Leave a Legacy: Donate to Libraries

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”

Ray Bradbury, American Writer (1920-2012)

Before tossing out old papers, photographs and books, be sure to consult a library.

I find it is often the case that you think your family documents have no value. But if you have even a glimmer that they might have some historical merit, reach out to 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, from photographs to research documents, check to see if your holdings might be of interest to your local library or to a national archive. I have heard tragic tales about people thinking the papers of their ancestors are worth nothing, they toss them out, and low and behold, an enterprising trash collector makes a stunning find and sells the item(s) for a substantial amount. The National Archives notes, “maybe a relative sent you old letters, certificates, and family photographs and you are not sure what to do. Maybe you’re wondering how to save your child’s pictures and other mementos.” If you need information about preserving historic family documents, follow this link to helpful professional advice regarding papers and photographs.

The past decade, I have been going through my own family documents. The process is time consuming but a 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 Please support them financially and with your own historical documents and book donations.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.

  • Lake Travis Community Library. Various contemporary hard cover books have been donated during 2019, 2020 and 2021, 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).

  • New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. While not a written document, I wanted to share that my grandfather’s 32 Special Winchester rifle has been donated to the museum (2021). To read a story about the rifle and my grandfather’s encounter with a large bear on the back porch of the old Aspen Ranch above Santa Fe, New Mexico, see below. Our family thanks the late judge David Chavez for helping my grandfather deal with the authorities.
Bear story written by my father, David Ten Eyck Appleton, son of Norman Roy Appleton.
  • Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. I am related to one of Amarillo’s founding families, Mary Honeyman Ten Eyck and Avery Turner. I donated a cabinet photograph of Avery Turner handed down to me by my father, an antique postcard of Aunt Mary with friends driving her Pierce-Arrow (I understand she was the first woman in Amarillo to secure a driver’s license), and an elaborate color illustrated book about Egypt inscribed by Aunt Mary to my grandmother and namesake in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 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.

  • 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.

Our father’s Apollo Program documents are in the Huntington Library in Southern California, as part of The Planetary Society’s holdings. You can read more about those on Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog.

Additional resources for librarians:

Texas Library Association

TechSoup for Libraries

Margo Note, “Creating Family Archives: A Step-by-Step Guide to Saving Your Memories for Future Generations” (2019)

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