By Brooks Whitehurst
Tucked between Moody Memorial Library and the Jessie H. Jones Library stands a library that houses congressional records and personal papers related to the political history of Texas.
The Poage Legislative Library was founded in honor of Baylor alumnus and Rep. W.R. Poage, who served 42 years in Congress and died in 1987.
This month marks the 35th anniversary of the library, which falls in line with the celebration of National Archives Month.
Poage was recorded saying,“I believe it’s the best location outside of the [Lyndon Baines] Johnson Library of any thing of the kind that I know of,” in volume 4 of the Oral Memoirs of William Robert Bob Poage.
Ben Rogers, director of the Poage Library, said he hopes National Archives Month will help make people aware of the Poage Library and of the treasures it houses.
“An archive is a place that keeps records of enduring value, and National Archives Month helps make people aware of archives,” Rogers said. “We want to make people aware that there may be things in their attics that have enduring value.”
One example, Rogers said, was last fall when the Poage Library opened their John F. Kennedy exhibit. People all over Waco contacted the library with newspaper clippings from all over the country, and even Mexico, from the day Kennedy was assassinated.
“We don’t know what people might have and they don’t know what to do with it,” Rogers said.
To celebrate the Poage Library’s anniversary, a collection of “treasures from the vault” will be exhibited, which showcases some unusual items in the library’s collection.
Some of the items in the exhibit include a 1930s Franklin Delano Roosevelt Campaign crepe paper dress, a Pakistani dagger presented to Rep. Jack Hightower in 1980, a 1940 voting machine, World War II Nazi helmets and daggers from General Penn Jones Jr.
“This exhibit is a celebration of all aspects of the Poage,” said Erik Swanson, exhibit curator for Poage Library. “When people think of archives they think of papers, but it can also be a lot of other things too.”
Swanson said every exhibit has a theme, and this one posed the challenge of encapsulating 35 years of the Poage library.
“It’s a snapshot of the Poage, a compilation of everything we’ve collected over 35 years,” Swanson said. “We don’t want to just throw objects in a case. We want to take objects and put them together into a theme.”
The Treasures from the Vault exhibit opened Oct. 1 and will be on display 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Monday through Friday until Dec. 9.
Rogers said the uniqueness of the Poage Library makes it an integral part of Baylor’s campus for those doing research on Texas history and politics and for students who want to encounter history.
“You can’t go to the public library and ask for the things we have here,” Rogers said. “The Poage library gives students a chance to see historical documents up close and personal.”