Austin History Center

Writing Austin's Lives Records

An Inventory of the Collection

Collection Summary

Creator: University of Texas Humanities Institute (Austin, Texas)
Title: Writing Austin's Lives Records
Inclusive Dates: 2003-2004.
Bulk Dates: 2003.
Abstract: The collection contains the working files of the Writing Austin’s Lives program conducted in 2003 by The University of Texas Humanities Institute including the handwritten, typewritten, and computer printouts story submissions from authors of all ages from across the city of Austin, Texas, and Central Texas. Visual materials created by the film producer, Rick Garcia, and photographers, as well as materials related to events connected to the program and the resulting book, Writing Austin’s Lives: A Community Portrait illustrate the breadth of activity associated with the program. Permission forms from the authors, photographers, and photographic subjects initially included in the program files are now in the Austin History Center donor files.
Call Number: AR.2004.031
Quantity: 2 linear ft., 2 boxes, 2819 items.
Collection Unit: Archives and Manuscripts Collection.
Respository: Austin History Center. Austin Public Library, 810 Guadalupe, Austin, Texas, 78701.

Biographical Sketch

The University of Texas at Austin, Humanities Institute, sponsors of the Writing Austin’s Lives community initiative, began work on this “community discovery” initiative in 2003 under the direction of Humanities Institute Director, Evan Carton and Project Coordinator, Sylvia Gale.

The Humanities Institute started in 2001 with the mission of building intellectual and civic community by bringing the excitement of thinking and talking about things that matter down from the tower and out into the public sphere. Writing Austin’s Lives collected the history of Austin from “voices” across all zip codes in the community and Central Texas by inviting community members to submit brief personal stories using any language, form or style. The stories were invited on six different topics (1) my family’s history in Austin, (2) where I live, (3) the best day of my life, (4) what I really need, (5) my family’s most treasured possession, and (6) what I see when I look at Austin. Together the 947 stories collected from March through August of 2003 form a snapshot of life in all neighborhoods of the city. The records were housed and arranged by Ms. Gale and kept in her office prior to delivery to the Austin History Center in a special ceremonial event hosted by the Austin History Center Association (May 2004) that included readings of some of the stories by the authors.

The Humanities Institute entered into a publishing agreement with the Austin History Center Association’s publishing arm, Waterloo Press, to create a book using 127 of the stories and offered the book for sale to the public. Subsequent to the publishing of Writing Austin’s Lives: A Community Portrait, City of Austin Mayor Will Wynn selected the book as the Mayor’s Book Club selection for 2005. In addition, other spin-off event focused on the authors and stories using drama, readings in the parks, and special award events.

The University of Texas at Austin Humanities Institute sponsors other programs such as the Distinguished Lectures in the Humanities series, Texas Teachers as Scholars program, and annually has participated in the Mayor’s Book Club and helped create the web version of Writing Austin’s Lives titled Write On, Austin! The Humanities Institute is supported by the Friends of the Humanities Institute, grant funding, and through fund-raising activities.

Scope and Content of the Collection

The 947 personal stories about life in Austin in English and Spanish collected over six months in 2003 comprise the printed material in this collection accompanied in some cases with photographic images, VHS video tape, floppy diskette and CDs, as well as newsletters and photocopies of event flyers and photocopies of news articles announcing events and describing the program through May 2004. The stories providing snapshots of life in Austin and Central Texas and the accompanying collateral materials describe various views of the community and methods of telling stories that include public readings and theatrical performances as well as through traditional book publication. The administrative records describe the internal processes used to construct Writing Austin’s Lives as a community initiative. While not all of the original stories are of publishable quality, they all tell a personal story centered on the community as it is remembered and the personal experiences of those who are or have lived in Austin, Texas.

Also included are nomination forms related to selection of stories to include in the book that resulted from the humanities initiative, Writing Austin’s Lives: A Community Portrait, however, the bulk of the collection is the original stories with some contact sheets illustrating photographic images that were considered for use in the book.

Organization of the Records

Sylvia Gale delivered the collection in file folders largely arranged in zip code order with the ‘no zip’ category at the front followed by ‘Spanish’ and then arranged by zip code. Story submissions created by schools were arranged alphabetically by school. Original order is maintained with a few exceptions. Photographic material and CD format materials were placed in the final section of the collection, and various release forms were removed to the Donor Files.
The collection is arranged by six series, beginning with General containing flyers, publicity material, and a list of Writing Austin’s Lives contributors. Series Two, Story Submissions by Zip Code and Language, is the largest series, containing 1247 items. Series Three is Story Submissions by School. Series Four is Materials Related to Performances and Workshops, followed by Series Five, Materials Related to Book Publication and Archives. The ending Series Six contains Photographic and CD Material.


Restrictions on Access


Restrictions on Use


Index Terms

Ardrey, Judith.
Carton, Evan.
Casas, David Hernandez.
Gale, Sylvia.
Garcia, Rick.
Henschel, David.
Kearl, Biruta Celmins.
Nickel, Jessica.
Austin History Center.
Austin History Center Association.
Austin Public Library.
University of Texas at Austin, Humanities Institute.
Waterloo Press.
Austin (Tex.) – Biography – Anecdotes.
Austin (Tex.) – History – Anecdotes.
Austin (Tex.) – Social Life and Customs – Anecdotes.
Austin (Tex.).
Document Types:
Floppy diskette.
Photographic images.
Printed materials.
VHS video tape.

Related Materials

A 976.431063 WR Writing Austin’s Lives: A Community Portrait written by the people of Austin. Austin, Texas: The UT Humanities Institute and Waterloo Press, an imprint of the Austin History Center Association, 2004.

Austin Files. AF – Literature L3100 (90) Mayor’s Book Club located at the Austin History Center Write On, Austin! Web site.

News 8 Austin DVD Broadcasts, including November 2004 series and February 2005 series, prepared by Erica Riggins located at the Austin History Center.

Separated Material

One VHS video tape separated to Video collection.

One floppy diskette separated to Diskette collection after contents printed out for storage in Box 2 of 2.

CDs placed in archival binder in back of Box 2 of 2.

One oversized photograph separated to Oversized Photograph collection.

Play Permission Forms Rec’d [Received] separated to Donor File.

Publicity Permission Rec’d [Received] separated to Donor File.

WAL [Writing Austin’s Lives] Permission Forms - Unpublished separated to Donor File.

For AHC Permission from Writers written on post-it note separated to Donor File.

2 Model Release Forms with donor forms separated to Donor File.

Lists/Story Category Printed Materials looking as though they are a print out from a database or spreadsheet separated to Donor File.

Administrative Information

Custodial History:

This collection was assembled at the University of Texas Humanities Institute largely in the file drawers belonging to Sylvia Gale, an employee of the Humanities Institute.

Preferred Citation:

Writing Austin’s Lives Records (AR.2004.031), Austin, TX: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.

Acquisition Information:

Donor #: DO/1993/062.

Donation Date: 2004-06-01.

Processing Information:

Initial Inventory and Preliminary Processing By/Date: Sue Soy, Pegy Holmes, Scott Jordan, Amber Warwas, and Al Bates, 2005-09-01. Final Processing and Finding Aid By/Date: Sue Soy, 2006-04-01.

Other Finding Aids


Detailed Description of the Collection

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection. Brackets indicate observed dates within the file folder while non-bracketed headings indicate dates assigned by the creator to file folders.

Series I General (064 Items)

box folder
1 1 Writing Austin's Lives Events.
(026 items).
2 Writing Austin's Lives Publicity.
(022 items).
3 List of Writing Austin's Lives Contributors.
(016 items).

Series II Story Submissions by Zip Code and Language (1247 Items)

box folder
1 4 No ZIP.
(085 items).
5 Spanish.
(096 items).
6 76016, 78575, 78602, 78617, 78622.
(026 items).
7 78626, 78628.
(011 items).
8 78640, 78644, 78652, 78664, 78669, 78681, 78641, 78650, 78660, 78666, 78676.
(069 items).
9 78701.
(009 items).
10 78702.
(031 items).
11 78703.
(084 items).
12 78704.
(111 items).
13 78705.
(011 items).
14 78709.
(002 items).
15 78713, 78714, 78717, 78722, 78723.
(030 items).
16 78723 - 78730.
(055 items).
17 78731 – 78739.
(105 items).
18 78741 – 78746.
(146 items).
19 78747 – 78749.
(055 items).
20 78750 – 78754.
(125 items).
21 78756 – 78759.
(196 items).
22 78764, 78766, 78768, 78769.(007 items).

Series III Story Submissions by School (0935 Items).

box folder
1 23 Allan Elementary.
(007 items).
24 Akins High School.
(003 items).
25 Anderson High School.
(006 items).
26 Austin High School.
(020 items).
27 Bowie High School.
(002 items).
28 Boone Elementary.
(000 items).
29 Brooke Elementary.
(030 items).
30 Burnet Middle School.
(019 items).
31 Campbell Elementary.
(004 items).
32 Casis Elementary.
(001 items).
33 Covington Middle School.
(026 items).
34 Dobie Middle School.
(002 items).
35 Garza High School.
(006 items).
36 Johnston High School
37 Lake Travis Middle School.
(002 items).
38 LBJ High School.
(048 items).
box folder
2 1 Martin Middle School.
(057 items).
2 McCallum High School.
(146 items).
3 McCallum High School.
(111 items).
4 McCallum High School.
(165 items).
5 Matthews Elementary.
(002 items).
6 Maplewood Elementary.
(042 items).
7 Metz Elementary.
(024 items).
8 Park Crest Middle School.
(094 items).
9 Pearce Middle School.
(023 items).
10 Reagan High School.
(002 items).
11 Travis High School.
(069 items).
12 Spicewood Elementary.
(001 items).

Series IV Materials Related to Performances and Workshops (0411 Items)

box folder
2 13 Writing Ausitn's Lives Performance at Akins High School Theatre,October 16-18, 200e, Director's Notes, etc.,
(305 items).
14 Video Abstract Writing Austin’s Lives 10/17/2003.
(001 items).
15 Floppy Diskette Print-out.
(001 items).
16 Workshop Evaluations.
(104 items).

Series V Materials Related to Book Publications and Archives(0094 Items)

box folder
2 17 Nomination Forms.
18 Writing Austin’s Lives AHCA Annual Meeting Presentation, May 21, 2004.
(002 items).
19 Writing Austin's Lives Records, University of Texas Humanities Institute, Citizen-Scholar Newsletter.
(001 items).
20 Writing Austin's Lives Records, Publicity After Book Publication.
(015 items).
21 Writing Austin's Lives Photo Captions.
(008 items).
22 Writing Austin's Lives Records, Photocopies-AHC Images Used.
(030 items).

Series VI Photographic and CD Material (068 Items)

box folder
2 23 Photographs.
(001 items).
24 Photographs.
(006 items).
25 Photo Contact Sheets.
(018 items).
26 CD Collection.
(043 items).