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LU launches community-wide, 100-year treasure collection project

Historic Student UnionLamar University is on a quest for Big Red treasure and invites the community to join in the hunt.

In preparation for Lamar University’s Centennial celebration in the fall of 2023, the university is hosting “Lamar 100 Project: A Centennial History Show and Tell,” Sat. Oct. 5 from 1 – 5 p.m. at Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum.

Bring treasured LU heirlooms for evaluation. Local historians, archivists and curators will be on hand to identify artifacts and make sense of documents. Additionally, owners will have the option to allow trained professionals to photograph or digitize their collections, making them available to current and future researchers.

Judith Linsley, director of the Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast, said the digitization process creates a permanent record of a collection while allowing LU to draw on the experiences represented by the objects.

“Hundreds, maybe thousands, of forgotten photos, manuscripts and other Lamar memorabilia are still out there, stored in boxes and scrapbooks and photo albums,” said Linsley. “We want to gather as much of this personal side of history as we possibly can while it still exists, and obviously we can't do it without everyone's help.” 

The purpose of the event is really twofold, according to Brendan Gillis, assistant professor of history. “It’s designed to accurately document LU’s history but also encourage the wider Southeast Texas community to take ownership of a shared past,” said Gillis. “The history of LU is inseparable from that of our region. We welcome students, alumni and staff, as well as all members of the local community, to share in the celebration of a century of remarkable achievements.”

In addition to gathering LU artifacts, the historians are also seeking LU stories. Linsley said they hope to hear the stories of what it was like at Lamar "back when."

“Lamar's story isn't only about new buildings or distinguished persons or academic accolades,” said Linsley. “It's also about everyday life at Lamar, about the people who attended and worked at and lived nearby through the years.”

Gillis said historians, like him, will take time during the event to listen to those who have been a part of the LU story. “Above all, we hope to gather more LU stories to share as the university embarks on its second century in Southeast Texas,” said Gillis.

Owners of valuable artifacts will not be asked to part with their collected treasures but will be invited to allow treasures to be digitized and incorporated into a new Lamar 100 Collection housed at the Mary and John Gray Library and accessible to current and future researchers. 

“Once we've gathered stories and gauged the extent of local collections, we'll be able to incorporate what we've learned into a new history of Lamar University that fully reflects the diverse experiences of our students, alumni, faculty and staff,” said Gillis.

An array of treasures from the collections of the Spindletop-Gladys City Boomtown Museum and the Mary and John Gray Library will be on display to share with guests, including several favorite objects that are not usually exhibited. The entire museum will be open to visitors, so there will be fun activities for Southeast Texans of all ages. 

“Every new object, image and text local historians are able to access adds breadth and depth to our understanding,” said Gillis. “The Tyrrell Library and our Special Collections on campus house a great deal of historical material, but there is far more for us to learn.”

The ‘Lamar 100 Project: A Centennial History Show and Tell’ is an opportunity for the public to help preserve priceless mementos for posterity and future generations to enjoy.

“And we'll have on display some of the things that we already have -- photos and documents collected throughout Lamar's history,” said Linsley. “It'll be great fun and, we hope, only the first of many of these days.”