Traditionally, the collections in the archives were donated by families who were prominent within a community and had the means as well as the education to place them there. These personal collections have been gifted by wealthy patrons who wanted to preserve their legacy by donating it to a library or, it was collected by archivists who had a specific purpose or project in mind. For example, Dr. Jim Conrad of Texas A&M University-Commerce, spent decades collecting the oral histories of local citizens. He was interested in preserving the small intimate stories of men and women who survived the Great Depression as well as the rich and exciting stories of soldiers who fought in Korea, WWII and Vietnam. Other collections are based on famous people like Ruby Allmond or Jenna Yeager. However, what has been missing are the artifacts from those who are less educated or lack the prominence and wealth of those whose histories have traditionally landed in the archives.
It is for this reason that we chose to collect the papers of Ivory Moore, the activist from Commerce Texas who helped bring equality and progress to the Black community in this rural East Texas town. Mr. Moore was a community leader who was once the Mayor of Commerce and who was a leader of the Norris Community Club. Archivists from the TAMU library and Kelly Dent, a graduate student who is working with Dr. Shannon Carter on the Remixing Rural Texas project spent several days collecting Mr. Moore’s papers.
The process of collecting the acquisition was complicated by a number of factors but we are excited to have it. I spent two days last week processing his collection and was very excited to find some key documents including at least two federal grants that Mr. Moore won for the development of the poorest areas of Commerce where the black population resided. As recent as the 1970’s, parts of this community lacked proper sewer and plumbing utilities and there were homes that still used out houses.
Additional material included in the collection are photographs of Mr. Moore and his family as well as many photos of the Norris Community Club. Over the next few weeks we will continue to process this acquisition and begin scanning major artifacts for the digital collection.