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Posted by & filed under Featured, Research Fellowships.

The University of North Texas Libraries invite applications for the 2019 Research Fellowships in UNT Special Collections and The Portal to Texas History.

Research in our collections is relevant to studies in a variety of disciplines including history, journalism, political science, geography, fine art, art history, filmmaking, photography, and American studies. We encourage applicants to think creatively about new uses for special collections and digital collections.

The Special Collections Fellows will be required to conduct research in residence at UNT for a minimum of four days and a maximum of three months to receive the award. A total of four $1,000 awards will be made each year.

The Portal Fellows will receive a stipend to do research with The Portal. Up to $1,000 in funding will be awarded to two or more fellowship applicants.

Preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate the greatest potential for publication and the best use of our UNT Special Collections or The Portal to Texas History.

Applications are due by February 15, 2019. Recipients will be notified by April 1, 2019. For more information on the fellowships and application process, please visit the University of North Texas Libraries Research Fellowships – Special Collections and University of North Texas Libraries Research Fellowships – The Portal to Texas History.

Posted by & filed under Grants, Texas Digital Newspaper Program, TexTreasures.

The Texas Digital Newspaper Program is proud to present three new video demos to help you with initial searching and browsing within newspapers. The words in each of these videos is captioned with text for easier access.

The first demo, particularly useful to genealogists, shows how to use the filters to narrow down searches that produce many results. We started this video with a basic search for “Pancho Villa” and then used the filters to narrow the results down to the date when he was killed.



Another demo, linked here, is called “Working with a Single Newspaper Issue,” and it demonstrates how you can go from a wider basic search into a single newspaper issue, straight to the page where your search term appears.  We used the same “Pancho Villa” search term, and demonstrated a few different things you can do within the individual newspaper issue, including zooming into the area where your term occurs, printing a single section of a newspaper page, and sharing that same area of the page on social media or email.

A third video, linked here, is called “Exploring Collections on The Portal to Texas History,” and it is intended for teachers interested in working with the Texas Digital Newspaper Program in their classrooms.  This video showcases newspaper collections that teachers would find helpful, and it shows how you can browse for collections on the Portal.

We will continue creating more demos to help people work with newspaper collections and other items on The Portal to Texas History.  These demonstrations were made possible through the support of an IMLS Library Services & Technology Act award, given to UNT by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.



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Posted by & filed under Events, Featured.

UNT Libraries and UNT associate history professor Andrew Torget kicked off the fall semester with a record-setting marathon to raise funds for The Portal to Texas History.

A marathon of a different sort, however: beginning on Friday, August 24, Dr. Torget ran through more than 10,000 years of Texas history during an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the longest history lesson. Over the course of 26 hours and 33 minutes, Dr. Torget and a team of library employees, videographers, and impartial official witnesses managed to set and surpass the 24-hour world record.

It was a multi-department effort over a year in the making.

Dr. Torget, a member of the Advocacy Board, approached Assistant Dean for External Relations Dreanna Belden in 2017 with a unique idea: to raise money for The Portal to Texas History, he would lecture for over 24 hours and break a Guinness World Record.

“I thought it would be big,” Belden said.

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Big and original, as it turned out. When Belden and Assistant Director of Departmental Marketing Joshua Sylve got in touch with Guinness, they learned nothing quite like this had been attempted before. To set the record, Dr. Torget would need to prepare and execute a lesson for 24 hours with a laundry list of guidelines.

“It was [intimidating],” Sylve said. “It was a lot of reading and combing through [the Guinness guidelines] to see if there were any red flags that would impede us from even doing this. We realized we had enough individuals interested to at least get the ten witnesses to complete it. We were encouraged by that.”

The UNT Libraries team decided they needed three main groups of people for such an event. The class, titled “pioneers” by the organizers, would need to be a large group of volunteers staying up with Dr. Torget as he taught. UNT Libraries External Relations scheduled 37 witnesses and had over 100 volunteers, including the class. Guinness required at least two witnesses to verify the attempt was completed and rules were met, and the witnesses had to remain on stage in shifts of four hours. Library staff volunteered to be captains that oversaw the critical duties of the witnesses.

“The witnesses not only had to be at the lecture for a certain amount of time, but they also had to have their eyes on the students to make sure the students were awake and engaged,” Sylve said. “The witnesses had to be unbiased, basically saying ‘We’re not going to fib just to guarantee UNT makes the record.’ That was probably the most challenging group to secure.”

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The effort to host the event would span multiple UNT departments and facilities. The Union’s audio and visual team ensured the microphones, and Youtube live stream worked. Parking and Transportation helped volunteers and staff get in and out of lots safely in the middle of the night. URCM played a crucial role in getting the word out to media outlets.

“Once the lesson finally started there was a weird peace,” Sylve said. “As long as [Dr. Torget] doesn’t stop talking we can handle this. It was really just a trust in him and him trusting in us that we’re prepared for everything.”

By the time of the event, word of mouth had spread and drawn in passionate volunteers.

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“Even before we were starting, students were super into it,” UNT Libraries Administrative Specialist Sarah Allsup said. “So the students going into it were just excited about history and weren’t worried about setting a record.”

Keeping everyone awake, engaged and well-nourished was a concern for the planning team. Allsup helped coordinate catering for the event. The pioneers were served lunch and dinner on Friday and breakfast on Saturday, with a scheduled snack and bathroom break every few hours during Dr. Torget’s lecture. Guinness made it clear the lesson could not be interrupted for very long at all to be considered legitimate. Dr. Torget had to hold court consistently, but he came prepared.

“At no point did they want the lesson to be run by the students for cumulative five minutes,” Sylve said. “You’ll notice even as students were asking questions, [Dr. Torget] had a way of answering maybe just part of the question or repeating the question so he could take more control of the response.”

The lead-up to the event wasn’t without some problem-solving. The official clock had to be replaced with minutes to spare, and graphic designer Samantha Lawrence spent mid-day on Friday re-evaluating the break schedule.

“I spent two hours on an excel spreadsheet re-checking our two hour and fifty-minute carryovers,” Lawrence said. “So you saw me [on the live stream] frantically bringing sheets of paper to people after doing all of this math.”

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Dr. Torget’s lecture, which covered Texas history from the prehistoric era to the present day, was a fundraiser for The Portal to Texas History archive project run by UNT Libraries. As part of a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Portal is trying to raise $1.5 million by 2020. Half of that goal had been met, but as a member of the UNT Advocacy Board, Dr. Torget decided such an event could help push The Portal even further.

“All of the money raised through this event goes to that,” Belden said. “The Portal is important because it’s literally transforming the way historians, educators and students explore and learn about Texas history. We’ve seen that demonstrated in the way college instructors use it across Texas, and teachers use it with elementary school children and all these methods that weren’t possible before.”

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Dr. Torget unofficially set the record at 9 am on Saturday, but pushed past the 24-hour requirement. When Guinness confirms the record in two months, Dr. Torget’s 26 hours, 33-minute runtime will go down in history. The outreach arm of the event was a success, as the attempt was broadcast live to over five thousand viewers on Youtube around the globe and began to spread on social media through word-of-mouth.

“For the public relations value alone it was worth it,” Belden said. “It didn’t make national news, I think, but it did get picked up in lots of local markets. We heard people in Iowa and Boston saw it. One of the Dr. Torget family friends told them they sat down in Ireland at a pub and started watching [the live stream] and got the whole pub to watch.”

The entire lesson and event will be posted on The Portal to Texas History by the end of September.

For such a long, complicated event to go off without hiccups wasn’t surprising to the UNT Libraries team. Sylve says over a year of planning ensured every conceivable problem was thought of and prepared for, and the success of the event sets an excellent example for the entire UNT community.

“It’s among the top ten things I’ve put myself through that I’m proud of,” Sylve said. “I think it really did forge belief in not just our team but teams across campus to see what we can do when we collaborate.”

Posted by & filed under General.

Congratulations to our awardees of the 2018 cycle of the Rescuing Texas History program!


In May of 2018, we here at The Portal to Texas History, announced the latest call for submission for our Rescuing Texas History program; a program created to provide new and existing partner institutions with up to $1,000 worth of in-kind materials digitization. We are thrilled for these partners and wanted to provide everyone a sneak peek of some of the things to come in the next year or so.

Dallas Genealogical Society Ferris Public Library Cathedral Church of St. Matthew
Private Collection of TB Willis Texas State University Tarleton State
Private Collection of Marion Marcel Salas University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Private Collection of the CC Cox Family
Texas Medical Association The Sherman Museum Lena Armstrong Public Library
St. Mary’s University Cooke County Library Carrollton Public Library
Moody Medical Library Battleship TEXAS CASETA
Honey Grove Preservation League Tomball Community Library Thanksgiving Foundation
Fire Museum of Texas St. Edwards University Austin History Center
Lakeway Heritage Center Kerr County Historical Commission Texas Lutheran University
Fannin County Historical Commission Collin County History Museum First Presbyterian Church of Waco
Tarrant County Archives Denton Public Library Ennis Public Library
Tarrant County Black Genealogy and Historical Society Inc. Brian W. Schenk Archives, Stephen F. Austin High School Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church


From this round of The Portal to Texas History’s Rescuing Texas History program you can expect to gain a deeper insight into the lives of individuals adopted from China, the work of photojournalist Lisa Davis, as well as issues from the first newspaper ever added onto the Portal, the Ferris Wheel.

Posted by & filed under General, Grants, Texas Digital Newspaper Program, TexTreasures.

South Texas has been famous as a center of citrus production since the early 20th-century. From TexSun orange juice in Weslaco to Rio Grande Valley grapefruits, Texans and other Americans have enjoyed the products of the South Texas citrus industry.  The Texas Borderlands Newspaper Collection clearly documents the rise and growth of the citrus industry over the course of the twentieth-century, to such an extent that even the date filters on a search for “citrus” reflect the increasing popularity of Rio Grande Valley produce, with an increasing number of word occurrences from 1900 to 1990.

In the early 1900s, the orange was so popular a fruit across the U.S. that the December 5, 1908, issue of the Sonora Sun discusses research from the USDA that might result in an orange tree that “will withstand cold weather and thrive in the latitude of the northern states. If the experiment proves to be successful orange groves may be grown in parts of Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Virginia.” By June 26, 1909, the “citrus fruit growers have arranged to meet at the courthouse this week to organize the Victoria County Citrus Fruit Growers’ association,” according to the Marfa New Era.

In his May 21, 1926, case, “Citrus Possibilities of Southwest Texas,” Elwood Trask’s column in the Falfurrias Facts examines conditions in California citrus regions and compares them to Southwest Texas. His prophetic conclusion has since proven accurate: “The Artesian Belt of Southwest Texas is nearer the markets of the middle west than is either California or Florida. Its citrus fruit has a shorter freight haul, and with the high quality of fruit grown, Southwest Texas is bound to become one of the leading citrus producing sections of the nation and the main supply for all the Mississippi Valley States.”  By 1931, South Texas was known as a citrus-growing land, with Faulfurrias the “Coming Citrus Center.” The Hebbronville News article about Falfurrias’ rising prominence as a citrus center celebrates its history and commercial success in bold photos, including the picture above, captioned, “Twenty-Four-Year-Old Citrus Grove Near Falfurrias, Oldest Commercial Grove in Texas.” In 1980, according to the Pharr Press, Texas’ Rio Grande Valley “produce[s] around 10 percent of all U.S. citrus, the rest being supplied by Florida, California, and Arizona. In dollars, the 1978-1978 season produced almost $27 million from oranges and $17,640,000 from grapefruit.”


Access to this collection was made possible through the support of a TexTreasures grant.  TexTreasures is an annual competitive grant program designed to help member libraries make their special collections more accessible to researchers across Texas and beyond. TexTreasures awards have been made possible by the Library Services and Technology Act through the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


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