By Sammy Cook
Following along on our theme of Searching in the Archives, where we help you learn more about our records and how to access the materials through a series of blogs posts, this month we wanted to help to provide better access to our General Collection. While our Archival Collections are made up of different documents and diaries, our General Collection consists of different published materials like books and reports. While the shelves of books may look like something you would find at the Austin Public Library, at the Austin History Center you cannot check out any of them. You still have to look at the materials in our Reading Room. But we love empowering and helping you access these materials in an easier and faster way. While our General Collection is different than our Archival Collection it is still extremely important and is a wealth of information. Perhaps you wonder how the Code of the City of Austin has changed over the years? Or you could read a variety of environmental reports about different parts of Austin, like this one about the proposed Barton Creek Wastewater routes.
Austin History Center, Home Page Search Bar
Accessing our General Collection is pretty easy. If you head to our website you can search our General Collection via our “Search AHC books” bar. Within this you can search book titles, keywords, or general topics like “Austin History,” like I searched in this photograph. As you can see I got 14,918 items in my search, but I can refine my search by clicking the “Filter these results” button. You can filter by date, author, item type (like Book, Audio Book, DVD, etcetera), and many others. Filtering can be extremely helpful when you are searching for a general topic like Austin History.
General Collection Filter Search
When you come into the Austin History Center to view these General Collection items bring along the title, author, and the Call Number. The call number is how we have our General Collection organized and is what the archivists in the reading room will use to find the materials for you in minutes.
But, our General Collection is more than just what’s behind closed doors, or as those of you who have been to our reading room have seen, a swinging door. Within our reading room we have a selection of materials that are available to you easily without needing staff to pull them for you. For example, we have what we call our “blue dot” collection which are materials that people often pull about Austin History like Austin, Texas—then and Now. Or, Frank Brown’s Annals of Travis County and of the City of Austin: From the Earliest Times to the Close of 1875 which is a diary of sorts that Brown kept. Brown was elected county clerk of Travis County in 1856 and he wrote down everything that was happening in Austin: for example he has stories of the first Capitol of Austin, an execution, the arrival of the President, and Steamboat navigation in Austin in Chapters Six and Seven of his ‘diaries.’
In addition to the blue dot material from our General Collection we also have Austin City Directories, Yellow Pages, and Yearbooks from the University of Texas and many of Austin’s Elementary, Middle, and High Schools. Our Austin City Directories span from the first directory in 1872 to present. Directories are an extremely important resource for many different types of research. For example, if you just bought a property and are wondering who has lived there before you, the directories can tell you that information. They are often the first resource we point people to for property research. The general collection consists of hundreds of College and High, Middle, and Elementary School Yearbooks. People often come in and search through the yearbooks finding themselves, their friends, or their parents and laugh at the pictures.
Overall, our General Collection is extremely diverse, but is a vital resource and a foundational part of our collection. Archival documents and primary source materials are supported by these great secondary source materials.