Three Questions with John Slate at the Dallas Municipal Archives

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 organization’s historic materials on UNT’s Portal to Texas History for your patrons or visitors?

Very important! Considering economies of scale, the Portal is a godsend for archives programs like ours. We do not have reliable options for serving up our photographs and documents. It’s a perfect fit for the Dallas Municipal Archives because we can achieve our mission of access to our materials on a scale that we could never do on our own. We are deeply grateful to UNT for creating, hosting, and maintaining the Portal for everyone to use.

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?

Our most requested collection, the President John F. Kennedy/Dallas Police Department Collection, is available for use 24/7 to a hungry audience of students, independent researchers, professional authors, amateur sleuths, and other users. Considering the fragile nature of the originals, it is terrific that we can direct users to the Portal. There young students can do class assignments with primary source materials; high school, college, and graduate students can write their papers and can research any aspect of the JFK assassination without making an appointment; and conspiracy researchers can peruse our documents and photographs to their hearts’ delight. Thanks to a Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s TexTreasures grant, this collection can be used and enjoyed by multiple audiences with completely unfettered access.

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

The Dallas Municipal Archives experience with the Portal is a win-win. We love that our materials are available for anyone with access to the Internet. Clicking on history from the comfort of your own surroundings makes research that much easier—especially if you are a student at 3 am with a paper due later that day. The Portal also gives researchers an idea of what we have on offer, and they can use those details, along with our own website, to decide whether an in-person appointment would further their projects. For us, the Portal is important for conducting our own searches down the rabbit holes of Texas history. The Portal assists us with performing our work for the City of Dallas, supporting our customers, and enabling us to see archival colleagues’ online collections.

The Dallas Municipal Archives has been a Portal to Texas History partner since 2009, with over 7,000 of their historical items online, which have been used 4.4 million times since the partnership began. Their collections document notable events in Dallas history such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the activities of the Clyde Barrow Gang, and the general overall growth of the city of Dallas.