University of Texas, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

J. B. Colson Archive, 1886-2010

Creator Colson, James B. (James Burton)
Title: J. B. Colson Archive
Dates: 1886-2010
Identification: camh-arc-004130
Extent: 92 linear feet
Language: English
Repository: Dolph Briscoe Center for American History

Biographical / Historical

James Burton (J. B.) Colson studied under the direction of Clarence White for his BFA in photography at Ohio University in Athens. He served as a Signal Corps photographer before earning a Master of Arts degree in Cinema from UCLA. He taught in the Speech Department of Wayne State University in Detroit before coming to the University of Texas at Austin in 1968, where he inaugurated an accredited program in the Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. levels in photojournalism. He headed this program for decades, developing a course of study in photojournalism and visual communication. One of his methods of doing so involved the incorporation of the history of photography based on the Helmut Gernsheim collection into his curriculum.

Colson established the Photojournalism sequence in 1973 and served as head until December 1993, then again from December 1995 to September 1997. He had the positions of Associate Professor as well as Professor and is now Professor Emeritus, School of Journalism at The University of Texas, and a fellow at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. He has served as a member of the judges' panel for the Pictures of the Year Competition and curated an exhibition of Russell Lee photography that opened in May of 1987 at the Humanities Research Center (now the Harry Ransom Center) at the University of Texas at Austin, among many other professional endeavors.


Paris, Sherre Lynne. "Raising Press Photography to Visual Communication in American Schools of Journalism, with Attention to the Universities of Missouri and Texas", 2007.

Scope and Contents

The J. B. Colson Archive, 1886-2010, contains university files that document Colson's classes and the history of the photojournalism department at UT. Teaching slides, research files, and examples of student work are also prominent throughout the collection. Documentation and examples of the many other personal and professional endeavors of J. B. Colson can also be found.

A variety of materials regarding Helmut Gernsheim, John Benjamin Dancer, and Russell Lee can be found in the collection. Colson had worked on biographies of the photographers. He interviewed Lee and CD recordings of these interviews are in the archive.

Further, the archive holds books and magazines related to photography and intended for public consumption, as well as a variety of 19th century photographic materials including daguerreotype, ambrotype, Autochrome, and stereo cards. Periodicals, manuals, brochures, and catalogs document photographic methods, equipment history, and exhibitions and events. Scrapbooks of early Christmas cards, comics, postcards, and matchbooks provide examples of color lithography and illustrations of popular culture.

Artifacts, old cameras, and camera equipment can also be found in the archive. This includes a 19th century Antique stereo card viewer; a glass and wood plaque dedicated to Colson from The School of Journalism; a New England homespun blanket with family names of ancestors of Colson; a Kodak Studio Scale complete set with weights and original box, used for mixing chemical formulas; and a drafting set in wooden box lined with blue velvet, with an inside attribution by Eunice Colson, mother of J. B. Colson. Cameras and equipment include a Kodak Projection Lens box with Rolliecord attachments; a Minolta Autocord Camera f/3.5 75mm main lens; a GE Electric photo meter in leather case with original instruction book; a Honeywell Tilt-a-Mite flash gun in plastic case; a Kodak Duaflex III camera; a Zeiss Ikon Contaflex III with original instruction book and leather field case; a Nishika 3d N8000 3D camera in field case; and a Rollie 35mm camera with 40mm f3.5 lens.

A subseries of the archive contains materials collected by Colson relating to Donald L. Weismann. Weismann was a member of the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin from 1954 to 1982 and served as Chairman of the Department of Art (1954-1958) and the Department of Comparative Studies (1967-1972). These materials include notebooks; correspondence; writing samples, manuscripts, drafts, and published versions; and printed materials pertaining to UT and to Weismann's exhibitions.


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is stored remotely. Advance notice required for retrieval. Contact repository for retrieval.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection is open for research use. Student papers and staff files containing Social Security Numbers are restricted. Some historical photography materials are by appointment only. Contact repository to request access.

Index Terms


Administrative Information

Processing Information

Student papers and staff files containing Social Security Numbers are located in Restricted boxes 2014-035/70 and 3H112.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Inventory (click to view PDF)