Briscoe Center Awarded TexTreasures Grant for Bexar Archives
February 25, 2010
AUSTIN, Texas – The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a TexTreasures grant to support online access to the Bexar Archives, one of the most important archival collections of Texas history.
The $19,930 grant was awarded by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission who administers the grant program with funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The grant will fund a one-year project to create the Bexar Archives Online, a web-based, searchable research tool featuring digital images of the original Spanish-language documents along with the corresponding English-language translations.
“As the Bexar Archives are one of our most historically significant collections, I’m thrilled that this grant will improve access to this invaluable resource,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “This new initiative will create a powerful online presence for the Bexar Archives that will benefit researchers worldwide. It’s a fitting continuation of the tremendous care and resources that the University has provided the Bexar Archives for more than 100 years.”
Called “one of the greatest historical treasures of the American continent” by the late historian Lester Gladstone Bugbee, the Bexar Archives constitute the principal resource for the Spanish and Mexican history of Texas from 1717 to 1836. The TexTreasures project will digitize over 8,000 pages of original documents (via microfilm) and 125 volumes of corresponding translations, and will result in a web-based interface called Bexar Archives Online.
“The Bexar Archives is a true Texas treasure, and the Briscoe Center is appreciative of this acknowledgement from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission,” said Brenda Gunn, the Briscoe Center’s associate director for research and collections. “The grant will enable us to provide access to copies of the original Spanish-language documents, and it will also provide the English translations alongside the Spanish. This combined presentation makes the Bexar Archives Online a promising research tool.”
Previous efforts by the Briscoe Center to improve access to the Bexar Archives include the translation of the Spanish-language material into English, an enterprise that encompasses 230 volumes and is ongoing. Microfilming of the documents began in 1967, and the exhaustive calendar (published the same year the microfilming began) describes every document in the Bexar Archives. The Name Guide to the Bexar Archives locates the appearance of a person’s name throughout the Archives, and spans over 1,000 pages. Bexar Archives Online promises to capture all these previous efforts.
“After toiling in the Bexar Archives for three decades, I am more than delighted to have these translations and their original documents made available online to scholars the world over,” said John Wheat, Briscoe Center archivist and Bexar Archives translator. “This project caps a century of stewardship that has helped to unlock the historical treasures that inhabit every page of these archives.”
The TexTreasures grant program is a component of the TexShare Program of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. TexTreasures provide assistance and encouragement to libraries to provide access to their special or unique holdings and to make information about these holdings available to all Texans. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums.
About the Bexar Archives:
Originally housed in San Antonio de Bexar, the capital of Spanish Texas and a departmental capital in the Mexican Republic, the Bexar Archives document the military, civil, political, and religious life of the entire region extending from the borders of Louisiana to the provinces, and later states, of Northern Mexico. The Archives, which constitute some 80 thousand documents in a quarter million pages, were donated in 1899 to the University of Texas.
The documents in this collection cover a wide area of historical information. Copybooks reporting trials of smugglers, highwaymen, thieves, traitors, murderers, deserters from the military, and others who failed to comply with Spanish and Mexican laws give the reader an eyewitness view of judicial processes in early Texas. Royal orders and other official communications record the administrative and financial techniques used by the government. Letters, dispatches, legal papers, and other documents composed by officials, soldiers, clergymen, and other persons provide a vivid account of everyday life over a century ago. Reports of inspection tours, reconnaissance trips, explorations, settlements, and expeditions against hostile Indians are other interesting items in the collection.
For more information, contact: Erin Purdy, The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, 512-495-4692.