Session 4: Collective Contributions in Creating a Digital Hybrid

About This Session

The online William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive serves as far more than a repository of digital objects.  Many different types of records are contributed by multiple partner institutions, volunteers, fellows, and staff members. This panel will examine the continuing development of this rapidly-expanding interdisciplinary digital archive (53,000 records to date) and its goal of documenting the lives, work, and creations of 19th-century Texas artisans and artists.  Panelists include the project director (museum librarian), an institutional partner (academic archivist), and a scholar who has both used and contributed to the Hill Archive.  The panelists will address how the Archive’s multifaceted components and contributors have served as a catalyst in expanding the project’s content, design, and use.

Margaret Culbertson, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

More Than Pretty Pictures: Material Culture Digitally Revealed Through the William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive

This paper will present an overview of the development of Bayou Bend’s online William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive.  With over 53,000 records (as of April 14, 2016), the content of this archive reflects the multi-faceted aspects of the goal to document the lives, work and products of Texas artisans and artists through 1900.  It is truly a hybrid—part archive, part database, part collection of object images.  Cooperative partnerships form a key component in the Archive’s development.  The images of objects form an essential and appealing component of the online Archive, but even more extensive are the census records, city directory records, newspaper articles, advertisements, and other primary documents.  The depth and breadth of the continually expanding archive enable research not only on individuals and specific crafts, but also on broader patterns in the occupations and trades over time and place within Texas of the nineteenth century.  New discoveries regarding geographic concentrations of artisans across the state as revealed through the U. S. Census can be used to document and clarify settlement patterns and economic development.  Representative individual artisans, including blacksmiths, cabinetmakers, photographers, and potters, will be included to illustrate the changes and developments discussed.

Lynn Bell, The Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin 

Discovering Texas Material Culture in the Briscoe Center for American History

Treasures of Texas material culture reside among the immense collections of the Briscoe Center for American History, and the partnership with the William J. Hill Texas Artisans and Artists Archive is enabling greater awareness of those resources through public discovery and accessibility on the digital Hill Archive, as well as the Briscoe Center’s Web site.  Over a three year period, three Fellows surveyed over 11,000 objects and archival items to identify and photograph those that would contribute to the Hill Archive’s mission. The Briscoe collections that were surveyed included the Texas Memorial Museum collection, the Winedale Historical Complex, and artifacts in Briscoe archival collections.  This paper will review the most significant discoveries, as well as the process, including finding the right personnel, unforeseen problems, and problem-solving.  The procedure developed for efficiently identifying relevant material, and the decision-process in determining relevance will be addressed.  A brief summary of technical issues related to photography and metadata development will also be included.

Amy Kurlander, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Hill Archive in practice: a Resource for the Texas Clay exhibition and publication at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

In October 2015, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston presented an exhibition of 19th-century Texas pottery, and published an illustrated catalogue of Bayou Bend’s entire collection of over 180 Texas-made vessels.  In researching the collection and preparing the exhibition and publication, the curator drew extensively from a wide variety of textual and visual documents in the Hill Archive, while adding to the Archive many previously uncatalogued materials from public and private collections throughout Texas.  This presentation from the curator of Texas Clay offers a glimpse into the depth and range of the Hill Archive as a resource for the study of utilitarian pottery in 19th-century Texas, and demonstrates the Archive’s relevance for a wide variety of scholarly and curatorial endeavor.


View the Presentation


Jennifer Stayton

  • Digital Projects Librarian at Schreiner University

Jennifer Stayton has been a member of the Digital Frontiers Planning Committee since 2015.

More Info.


Margaret Culbertson

Margaret Culbertson is the Librarian at Bayou Bend’s Kitty King Powell Library, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where she is also Project Director of the William J.

More Info.

Lynn Bell

As Assistant Director for Exhibits and Material Culture, Lynn Bell has curated or coordinated over 250 exhibits for UT’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, including VIETNAM: Evidence of War, currently on view at the LBJ Presidential Library.  She is responsible for planning and implementing exhibits at 4 sites administered by the Briscoe Center: the Research a

More Info.

Amy Kurlander

Amy Kurlander is an independent art historian specializing in 19th- and early 20th-century art and material culture.  She received her doctorate in the history of art and architecture from Harvard University in 2000, and was formerly the Curator of Modern Art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, and Curator of the New York Transit Museum

More Info.