Austin History Center

By: Biruta Celmins Kearl

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: October 4, 2018

The Austin History Center, the local history and information division of the Austin Public Library, is an extensive research collection of both primary source materials and published materials that document Austin and Travis County. It is located in the former central library building at 810 Guadalupe Street, a 1933 limestone structure designed by Hugo Kuehne in the Italian Renaissance style. The building, which occupies a half-block site overlooking Wooldridge Park, was remodeled in 1959 and renovated in 1983. It is a Texas historic landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The collection was begun in 1955 as part of the reference section of the library, became a separate division known as the Austin-Travis County Collection in 1961, and became known as the Austin History Center in 1983. The collection grew to include (in 1995) more than 12,000 books, 2,500 linear feet of manuscripts, 700,000 photographs, 22,000 clipping files, 900 periodical titles, 1,000 maps, 26,000 architectural drawings, and 4,000 video, audio, and electronic recordings. Significant collections of primary source materials include the papers of Texas governor Elisha M. Pease and his family, suffragist Jane Y. McCallum, and civic leader Walter E. Long, as well as the Trueman O'Quinn O. Henry Collection and the Chalberg Photography Collection. The center serves as the depository for historical Travis County records under the Texas State Library's Regional Historical Resource Depository program and as the official archives for city of Austin records. Since 1991 it has also overseen the Records Management Program for the city of Austin. One of the earliest and now one of the largest local history collections in Texas, the Austin History Center was directed by Katherine Drake Hart until 1975, by Audray Bateman Randle from 1975 to 1989, and subsequently by Biruta Celmins Kearl. The center is funded by tax money through the city of Austin; in 1995 the operating budget was $449,388 and the staff numbered fourteen full-time-equivalent positions. The center provides assistance to researchers in person, over the telephone, and by mail. It mounts two or three exhibits each year from materials in its collection and contributes regular articles to the Austin American-Statesman. With the assistance of its citizen support group, the Austin History Center Association, some of the center's collections have been published in its own imprint, the Waterloo Press. Among these have been An Epitome of My Life, Civil War Reminiscences; Lucadia Pease and the Governor; Letters: 1850–1857; and Austin and Travis County; a Pictorial History, 1839–1939. The association also publishes a biannual newsletter, Austin Archives.

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Biruta Celmins Kearl, “Austin History Center,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 21, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
October 4, 2018