The Center for American History at The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded a “Save America’s Treasures” federal grant to support the conservation and general preservation of the Stephen F. Austin Papers.
The $173,930 grant was awarded by the National Park Service, which administers the prestigious “Save America’s Treasures” program in collaboration with the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. It will fund a three-year conservation project to repair and stabilize the Austin Papers, considered the most significant collection documenting Anglo-American colonization in Texas.
“This grant is recognition not just of the national importance of the ‘Father of Texas’ but of the dedication of UT’s Center for American History,” said Congressman Lloyd Doggett. “This funding will go a long way toward preserving for our children’s children this jewel in the treasure of the Center’s archives.”
“This grant support will make it possible for the Center to preserve one of the most fundamental collections in existence for the study of 19th century Texas history,” said Dr. Don Carleton, executive director of the Center for American History. “The Stephen F. Austin Collection is one of the treasures of the Center. This grant solidifies the national importance of this iconic collection.”
The collection contains the personal and official records of Moses Austin and his son, Stephen F. Austin. The papers, which span the years 1676-1873, were created or gathered by Stephen F. Austin beginning in 1821, the year he initiated his colonization efforts in Texas.
“With the grant, the Center will undertake an extensive project to ensure that the Austin Papers are available for research well into the future,” said Brenda Gunn, associate director for research and collections and author of the grant proposal. “We have a commitment to provide access to original documents. Without this grant, we couldn’t honor that commitment with the Austin papers, given their current condition.”
Treasures in the papers include significant letters and maps, the ledger of the first settlers in Austin’s original colony, and Stephen Austin’s prison diary, kept while he was held in a Mexico City prison between 1833 and 1835.
“The grant will support the mending of fragile manuscripts, removing the silk from all silked documents, and repairing previous paper mends and residual adhesives, and carrying out a major treatment of Austin’s prison diary,” Gunn said. “The Center will also undertake minor mends and dry cleaning, as well as reformatting and rehousing the entire collection.”
In addition to its value to Texas history, the Austin Papers are significant to the history of 18th and 19th century life in the states of Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri and Arkansas. They contain information on commerce, industry, justice, religion, the indigenous population and slavery, all topics that are important to understanding the westward movement in the settlement of the United States. Some 32 types of records such as correspondence, diaries, genealogies, speeches, petitions, military orders and broadsides make up the Austin Papers, which have been used extensively by scholars of Texas history.
The Federal Save America’s Treasures program is one of the largest and most successful grant programs for the protection of the nation’s irreplaceable and endangered cultural heritage. Grants are available for preservation and/or conservation work on nationally significant intellectual and cultural artifacts, and historic structures and sites. Grants are awarded to Federal, state, local and tribal government entities, and non-profit organizations through a competitive matching-grant program, administered by the National Park Service in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.