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AHC collection storage area

AHC collection storage area

Collections

The Austin History Center collects and preserves historical records of all types documenting Austin's history from before its founding in 1839 to the present. These records are organized into collecting units by type.

Architectural Archives

Architectural Archives link

About the Architectural Archives

The Architectural Archives was formed in 1986 as the Sesquicentennial Project of the Austin Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Architectural drawings, job files, photographs, and personal papers of various local architects comprise these archives.

One item of interest that we hold is the Page Brothers' ink on linen drawings of the 1930 Travis County Courthouse. Also in our architectural archives are the 1938 original drawings by Arthur Fehr of the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Austin History Center houses many architectural drawings from the firm of Bell, Klein, and Hoffman, among them those for the restoration of the Neil-Cochran House and those for the restoration of St. Mary's Cathedral.  We also have drawings for a number of residential properties in Austin.

Over 150 architects and firms are represented in our collection, including:

  • Bell, Klein & Hoffman
  • Fehr & Granger
  • Winfred O. Gustafson
  • August Watkins Harris
  • Jessen, Jessen, Milhouse & Greeven
  • Kuehne, Brooks & Barr
  • Lundgren & Maurer
  • Page Southerland Page

Using the Architectural Archives

Architectural Archives items are accessed through a card catalog in our Reading Room and through an in-house database. Items must be viewed in our Reading Room.

Due to a lack of in-house copying facilities for oversize items such as architectural drawings, large-format reproductions are performed off-site. The Austin History Center charges a $40.00 plus tax fee for facilitating the order of the materials. Items are taken to Miller IDS for reproduction, with the charges to be paid by the requestor directly to Miller IDS. Turnaround time is dependent upon staff time and can be affected by inclement weather.

The Austin History Center reserves the right to deny copying of oversized materials if the item is deemed too fragile. All responsibility for possible copyright infringement arising from the use of reproductions must be assumed by the requestor. The work of active architects may require additional permissions from the creator before the order can be processed.

Projects & Exhibits

Architectural Archives Oral History Project

two women at a tableIn 2015 the Austin History Center (AHC), with assistance from a grant from the Austin Foundation for Architecture, began conducting oral history interviews with Austin-area architects as one component of the AHC Architectural Archives' goal of preserving the city's architectural heritage. The objective of the oral history project is to capture information about the interviewee’s experiences in the field of architecture, their contributions to Austin's history and built environment and their thoughts on the growth and development of Austin that they have witnessed during their lives. Learn more and listen to the oral histories.

This project is ongoing with the intention of conducting four to six interviews a year, so check back periodically for new stories!

Fehr and Granger: Austin Modernists

AR.2009.014(171)This online exhibit explores the work of mid-century modern architects Arthur Fehr and Charles Granger with photographs from the Austin History Center's collections. Photo at left: Austin National Bank Drive-In, AR-2009-014-171, Photograph by Dewey Mears.

Archives and Manuscripts

Archives and Manuscripts link

The Austin History Center houses over 1,200 manuscript collections that contain the papers and records of City and County departments, local families, civic and cultural organizations, businesses, and institutions. These valuable primary research materials fill more than 8,000 linear feet of boxes. Detailed inventories for many of these collections are available to researchers by searching our ArchivesSpace catalog or viewing the printed guides to collections in our Reading Room. Additionally, inventories of some collections can also be found at Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO). Here is a guide to using our finding aids found on TAROContact Us if you would like to inquire about a particular collection.

Austin Files

Austin Files link

The AHC's vertical files are a great go-to source for basic Austin History. The collection consists of thousands of files maintained by the staff of the Austin History Center that cover many topics about Austin and Travis County. Files contain printed items such as newspaper and magazine clippings, brochures, press releases, short reports and more. They are broken up into the three categories listed below. Files can only be viewed on-site at the Austin History Center.

Subject Files

These files are arranged alphabetically by subject. Topics as general as agriculture or as specific as Barton Springs can be found in these files. Two lists of the file names provide a sense of the collection.  The first list shows a T next to file listings for which we have a text file.  These will contain short, loose-leaf items such as newspaper clippings, brochures, and other printed materials.  File names showing a P next to them will have a photograph file available.

Biography Files

The Biography files contain information about citizens of Austin who have made an impact on their community.  They are arranged by the names of the individuals or the surname of their family. Individuals and family names from this series have been cataloged in the Austin Public Library's Catalog

House Building Files

The House Building files have information about structures located around the city, although the heaviest concentration documents the central part of town. These files are arranged by street address. Most of these have been entered in the Austin Public Library's Catalog.

Books/City Reports

Books/City Reports link

The Austin History Center general collection contains more than 22,000 items, including books, local government documents, and unpublished reports documenting the history and current activities of Austin and Travis County. The items in the general collection are searchable in the Austin Public Library Online Catalog.

Books, Directories and More

Our books and unpublished reports include:

  • Books about Austin and Travis County
  • Some books by local authors
  • Transcriptions of oral history interviews
  • Church and social club directories
  • City directories
  • Austin File Chronological
  • Annals of Frank Brown
  • Yearbooks from local schools and universities

Local business sources are popular and include:

  • Business directories
  • Statistical reports
  • Market surveys
  • Chamber of Commerce publications
  • Annual reports of local companies and non-profits

Government  Documents

The Austin History Center serves as the official repository for the records of the City of Austin. We also have some documents from other local government entities. Our government document collection includes:

  • Census for Travis County
  • Budgets
  • Environmental reports
  • Minutes for various boards and commissions--see also the recordings collection.
  • Internment records
  • Annual reports for City departments
  • City Council Minutes--see also the recordings collection

Maps

Maps link

The Austin History Center has more than one thousand maps of Austin and Travis County from the mid-1800s to the present. These maps illustrate the City's changing size and shape over the years and offer invaluable clues to the history of structures and landmarks long since gone from our landscape. Use the Map Guide to review an index of our collection and to search for a specific map. 

Maps in the collection include:

  • Bird's-eye view maps
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance maps from 1885 to the 1970s.  Some Sanborn Maps are available from the APL's digital resourcesTexas Digital Sanborn Maps is made available through the TexShare program, and you will need an Austin Public Library card to access it from your home computer.
  • Aerial photographs from the 1940s to 1989
  • Travis County Highway Maps (Texas County Highway Maps are available online, for some years, from the University of Texas.)
  • Plats, abstract maps and neighborhood plats
  • Cemetery maps
  • Austin street maps
  • City of Austin Use maps
  • Topographic and geologic maps of Austin and Travis County

The Perry-Castañeda Library at the University of Texas has a number of Austin area maps available online in its Map Collection. 

The AHC created this map of Austin's Freedmen Communities. The map, using a historic map from the collection as the base map and information gathered from multiple sources, shows the locations and approximate boundaries of the various freemen communities that sprang up after the Civil War.

Duplicating Maps

Due to a lack of in-house copying facilities for oversize items such as maps, large-format reproductions are performed off-site. The Austin History Center charges a $40.00 plus tax fee for facilitating the order of the materials. Items are taken to Dynamic Reprographics for reproduction, with the charges to be paid by the requestor directly to Dynamic Reprographics. Turnaround time is dependent upon staff time and can be affected by inclement weather.

The Austin History Center reserves the right to deny copying of oversized material if the item is deemed too fragile. All responsibility for possible copyright infringement arising from the use of reproductions must be assumed by the requestor. Current maps that are clearly protected by copyright are not eligible for oversize duplication.

Online Collections

Online Collections link

The Austin History Center has partnered with several other organizations to digitize some of our holdings and make them available online. Read about them below. A selection of materials from our collections is also available on our Austin History Center Digital Collections site. Online photo collections are described here, and you can also use other databases and online reference tools. Our online exhibits have additional digitized materials. For digital audio content visit our Soundcloud page, and to view some of our videos visit our YouTube page.

City Directories

city directoryAustin city directories from 1872-73, 1877-78, 1881-82, 1885-86, 1889-90, 1897-98, 1906-7, 1912-13, 1918, and 1922 are scanned and searchable online through the Portal to Texas History.

O. Henry Project

O. Henry LetterThe O. Henry Collection consists primarily of the short stories of William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), written under his pseudonym O. Henry. Each story is available as it first appeared in the popular magazines of the day, and these and other stories published posthumously can also be found in first edition compilation books, and later as part of his collected works. The online sampling also includes some legal documents, photographs, letters, postcards, and other ephemera.

Pease, Graham and Niles Families Papers

Pease, Graham, and Niles Families PapersThe Pease, Graham, and Niles Families Papers consist of materials related to multiple generations of the families of Elisha Marshall Pease, who was governor of Texas from 1853 to 1857 and from 1867 to 1869, and his wife, Lucadia Christiana (Niles) Pease. The collection is composed of five different acquisitions and includes personal, professional, and political documents from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. E. M. Pease and his family were meticulous record keepers, allowing current and future generations a very detailed and intimate view into the personal and professional accomplishments of three noted American families. Included in the Papers are correspondence; agreements, contracts, and deeds; ledgers; maps and blueprints; broadsides and circulars; diaries and journals; newspaper clippings; books and magazines; bills and receipts; and photographs. This online collection through the Portal to Texas History includes a sampling of more than 100 items from the collection and represents the breadth of subjects covered in the papers.

The Rag

The RagThe Rag was a campus underground newspaper published by students at the University of Texas at Austin in the 1960s and 1970s. The digital collection is hosted by Independent Voices by Reveal Digital.

Texas History Collection

Texas History60 books related to Texas history from the holdings of the Austin History Center have been scanned and made available online through the Portal to Texas History.

Oral History/Audio

Oral History/Audio link

Oral Histories and Recollections

Austin History Center staff, along with many dedicated volunteers, have made oral history recordings documenting the rich and colorful history of more than 400 local residents and public figures. This collection also includes audio tapes recorded during historical marker dedication ceremonies, as well as tapes of local radio interviews from the 1970s. In addition, researchers have donated interview tapes created during the course of studying Austin's history. Anthony Orum, for example, donated tapes he recorded in the process of writing his books, Power, Money and the People: the Making of Modern Austin and City Building in America.

Find some samples of our recordings online, including the only known recording of O. Henry. Our Soundcloud account also has excerpts from the oral histories of Joe Lung, Emma Long, and Lady Bird Johnson among others.

Transcripts exist for a number of these oral histories and are available for use in the Reading Room. Some of the tapes also lead to manuscripts and other archival resources in the collection. You can review the Oral History Subject Guide below to find oral history recordings on specific topics. Our staff can also consult an in-house database to determine whether we have an oral history for a specific person or on any topic not included in the guide or whether transcripts exist for the recording. Check out an example of a fully transcribed recording below as well.  Please contact us to ask for this search.

One of our larger oral history projects was the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center Oral History Project. Read more about it and listen to some excerpts.

Music

Even before Austin declared itself the "Live Music Capital of the World," the Austin History Center began collecting and preserving examples of music from the local scene. Included in the sound recording collection are the recordings of artists such as Kenneth Threadgill, Joe Ely, the Grey Ghost, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Uranium Savages, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Recordings produced by local groups such as the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir and Crockett High School are available in the music collection.  Music recordings can be searched in the Austin Public Library Catalog.

The Austin Music Network

The Austin Music Network began documenting live performances in clubs and venues around Austin in 1994. The Archives of the Austin Music Network are now part of the Austin History Center collection. Music & Entertainment Television, launched by Austin Music Partners, took over the channel in 2005, and many of their shows are available at the Austin History Center.

Periodicals

Periodicals link

Over three thousand titles of current and defunct magazines, journals, newspapers, and newsletters of local interest are available here at the Austin History Center. Not only do we offer the local daily and weekly newspapers, but we have a substantial collection of newsletters published by local organizations, businesses, and neighborhood groups. We are happy to check to see if we have a particular uncataloged title. You an also use the list below to browse the titles we have.

We have a complete run of the Austin American-Statesman since 1871 on microfilm.  We do not retain original copies of this title beyond three months from publication date.  See the Austin American-Statesman Resource Guide for a listing of the indexes available for accessing the paper.  Access to the microfilm is chronological.  It is not possible to search for a person's name on the film. If you are searching for an obituary, you will need a date of death to begin your search. 

The Library also subscribes to a database with historical coverage of the Statesman and two other databases with recent coverage.

Other titles that you might recognize from our collection include:

  • The Rag (Available online in nearly its entirety.) 
  • Austin Chronicle
  • NOKOA
  • Texas Triangle
  • Austin Business Journal
  • Westlake Picayune
  • El Vanguardia
  • Texas State Gazette

Photographs

Photographs link

The Austin History Center's Photograph Collection contains over a million images ranging in date from the mid-19th century to the present. These images illustrate the changes in the people, events, and natural and built environment that Austin has seen through the years. 

The Austin History Center welcomes donations of photographs that document the city and people of Austin and Travis County. If you are interested in making a donation or have any other questions related to photographic holdings please contact the Collections Manager. You can also read more about our donation process in general.

Collections

The Austin History Center’s extensive photographic holdings are divided among several different collections. Explore our photographic holdings with our Photography Resources Guide. The majority of our photographs are only viewable in person, on site, but we have some images available online.

Use the links below to learn more about these specific collections:

Video

Video link

Government Videos

Videos from Channel 6 or ATXN, the City of Austin government access channel, are preserved here. These recordings include City Council meetings from 1984 through the present and other government board and commission meeting recordings, such as the Parks and Recreation Board, the Planning Commission, the Charter Revision Committee, the Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities, and the Telecommunications Commission. A full inventory of the Channel 6/ATXN recordings can be viewed here. Equipment is available for self-service duplication; just bring your own DVD-R.  Alternatively, we can sell you one in our Reading Room for $3 plus tax.

Local News Broadcasts

Video recordings of television news from each of four local network affiliates--ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC--are preserved here. These video recordings span the time period of April 1, 1984 to December 31, 2013. Videos from April 1, 1984 to September 30, 2004 are available on VHS tapes; videos from October 1, 2004 to December 31, 2013 are available on DVD. Logbooks listing the stories from the local broadcasts (up to December 2011) are available on request. Keyword searches of the newer broadcasts can done from a link on the two public access computers in the Reading Room.

Productions Concerning our Local Community

Our collection also includes video recordings produced by government agencies and nonprofit groups to inform the public. We have, for instance, videos produced by the local Police Department and Bat Conservation International. In addition, the collection contains videos produced for pure entertainment by local individuals or groups. All of these videos produced to educate or entertain are listed on the Austin Public Library's online catalog (use the search bar at the top of this page).

Duplication

Upcoming change in services due to October closure: Starting on Monday, September 18th, and until October 23rd, we will not be accepting reproduction requests. Please plan accordingly.

The Austin History Center offers duplication on some, but not all, of our audio and video items for a fee. Duplications are considered on a case-by-case basis and are handled through the same operation as our photographic reproductions. Contact our audiovisual archivist for more details. 

YouTube

Visit and subscribe to our YouTube channel to see clips of videos from some of our collections.