Leave a Legacy: Donate to Libraries
“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”
Ray Bradbury, American Writer (1920-2012)
A social media post last fall about the digitization of cookbooks from Mexico dating 1789 to the present in the special collections of The University of Texas San Antonio Libraries brought to mind that one should always consult with libraries and special collections before tossing out old papers and books.
I find it is often the case that you think your family treasures have no value. But if you have even a glimmer that they might have some historical merit, consult a librarian. Be sure you are not throwing out nor giving away items valuable to history and to future generations.
From antique cookbooks to nonprofit activities and actions that changed history, from photographic records to research documents, reach out to ask if they might be of interest to your local library or archive. There are tragic tales about people thinking the papers of their ancestors are worth nothing, they toss them in the recycling bin, and low and behold, an enterprising trash collector makes a stunning find.
I am still going through some documents, and I have inquiries out to institutions that might like to have them. The process for me continues – especially now that we working more from home and we have more “quiet time.” This has been a time consuming but worthwhile endeavor, and I urge you to do the same.
As a tribute some of my favorite libraries, I am sharing my own contributions. I have provided links to each institution for ease of reference. Please support them financially and with your own historical documents and book donations. And even if your treasures come to naught, in Texas, don’t forget about Half Price Books.
- Austin History Center, a division of the Austin Public Library. I donated my documents from the creation of the first Texas Nature Conservancy and Greater Austin Chamber corporate conservation leadership event in Austin in 1993. This event helped change the perception of the “environmental” movement in Texas in dramatic ways, placing it on a stronger footing with many of our state’s leading corporations, foundations and philanthropists. You can read more on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, “A Special Event | An Environmental Breakthrough for Texas.”
- Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin. Some of my college memorabilia dating from the 1970s and 1980s is found here, and Civil War documentation and photography from my mother’s side of the family. See Carolyn’s Tumblr for a write-up about one set of items held by the Briscoe Center. In the case of UT Austin, donation restrictions exist as storage capacity is limited. Reach out to the staff for guidance.
- Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. My Legorreta + Legorreta museum wing fundraising documents for the Art Museum of South Texas during the mid-2000s, including videotapes of the late Ricardo Legorreta speaking during the revival of the capital campaign (when I took it over). From Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog, you can read about some of my work on the then-new Legorreta wing. The library also houses documents from the creation of the earlier Philip Johnson designed museum dating to the 1970s.
- Lake Travis Community Library. Various contemporary hard cover books have been donated during 2019 and 2020, several autographed by the authors. At the time of this writing, the library generally accepts books for their collections as well as some that they do not wish to keep, but can use as sale items (the proceeds from which benefit library operations).
- Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. I am related to one of Amarillo’s early founding families, Mary and Avery Turner. I donated a cabinet photograph of Avery Turner handed down to me by my father, and an elaborate color illustrated book about Egypt inscribed by Mary Honeyman Ten Eyck Turner to my grandmother and namesake, artist Mary Carolyn Ten Eyck Appleton (Mary’s niece). It is my hope my cousin, who lived with the Turners as a child, will donate her items to the museum in the future. Stay tuned!
- Perry-Castaneda Library, The University of Texas at Austin. I donated a hard copy, illustrated, color Arabic-to-English dictionary given to me while I was taking Arabic at UT Austin, by a member of a influential family who was living in my co-ed dorm back in the mid-1970s.
- Texas Grant Resource Center, The University of Texas at Austin. I donated several books about fundraising and communications – several autographed by the authors – to the Texas Grant Resource Center. For more than 50 years, the Texas Grants Resource Center (TGRC) has, “served as a bridge between the grant-seeking and the grant-making communities.” I would like to thank the former director of the center, Ellen May, for years of outstanding service to the nonprofit community.
- Texas State Library and Archives. I documented eight years of volunteer work for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under former Governor Rick Perry, in my capacity as a Governor-appointed and reappointed member of the Texas Environmental Partnership Fund Board. My archives document the commission’s research for the State of Texas on how to ensure science-based K-12 environmental education for all Texans. They also enabled the Texas Legislature to understand what we accomplished, and to bring our commission’s work to a formal conclusion.
- University of New Mexico, Zimmerman Library, Southwest Collections. I have continued to add to my father’s existing family archive. He was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and his family was active in bringing the railroad to New Mexico, and also in bringing a more sophisticated cultural life to Santa Fe, among other things. Artistic work including early photographs of American Indians are included, as is scientific research funded by the WPA on “natural” means of eradicating tent caterpillar infestations in the aspen forests.
- University of Texas San Antonio Libraries Special Collections. My family’s cookbooks dating from the second half of the 19th century through the 1960s, my personal 1960s vintage Camp Fire USA guidebook, and a 19th century guide to homesteading that I acquired at an estate sale in Austin in the early 1980s have been donated. You might enjoy an article from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, “Cookbooks Echo With the Wisdom of Chefs Past.”
- Rob & Bessie Welder Wildlife Foundation conservation library. The library contains approximately 24,000 individual books and journals. In the rare books collection are numerous highly valuable volumes, some dating to the 1600’s. As an example, the collection contains a complete set of the journal Audubon. My personal opinion is that a new, larger and more secure library facility needs to be funded at the Welder Refuge. And all the student research held in those collections should be digitized for ease of access. Several of the books I have donated over the years are autographed by the scientists who wrote them, and they total almost 100, dating from my time working in the environmental movement.
In 2019, I joined the Austin Colony Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. I currently have three documented American Revolutionary War ancestors and I am researching two more. I also agreed to serve as Literacy Chair for our Chapter. If you have ideas or questions, use the secure contact form on my blog to reach me.
Additional resources for librarians: