Three Questions with Michael and Nichole Ritchie

Three Questions is an initiative to share the value that our faculty, students, and external patrons derive from using the Portal to Texas History at UNT Libraries.

1. How important is hosting your historic materials on UNT’s Portal to Texas History?

The Private Collection of the Ritchie Family that Nichole and I have worked to get onto the Portal is important, not for ourselves, but for the larger community of Texans that otherwise would never have access. 95% of the materials we’ve submitted to the Portal are period military records of Texans that served in WWII. For several generations, these records have almost totally been lost as a result of the 1973 St. Louis Archives fire that destroyed 80% of all U.S. Army and Army Air Force records from WWI and WII. Our ability to have our county service books digitized on the Portal is vital as they serve as the only period military record of tens of thousands of men and women that served. The Private Collection of the Ritchie Family is centered around military records pertaining to Texans during World War II. A majority of the collection is made up of county service books dating to 1946-1947 that document the WWII military service of men and women from the individual counties of Texas.

2. Can you tell us a story or two about how patrons or visitors have used your online collections that are hosted in the Portal?

From individuals and organizations that have reached out to us, we have been able to share photographs and service information to many families and genealogists that were unable to locate and document their family’s service from the federal government. On top of that, we have been able to provide information to other organizations for inclusion such as the City of Austin’s To Serve virtual exhibit that showcases the stories of veterans that are buried in the City of Austin’s many cemeteries.

3. What do you want others to know about your experience partnering with UNT’s Portal to Texas History?

From the very beginning is has been an easy process with the Portal. All of the staff have been very helpful walking us through the process of how everything works, we were even able to get a tour of the digital lab one year. The biggest thing I would impart on anyone thinking about working with the Portal is to simply do it. So much of history is lost simply because people don’t know what resources are out there to save it. Luckily the Portal makes it incredibly easy for those with an interest in Texas history to make sure that important documents, photos, and artifacts can be saved and preserved for posterity.

Michael Ritchie, a financial analyst at the Texas Military Department and current Texas State Guard officer is a descendant of multiple U.S. and Texas Revolutionary soldiers. Nichole Ritchie, a Texas history teacher, has devoted all of her free time to the preservation and sharing of local Texas history. Besides the Portal, they have worked on projects with the Sons and Daughters of the Republic of Texas, the Former Texas Rangers Association, the Texas Military Forces Museum, and are current members of the Burnet County Historical Commission.