pride festival and parade took place in downtown Houston instead of the usual shady Montrose locale, making the air-conditioned atmosphere of the LGBT History tent a welcome respite from the Texas heat. Special Collections proudly exhibited rare books and artifacts from the Edward Lukasek Gay Studies Collection and the Norma Lee Gay Studies Collection, as well as papers and ephemera from the Houston Area NOW Collection, the Debra Danburg Papers, and the Kanellos Latino Literary Movement Book Collection. Library staff and volunteers stood by to answer questions and show support as families, couples, and friends perused the display of historical and literary materials.

The LGBT history tent, which was sponsored by AT&T, also housed exhibits from Rice University Special Collections, the Botts Collections of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History, the Houston Public Library, and the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project.  To learn more about the history of Houston Pride, visit their website.

Blues Legend B.B. King and the Texas Music Collection

Houston & Texas History, In the News
promotional poster for B.B. King and Bill Harvey & Orchestra (Texas Music Collection)

promotional poster for B.B. King and Bill Harvey & Orchestra (Texas Music Collection)

Today marks the last day of visitation before the King of Blues is laid to his final rest at the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center.  On hearing the news of this music legend’s passing nearly two weeks ago, one could not help but pause and reflect on his storied career that made him synonymous with the blues and even extended his broad cultural imprint beyond music.  Here at the University of Houston Special Collections, Houston and Texas History Archivist Vince Lee shared some of his ongoing work as part of a digitization project and its surprising connection to B.B. King.

The Texas Music Collection contains research files on the history of Texas music, with an emphasis on the musicians and record labels of the mid-twentieth century.  There among the newspaper clippings, songbooks, and financial records, Lee points out, are promotional photographs of some of the most renowned musicians to call Houston home–including the late B.B. King.

King’s brand of the blues may always be associated with Beale Street and his deep Memphis roots, but the reasons why his photograph might show up in an archival box in Houston are likely less well-known.  A recent piece in the Houston Press by Chris Gray is an excellent primer on the King-Houston connection and references the research of Dr. Roger Wood (author of Down In Houston: Bayou City Blues) on the role music business mogul Don Robey played in King’s connection to Houston.

Founder of Peacock Records, the Houston native Robey acquired Duke Records (previously based in Memphis) with the same business aplomb that marked his other interests and acquisitions, giving him easy access to a roster of talented Memphis-based musicians and industry connections.  Among those connections was a young B.B. King.  Though King never signed with Duke/Peacock, it was natural that the Houston-based Buffalo Booking Agency representing B.B. King (also owned by Robey) would help stock his touring band with musicians from Robey’s many record labels and with plenty of what Wood calls that “Texas tenor, big-band sound.”  These tours, Wood argues, maximized B.B. King’s exposure to audiences and were critical in his professional success.

promotional photograph for the B.B. King Unit (Texas Music Collection)

promotional photograph for the B.B. King Unit (Texas Music Collection)

Materials from the Duke/Peacock label feature prominently in the Texas Music Collection and promotional photographs from the Buffalo Booking Agency are not hard to find.  One promotional photograph for the B.B. King Unit features a very young-looking luminary flanked by his band, including vocalist Mildred Jones (booked exclusively by Buffalo Booking, Houston, TX, the fine print reminds us).

These promotional photographs, that also include other greats like Junior Parker, “Gatemouth” Brown, and Johnny Ace, are another example of the surprises found in the archives on a daily basis.  As we remember B.B. King, we are also thankful to have these reminders of his career and legacy.  Interested researchers may request the Texas Music Collection in the Special Collections Reading Room during our normal hours of operation.

1914-2014: Commemorating One Hundred Years — World War I

Exhibits, In the News, Rare Books, USS Houston & Military History
1914 - 2014: Commemorating One Hundred Years - World War I

“1914 – 2014: Commemorating One Hundred Years – World War I,” an exhibit from the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections

In remembrance of a dark centennial, those opening days of the Great War, the University of Houston Special Collections is proud to offer “1914-2014: Commemorating One Hundred Years — World War I,” a small exhibition of materials held by Special Collections relating to World War I and curated by our own Pat Bozeman, Head of Special Collections.

On November 11, 1918 Germany and the Allies of World War I met in a rail carriage in Compiègne and agreed to a cease fire to take effect on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” ending major hostilities of the world’s first, great war.  It had begun a little over four years prior, in the summer of 1914, and promised a quick and decisive shift in the fault lines of Europe.  Instead, this four year meat grinder would cast a long shadow that rewrote our maps, crumbled our empires, redefined our relationships with one another, and, far from teaching humanity a final and humbling lesson, it ushered in the great and awful maw of man that would be warfare in this new century and our next millennium.

However, for just a brief window beginning that autumn morning in November of 1918, the world was allowed to collectively sigh and reach for rest.  Armistice Day, a day celebrating that longing for calm and peace in the aftermath of war, was born.

As you remember those lost and celebrate the peace they helped bring, we invite you to view this exhibit of original materials produced among the storm and in its wake.  “1914-2014: Commemorating One Hundred Years — World War I” is available for viewing on the first floor of the M.D. Anderson Library at the foot of the Morrie & Rolaine Abramson Grand Staircase.  Highlights include writings from George Bernard Shaw (who saw the wasted lives of youth suffering through the death throes of empires and for capital’s immorality), Rudyard Kipling’s France at War (“They come and fill the trenches and they die… They send more and those die.”), and remarkable examples of WWI propaganda.

If reflections on today have you interested in researching more, remember that in addition to the rare works highlighted above, UH Special Collections is also proud to offer the USS Houston & Military History Collections for study in our Reading Room during normal hours or you can review our Military History Collections via our Digital Library, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Banned Books: The Kanellos Connection

Book of the Month, In the News, Rare Books

In addition to the over 7,000 linear feet of archival collections made available for study at the University of Houston Special Collections, we are also proud to offer over 100,000 rare and antique books for use in our reading room. Each month we will highlight a text from our collections and what makes it so special.

This week, as we observe Banned Books Week along with the American Library Association and other members of the book community, we shift our formula a bit and focus on works in our collection which have historically been challenged, banned, or otherwise removed from public consumption.  The chance overlap of National Hispanic Heritage Month makes for a unique opportunity to highlight our Kanellos Latino Literary Movement Collection.

cover of Negocios by Junot Díaz (1997)

cover of Negocios by Junot Díaz (1997)

Banned “Confiscated” Books of the Month Moment:  Unfortunately, there are a few.  Negocios by Junot Díaz (his Spanish translation of the English language Drown), Zoot Suit and Other Plays by Luis Valdez, and The Magic of Blood by Dagoberto Gilb were all challenged by the Tucson Unified School District in 2012 and, also, all part of a generous donation of works from Dr. Nicolás Kanellos (founder and director of Arte Público Press and the driving force behind the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project).  Thanks to his work, foresight, and longstanding connections in the community, the Kanellos Latino Literary Movement Collection, consisting of over 1,000 books, covering a broad scope and time range of works printed in limited runs, unpublished works, and other writings critical to scholars studying Latino literature, is available for study at the University of Houston Special Collections.

Why so Special Scary?  Warning!  According to the Tucson Unified School District’s decision in the wake of the passage of Arizona House Bill 2281, these books may “promote the overthrow of the United States Government… promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”

cover of Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez (2010)

cover of Zoot Suit by Luis Valdez (2010)

In 2012, rather than fight 2281, Tucson USD officials chose a path of compliance that suspended the district’s Mexican American Studies program.  This process included a public show of collecting, boxing, and carrying off a number of books that were part of the Mexican American Studies teaching materials, sometimes in the presence of students.  District officials insisted that they were not “banning” books, simply “confiscating” a handful of the more egregious outliers.  And, in the spirit of Banned Books Week, who are we to quibble?  A closer look at the MAS reading list, however, will raise some eyebrows.  In addition to the aforementioned “dangerous” works, other pieces on the reading list include revered Latina authors like Sandra Cisneros, as well as canonical and mainstream “Western” or Eurocentric works, like Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience.”

In 2013, a federal court order mandated reinstatement of the program as part of federal desegregation laws aimed at providing equal eduation.  While the issue remains a contentious one in Arizona politics, it is hoped and assumed that this school year, Shakespeare, Thoreau, and all the rest have found a home in the Tucson USD curriculum.

Location:  Those interested (and brave enough) to study these works can access them in the Special Collections Reading Room during our normal hours.  With Banned Books Week and National Hispanic Heritage Month in full swing, why wouldn’t you visit us?

«« Newer Posts     Previous Posts »»