Adventures of Hailey, Special Collections Intern

Welcome to our guest blogger, Hailey from UNT, Spring 2020’s, SHSU Special Collection practicum intern. She is going to tell us about her adventure in the Special Collections Thomason Room before the pandemic hit.

When researching sites to complete my practicum, I decided to see what Sam Houston State University could possibly have to offer in the field I wanted to peruse. SHSU was where I received my Bachelor’s degree from, so I was familiar with the library. Realizing that they had a special collections/archives department, which I have always been interested in as I am following the archival studies program for my degree. Special Collections libraries and Academic Libraries were both institutions that I was curious about but have never been able to experience firsthand. Luckily, I was told that they were interested, and I began my practicum experience in the Special Collections Department at the Newton Gresham Library during the Spring 2020 semester.

I was given my first task of creating a display for the library. I was told that it could be over anything and I could use any of the library’s resources to create it. I decided that since I would be working with the special collections department for most of my practicum, I wanted to use some of the materials they had, especially since these materials are not often seen by many staff and students.

First, I needed to browse through the collections in order to know what my options were. The Special Collections Department has a variety of collections ranging from a very large criminal justice collection to a collection of Mark Twain ephemera and books. After browsing through the finding aids online, I decided that I wanted to look at the Minnie Fisher Cunningham collection and the staff pulled the box so that I could look through it.

I was not familiar with Minnie Fisher Cunningham to begin with, but after looking through the materials they had on her, I acquired a greater knowledge of her as a person and an activist. She played a very big part in the second women’s suffrage movement, helping women win the right to vote. As this year is the centennial of the 19th Amendment, I thought she was the perfect person to create a display over.

After deciding my topic, I then dove head first into her collection in order to figure out which materials I wanted to showcase. I decided I would provide a summary of her achievements, and then select the materials that best represented them. She was a major player in getting women the right to vote, but she also ran to be a Texas senator and Texas Governor, so I wanted to represent that as well. Eventually, I decided to use nine materials in the display, most of which came from her collection but a few from other collections, as well as my summary panels.

It was a very good first task, in my opinion, because it allowed me to become familiar with the Special Collections Department and all of the collections they hold. I was able to learn how the Thomason Room was set up, how the finding aids were organized, and how the Special Collections Department promotes their collections. I finished my display in March 2020, which is also Women’s History Month.

The above photograph shows what the final display looked like when it was finished on the second floor of the Newton Gresham Library.

Happy 50th Golden Anniversary to the Newton Gresham Library!

The images you see are two of  SHSU Archivist Barbara Kievit-Mason’s favorite early images of the new University library in 1969 and 1970.

Fifty years ago, the brand new three million-dollar University Library opened its doors to the students of the Sam Houston State College. It would be 4 months before the College would officially become, Sam Houston State University.

The University Library took its own sweet time to make its appearance. Waiting patiently as its sister buildings, AB-1 and the Business/Economics Building was built, the new library managed to go up stopping now and then for weather, building workers strikes, and moving of all the book shelves and books coming over from the older Estill Library.

Finally, on January 5, 1969, the doors opened and the sparkling new University Library started its time as the new temple of knowledge on the university campus. Decked out in the most up to date library equipment and furniture the students flocked to the new library.

Fifty years later, they are still flocking in for the most up to date library electronic equipment and trained staff and librarians. Some things remain the same, furniture, basic floor plans and elevators. However, many things have changed. These changes include: In 1985 the University Library was dedicated to Newton Gresham, SHSTC alumni, and friend of the University, the library catalogue is seen across the world, fancy coffee is bought and consumed within the library, books are checked out in a flash, computer are everywhere for the students to use, and nearly everything is electronic.

In addition, come 2020 another new era will begin for the NGL. There will be a major renovation going on for the first and second floor. The renovation will give the students even more reason to flock to the NGL for another 50 years.

1943 Library Stamp, POWS, and SHSU’s Country Campus

#TBT – In recent months the Newton Gresham Library has started to weed through the collection of books in the library.

This 1943 library stamp found in a book called, Stories for Men an Anthology by Charles Grayson, 1925, played an important part in the history of Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, and Walker County.

The seventy-four year old library stamp was used to identify books that were from the library of the Station House Hospital in the Enemy Alien Internment Camp, Huntsville, Texas. Commonly known as the Huntsville Alien Internment Camp or the Huntsville Prisoner of War Camp. Built in 1942 the camp held German POWs and later on Japanese prisoners of war. POWs and servicemen who were there were allowed to borrow books from the library while they were in the hospital.

In 1946, the camp was closed and then SHSU President Dr. Harmon Lowman acquired the camp, later reopening it to house returning veterans who would receive the G.I. Education Bill that enabled them to go to college or vocational school. Renamed, “Country Campus,” in 1946 the camp became a small city and housed classes for the Josey Vocational School. The “CC” had its own post office, church, baseball diamond, and food facilities.

The University owned the, “Country Campus,” until 1993. Country Campus was than purchased by a SHSU alumnus whose family was one of the original landowners who sold the land for the internment camp to the US government in 1942. A small plot of land donated by this same family to SHSU holds the university’s observatory used by students to observe the stars and night sky events. #SHSULibrary

Let It Snow: Old Main, Austin Hall, and Peabody Library 1924

sc wilson 1924

So as a cool break from the heat the SHSU University Archives presents these two pictures from 1924 found in the S. C. Wilson Collection of the Old Main Building, Austin Hall, and Peabody Memorial Library covered in snow.

Note the Austin Hall Building still had a three floor in the lower photograph.

For more snow pictures or to see the rest of the S. C. Wilson Collection come visit the Sam Houston State University Archives in the Newton Gresham Library, Room 400.

Students Studying at the Peabody Library


peabodylibrary 1915

This is a photograph of students studying in the Peabody Library in 1915. The Peabody Library, which began as a one room library in Old Main, was constructed in 1902.

It served as the main library until 1929 when it was moved to the bigger Estill building. After renovations in the 1980s, it was rededicated in 1991 and became the home of University Archives from 1991-2004. The building now serves as a social hall for meetings and events.


Innovative Instruction in Thomason Special Collections



Felicia Williamson and Trent Shotwell taking to Diana Dowdey’s ENGL 3361 class

We are excited to announce that we are teaching more students how to use archival resources in their research in Thomason Special Collections than ever before. Significantly, we have collaborated with several professors this semester to offer innovative, hands-on assignments that will engage students with primary source documents. For example, we are working with Dr. Lila Rakoczy and Dr. Diane Dowdey to have their classes transcribe primary source documents and then the students will use these experiences to write a response paper which will incorporate additional primary and secondary sources from the collections we maintain. This will enhance the students’ learning experience by engaging them first through the sometimes intense transcription process and second by the required research in our collections required by the paper. Many of the students in these courses have never worked with transcription nor have they held an archival document or rare book in their hands – this assignment requires that they truly engage with our materials.

After our time with these students they often return to Thomason Special Collections again and again and have a new understanding of how archival research can augment Google searching and database articles as their write their research papers. We look forward to many more interactions with SHSU faculty and students in the semesters to come.


ENGL 3361 looking at materials from Thomason Special Collections


James Williamson instructs ENGL 3361 on the transcription project

Row, Row, Row Your Boat


Watch as this guy rows his way across a river in a John W. Thomason drawing. This gif was a huge hit on Tumblr and has received over 1,700 notes. We were also featured on Tumblr Radar because of the gif. Needless to say, We were honored and surprised.

See the whole (non-gif) collection at : John W. Thomason drawings

Terrible Title Thursday: Uneasy Lies the Head


We have a feature on our Tumblr ( that highlights terrible titled and wonderfully weird books every Thursday. It has been quite successful so we thought we would showcase it on the blog as well.

Today’s entry can be found in our Special Collections department. It is called Uneasy Lies the Head by Charles W. Berry. The work is unpublished so the dealer decided to subtitle it Unpublished Work on 1, 268 Ways to Die. The book is a listing of monarchs and great men and how they died. The work contains typed and handwritten manuscripts accompanied by illustrations of some of the great leaders and their method of death – some with gory detail. The book also contains an introductory letter from Berry to friends concerning his dinner parties. The genesis of the work may have come from a sort of dinner club, so maybe it is not so random. It is strange and entertaining work either way. Significantly, the work was in the famous Jenkins bookshop during a fire, and has smoke damage to the outside cover and spine.

Most of the leaders died in battle or were poisoned. However, Theodebert I, King of Austrasia (which is a real place), had the unfortunate luck to die by falling tree. Poor fella.