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AHC Reading Room

AHC Reading Room, 2013


In addition to collecting and preserving the materials that document Austin's unique history, the Austin History Center serves as a research institution where customers can easily and efficiently access those materials for study.  Some research using our materials may be accomplished remotely, but most of our resources will have to be viewed on-site.  We offer a variety of reference and duplication services to assist you.

About History Center Research

About History Center Research link

Online Research
Subject guides compiled on a range of topics can help pinpoint AHC resources that fit your research needs, and some online databases are available.  We also offer a general description of Austin's history. Basic information about preserving your own archival items is also available. 

Reference Services
Do you have a short, factual question that you would like for a staff member to answer?  Submit it using our contact form.  Are you in need of photocopies or an obituary, but you cannot visit the AHC in person?  For a fee, we provide these services.

Visit Us
If you have used our online tools or worked with a staff member to determine that we have materials that you would like to view in person, please see our information about what to expect from a research visit to the Austin History Center.

Austin History

Austin History link

Are you interested in the general history of Austin, Texas?  We have a number of useful basic reference books and files available in our Reading Room.

A brief, updated history of Austin is coming soon.

Do you already know your stuff when it comes to the history of Austin?  For fun, take our quiz! Or, use it as an Austin FAQ.

Subject Guides

Reference Services

Reference Services link

The Austin History Center (AHC) strives to make information about Austin and Travis County readily available to the public. Our books, periodicals and much of our media collection are listed in the Austin Public Library's Catalog and many of our archival collection finding aids have been posted to Texas Archival Resources Online. Our other materials may be accessed using a variety of in-house indexes, catalogs, databases and research guides. Our Reading Room staff is available to assist you in the use of these items.

Contact Us
If you have a question that requires only a short, factual answer, you may submit your question using our online form or call our reference desk at 512-974-7480.

Assistance with more in-depth research questions requires a fee and is discussed below.

Requests for In-Depth Research Assistance

** December 15, 2023: Paid research assistance is temporarily suspended due to limited staffing. See below for information on hiring a researcher.

The Austin History Center offers limited research assistance. The AHC charges a $15.00 non-refundable fee that entitles you to up to 30 minutes of staff research time ($16.24 for Texas residents due to sales tax).

To initiate a research request, fill out the Research Request Form and staff will contact you for a method of payment. We accept credit cards, checks, and money orders. Work on your request will begin when both the order form and complete payment are received. Orders are completed within two weeks. Customers are limited to one hour of research per month.

Please note that the Austin History Center reserves the right to refuse to fill any copy request because of potential damage to a fragile original or other concerns. We will make every effort to quickly inform customers if we cannot fill an order.

If you are unable to visit the Austin History Center in person and your project is one that requires in-depth research beyond the service that we are able to provide, you may wish to consider hiring a researcher from the Archivists of Central Texas’s proxy researcher list.

Other Duplication Requests
We are able in many cases to duplicate photographs and audio-visual materials for a fee. We also facilitate duplications of some oversized items through an outside vendor.

Online Reference Tools

Online Reference Tools link

The following databases and online reference tools may be helpful to your research. To view our digitized collections view our Online Collections page or our Online Photo Collections page.

Ancestry - For genealogy research, use the Library's subscription to Ancestry, a comprehensive online source of information with billions of names in over 6,000 databases.

Austin American-Stateman Databases - The Library subscribes to several databases for searching local news articles.

Booklists - Variety of resources about Austin history, geneology, and more. Some items are in the Library's collection to check out, and some are available for use at the Austin History Center.

City of Austin Public Records - Access public records found in the Office of the City Clerk including:

  • Council-Approved Records (Council Meeting Agenda and Minutes, Ordinances, Resolutions, and more)
  • Municipal Election Documents (Ballot Applications, Contribution and Expenditure Reports, and Campaign Treasurer Appointments)
  • Municipal Utility District (MUD) Documents

Oakwood Database - A listing of burials in Austin's oldest cemetery, Oakwood, located at 1601 Navasota St. The names included in this database were extracted from centuries old ledgers preserved in the archives at the Austin History Center. The data reflects the verbatim transcription of these records dating from 1866 through 1918 with additional years being added periodically.

Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO) - Online finding aids (collection inventories) for our archival collections are searchable in this database which is hosted by the University of Texas at Austin.

Travis Central Appraisal District - Find general information about the Appraisal District and the ad valorem property tax system in Texas, as well as information regarding specific properties within the district.

Preserving Your History

Preserving Your History link

Preserving family photographs, personal papers, and other precious materials provides a valuable legacy for future generations. Many of the methods and materials traditionally used to store and display these heirlooms, however, can cause them to deteriorate and fade before their time. Follow these guidelines to keep your family memories vivid.


  • Store precious materials in a stable environment, below 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 50% humidity. Keep the temperature and humidity constant.
  • Protect materials with acid-free boxes, sleeves, and folders.
  • Mount items on acid-free paper using archivally safe mounts.
  • Copy newspaper articles onto acid-free paper.
  • Interleave acidic items, such as newsprint, with buffered tissue.
  • Use only PVC-free page protectors such as polypropylene or polyester.
  • Use adhesives such as wheat starch paste or methyl cellulose.
  • Identify and date each item directly on the item itself; identify each person in photographs.
  • Use soft pencils and use only acid-free matting material and a window mat to hold photos and drawings away from glass.
  • Provide acid-free supports behind large or brittle photos.
  • Unfold or unroll items flat for storage (generally).


  • Don't expose materials to unnecessary light.
  • Don't store precious materials in the attic, the basement, or hot or damp spaces.
  • Don't store precious materials in wood boxes or cabinets or cardboard shoe boxes.
  • Don't use 'magnetic' pages in albums.
  • Don't use tape of any kind (masking, transparent, or removable) or rubber cement.
  • Don't use staples, ordinary paper clips, straight pins, or rubber bands.
  • Don't use ballpoint pens for marking.
  • Don't write on paper that rests on top of precious books, photos, or documents.
  • Don't press a book's spine to force it completely open when reading or copying.
  • Don't touch the image side of a photo or the emulsion (dull) side of a negative.

Take a look at these handouts for more detailed advice on preservation:

For more information consult the Austin History Center's links to preservation sites or get involved with a local preservation group.

What to Expect Researching In Person

What to Expect Researching In Person link

To ensure the security and preservation of our materials, when you arrive at the Austin History Center we will ask that you:

  • Sign in at the front desk.
  • Place all bags and personal belongings in the lockers provided. Exceptions are provided for cameras, phones, and laptops, as long as you lock up the case.  You may also bring in up to five (5) loose sheets of your own notes.
  • Use pencils, not pens, while in the Reading Room. We provide pencils and note paper.
  • Fill out a call slip to request materials and staff will retrieve materials for you.
  • Use all of our materials in the Reading Room. Items may not be checked out.
  • Archival research can be time-consuming; please plan accordingly and provide yourself sufficient time to do your research. 

Also available in our Reading Room:

  • Photocopier.  The rate is $.20 per page, payable by cash, check or credit cards when you are ready to leave.
  • Four microform reader-printers. Two of our machines can scan microforms to a PC. The image files can then be either e-mailed via webmail or transferred to a flash drive. Unfortunately, the current computers cannot burn files to a CD.
  • Two computers to access Austin History Center and Austin Public Library reference databases.
  • Televisions, VCRs, DVD players, record and audiocassette players for accessing items from our Audio-Video collections.
  • Adaptive equipment: Kurzweil reader, Jaws and Magic.