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UT Austin teams with historical association to bring Texas history online

The New Handbook of Texas, a comprehensive encyclopedia of information on Texas history, geography and culture, now is available online as a free service to the people of Texas. The electronic version of the 7,000-page, six-volume resource book, was announced Monday (Feb. 15) by The University of Texas at Austin.

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AUSTIN, Texas—The New Handbook of Texas, a comprehensive encyclopedia of information on Texas history, geography and culture, now is available online as a free service to the people of Texas. The electronic version of the 7,000-page, six-volume resource book, was announced Monday (Feb. 15) by The University of Texas at Austin.

The online version of the handbook is a joint venture of The Texas State Historical Association, based at UT Austin, and the University’s General Libraries. It offers access to the same text found in the 1996 printed version, which includes 23,500 articles about the men and women who shaped the Lone Star State. An online handbook test site has been available since last spring.

The online version can be accessed through the association’s World Wide Web site (http://www.tsha.utexas.edu) or the UT General Libraries site (http://www.lib.utexas.edu.) By using the services of both the General Libraries and the association, the University is able to offer the handbook online without the usual subscription fees.

“The University is pleased to join TSHA in sharing the rich content of the New Handbook of Texas with all Texans,” said UT Austin President Larry R. Faulkner. “This online project opens a window to the culture and history of Texas for millions of schoolchildren, historians, genealogists and anyone interested in the Lone Star State.”

Thirteen years of preparation by the TSHA went into updating The Handbook of Texas, a two-volume reference book published in 1952 (updated in 1976 to three volumes) and edited by historian Walter Prescott Webb. Particular attention in the New Handbook of Texas was given to the rich historical traditions of the African American and Mexican American communities, and to the historical contributions made by individual women and women’s organizations throughout the state. More than 3,000 authors, editors and reviewers worked on the project.

Like its printed counterpart, the online version offers more than 8,000 community entries, including detailed histories of all 254 counties and all major cities. Virtually all aspects of Texas history, including agriculture, architecture, business, education, geology, literature, medicine, politics, religion, sports and urbanization, are covered. Also provided are more than 7,000 biographical entries and other essays describing people who have lived in Texas from prehistoric cultures to 20th century immigrants. Being dead, however, is a prerequisite for having a biographical entry, no matter how famous a living Texan might be. This is a continuation of a rule used in the first handbook, so that a person’s life can be evaluated in perspective.

“Making magnificent tools like The New Handbook of Texas available online is a major goal of the General Libraries,” said Director Harold Billings. “The online availability of this remarkable compilation of information about Texas and all things Texan, and similar tools, will benefit not only UT Austin scholars but students of every age and information seekers of every sort across the state and beyond.”

The TSHA will conduct workshops to help teachers learn to use the online handbook in the classroom. An experimental project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, already is underway in Houston to bring the benefits of the online version to schoolchildren.

“The story of Texas must be constantly retold to meet the needs of new times and new generations,” said TSHA Director Ron Tyler. “With the help of our partners at UT Austin — the College of Liberal Arts and the General Libraries — we will use this dynamic new medium to encourage Texans of present and future generations to rediscover their Lone Star heritage.”

In addition to the full text of the 23,500 New Handbook articles, the online edition will include all corrections made in the 1997 second printing and approximately 400 new articles not included in the print edition. Users may select entries by scrolling through an alphabetical title list, or can search the entire contents for all entries containing selected words.

The online edition also will allow the association to update and correct entries on a more timely basis.

Subsequent versions will include illustrations from the 1996 print edition, as well as additional illustrations and multi-media materials. Other features under development include hyper-linked subject guides that will allow users to move directly from subject indexes to specific entries, links to selected web sites providing additional information on specific subjects, and interactive features allowing users to communicate with the handbook’s editors and participate in the continued development of the resource.

According to TSHA President Paul Gervais Bell of Houston, the association will continue to publish The New Handbook of Texas in book form and, perhaps later, as a CD-ROM.