University of Houston Libraries Special Collections is home to primary source materials of intellectual, cultural, and societal distinction, both historic and contemporary. A vast variety of rare and unique items, representing collecting areas of women’s research, Houston and Texas history, energy and sustainability, LGBT history, performing and visual arts, and more, are preserved and made available to the UH community and the general public for research and scholarship.
An exploration of UH Special Collections can reveal new directions for research. Frank Guridy, associate professor of history and African American and African diaspora studies at Columbia University, first visited UH Special Collections over a decade ago to learn more about the Houston Astrodome and its impact on the city during the 1960s and 70s. What he found there and in subsequent visits helped shape the work that led to the recent publication of his book, The Sports Revolution: How Texas Changed the Culture of American Athletics.
“The George Kirksey Papers was the first collection I consulted,” Guridy said. “Kirksey was one of the members of the Houston Sports Association, the group that brought Major League Baseball to Houston in the early 1960s. I also consulted the Thomas Cole Desegregation Papers, which enabled me to discover the role of local civil rights activists in the desegregation of the Astrodome.”
A closer look at the archives brought an enhanced view of the existing scholarly framework. “As my research interests widened, I became more interested in the University of Houston Athletic Program’s impact on the racial desegregation of college sports in Texas,” Guridy said. “Here again, the library’s collections became exceedingly helpful, especially the many game programs and materials in the Athletics Department Records, as well as the Daily Cougar and the Houstonian. One can see the ways the program sought to market itself and how the black freedom movement helped change the way in which the program represented itself to the broader public. These records allowed me to see the larger role of the university’s athletic program on the social changes that took shape in the larger sports world in Houston and in the nation as a whole.”
Guridy’s advice for students and scholars? “Be ready for the surprises you will encounter in the archives. I came to Special Collections expecting to work on just one collection and I left with a whole host of archival discoveries that expanded my research horizon and allowed me to write a story of the university’s pivotal role in the growth of the sports industry and the social changes that accompanied that process.”
Anyone is welcome to visit the UH Special Collections Reading Room, located on the second floor of the MD Anderson Library, by appointment. Researchers are encouraged to contact curators with questions and requests.