A Look Back: Texas, Your Texas – 100 Years of The Texas Collection

December 10, 2023
Carroll Library

Established in 1923, The Texas Collection is Baylor University’s oldest special collections library. Serving as both a library and archival research center, it collects, preserves and provides access to materials documenting the history, heritage and culture of Texas for the Baylor community and the public. The Texas Collection also serves as the University Archive for Baylor University.

The plans for the first library at Baylor University were introduced even earlier than the collection’s founding — all the way back in 1901. By 1903, the construction of the F. L. Carroll Library had been completed. The library was a gift from F. L. Carroll, the completion of which was heralded by The Lariat with the headline “Greater Baylor Begins,” and was built alongside the Carroll Science Hall, also completed in 1903 and funded by F. L.’s son, G. W. Carroll. The Carroll Library would be the home of the Texas Collection on and off throughout the Collection’s 100 years.

The Texas Collection relocated to and from the Carroll Library for a multitude of reasons, some more extreme than others. Its first move out of the library took place in February 1922 after the Library caught fire from an unknown source and the majority of the building’s interior was destroyed. Thankfully, due to the heroic efforts of students and faculty who risked their safety to retrieve the library’s books and documents, over half the collection was recovered from the blaze. The next move was for much more mundane reasons. The library simply ran out of space in 1939, at which time it moved to occupy an entire wing on the second floor of Pat Neff Hall. The collection would remain in Pat Neff for another 15 years until in 1955, when it returned to its original home in the Carroll Library building.

Carroll Library Texas Collection

The Collection’s foundation was built upon the gift of several hundred items from the personal history collection of Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth and has grown over the past hundred years to become the largest privately held collection of “Texana,” home to nearly 200,000 volumes, more than 13,000 audio-visual records and more than 1.4 million photographs. Additionally, there are more than 3,600 oral history tapes and 15,000 historical maps.

The collection boasts an astonishing variety of materials about Texas and Texans: their history, faith, politics and passions, records of all the different components that comprise the sweeping narrative of this state’s history. Included among the collection are historic photographs of the City of Waco, personal narratives from pioneer families, dime novels and pulp fiction, materials on Texas Baptists and other denominations, items from the Branch Davidian crisis of 1993 and a growing collection of Texas and Southwestern cookbooks. Perhaps one of the more notable examples of the many treasures housed within its walls is the original manuscript for the official state song of Texas: “Texas, Our Texas.” 

With the unfolding of this centennial year, there comes an implicit invitation to reflect on and celebrate the enduring significance of the memories, experiences and stories archived for the past 100 years. The Texas Collection stands as a symbol of enduring commitment to the preservation of Texas’ multifaceted history; it stands as a beacon of historical understanding and appreciation. Here, the intricate tableau of Texas is meticulously preserved, ensuring uninterrupted access to the state’s vibrant history for future generations.