RARE SIGHT: Here’s a look at the documents behind Texas Independence Day

Texas

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Happy Texas Independence Day, y’all.

Inside the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) building are signed documents that started it all for the Republic of Texas in 1836. The then country agreed to join the United States in 1845.

Peggy Price, education outreach coordinator at TSLAC, said this of how to remember the day:

“Share with other folks the responsibility that we have for our government. It is the power of the citizens to create the government that they want to live in, and I think that when you think about Independence Day for Texas, that’s always special for Texans to recall how they took matters into their own hands to create the kind of community and the kind of country that they wanted to live in.”

Price, along with State Archivist Jelain Chubb, pulled the original hand-written copy of the Texas Declaration of Independence from their archives for our KXAN crew’s eyes to see — a rare occurrence.

“[Texas’] Declaration of Independence really is one of the most significant documents in our collection, because it does outline how the founders felt about liberty, about government, about what they wanted from their own country and establishing that,” Price said.

It was Price’s first time seeing the document in person. For her, it was a special moment.

“To see the actual handwriting of these founders and their signatures always has an extra-special meaning when people see that now. And I feel that same way. It’s a little hard to read, obviously, when you look at the print is faded, but when you know that somebody was sitting at that table writing it out in their own hand, it just has, it brings like the human element into it as opposed to a printshop or a computer.”

‘Preserved in perpetuity’

The building’s digitization team has been working behind the scenes for months, during the pandemic, updating its State Archives’ materials and collections, including tens of thousands of audiovisual records. Their archives are accessible online in the Texas Digital Archive along with more than five million other state records documenting the work of the government.

The digital archive was established roughly five years ago. Staff started it with former Gov. Rick Perry’s papers. Its purpose is to make documents available without harming the originals.

“It’s a constant struggle to balance preservation and access in an archive, and it’s something that changes overtime, because media is always changing,” Price said.

The digital archive includes documents such as papers of governors and historical manuscript collections as well as prints, photographs, artifacts and more — all are freely available to the public online. You can search, browse and download each. Learn more about their process and what’s featured in an article on the library’s website.

Texas State Library and Archives Commission provides in-person access to archival records at its facilities. Currently, the building is only open by appointment due to COVID-19. You can learn more on its website.

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