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Travel in Time- The ETRC is an East Texas time capsule open for all to explore.
Posted 07 - 21 - 2009
Story and Photo by :Kristen Matej,Chamber Intern

The oldest town in Texas is a fitting home for the East Texas Research Center, ETRC, a place where one can go back in time. The ETRC is located in the Ralph W. Steen Library on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus. The center serves as a valuable resource for students and for all in the East Texas area. The ETRC proudly and safely houses photos, maps, diaries, letters, county documents and other documents that date back to the 1700s, with the oldest book from the 1600s.

“What we now call the ETRC began as the East Texas Room on the second floor of the old Boynton Library, now a computer building,” said Archie McDonald, SFA professor and author. “It was more a ‘rare book’ holding than archives then; that developed more with the ‘new’ or Steen Library in the 1970s.”

Since it opened in 1924 in the one room, the ETRC has seen many changes and experienced growth. In addition, the Research Center serves as a Regional Historical Resource Depository (RHRD) for the State of Texas and houses the inactive records for eight East Texas counties. Along with community records, the ETRC is also responsible for storing the university’s archives, including grades, attendance and old football film.

However the transition has not been without its challenges. “The biggest changes that we have faced are the technological ones,” said Linda Reynolds, ETRC director. “As archives, we have to have and know both the old and new technology. We have to stay current with new technology, while still being able to view the information in its original format.”

It is the ETRC’s mission to collect, preserve and make available to the public items pertaining to East Texas history. “The ETRC is a home for any material that relates to East Texas history,” Reynolds said. “Anyone can donate materials such as photos and records that are associated with East Texas, but I recommend calling beforehand to discuss the donation.” She also said that she and other staff members visit estate sales in order to gather material for the ETRC.

According to Reynolds, people visit the ETRC for several different reasons. For some it may be to find information on business records, old county records or family genealogies. The ETRC has also worked with students at SFA in the art and geology departments. The center was especially involved with an SFA art students’ project “Nacogdoches, Now and Then.” Students used historic photos of Nacogdoches from the ETRC and combined them with photos that were taken by the students to produce images that give a glimpse of “what was” with “what is now.”

Photos from the center are displayed around town. Raising Canes Chicken Fingers on North Street requested historic pictures of the SFA students. These can now be seen on the restaurant’s walls. The Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital and the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce have also used ETRC pictures.

Photos are not the only information from the ETRC that have been used in and around the community. “One time, I hand delivered scrapbooks from the Charlie Wilson collection that we have here at the ETRC to the ABC television network in Houston,” said Reynolds. “The scrapbooks were then used during an interview that was held with Congressman Wilson himself.”

The Charlie Wilson collection is made up of 31 boxes that contain political and personal papers that date from 1960 to 1996. “It’s a huge collection that covers his entire political career,” said Reynolds. “The collection covers his trips to Afghanistan, Nicaragua and the Black Hills National Forest There are also scrapbooks that his staff put together. Overall, it is a well documented political collection.” Other information regarding the collection is available on the ETRC’s Web site.

The ETRC is a place where SFA students go for school projects, as well as a history time capsule the whole community can enjoy.

The ETRC is a preservation of East Texas history. Dr. McDonald, who has his own collection at the ETRC, said, “I urge anyone with historical materials, especially that pertain to East Texas, to let Linda Reynolds preserve them. That way, they will be useful to others, as I have also used ETRC’s resources in historical research.”

The public may contact Reynolds with questions regarding the preservation process.

The ETRC is also home to what are called “community collections.” With a community collection, one of the ETRC’s staff members will visit a community member’s home. While there, any photos, records, maps or other information is scanned into a computer. The information is then uploaded and can be found online at the ETRC’s Web site. The community collections are a great way to preserve and view information that can be found throughout the area.

If simply looking at history is not enough, volunteering opportunities are open at the ETRC. “Volunteers may do whichever activity they are comfortable with,” said Reynolds. “Whether it’s scanning photos into the computer or helping with the preservation process, there is always something that a volunteer can do to help.”

Along, with having the information available on site and on the Web site, the ETRC is making information available through a quarterly newsletter. These newsletters contain upcoming events, new collections that have been added and a story on a featured collection. The newsletter is available online, no charge.

----------------------------------------------------------------------Hours of operation: M-F 8am-5pm, Saturday 10am-5pm
Address: 2nd Floor Raplh W. Steen Library, SFASU
Phone: (936)468-2011
Web site:
For more information on the “Nacogdoches Now and Then” project go to:

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