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  • Writer's pictureMaria-Elena Cigarroa

Using modern tools to research historic buildings Wednesday, February 22, 2023 (11am-5pm)

Sunday, the Austin History Center was closed for the George Washington holiday, so I came in today instead. At the reference desk, I helped a patron do research on the Willie Chapel Baptist Church. She said that all their records had been lost and she was trying to figure out whether it had been designated historic and whether there were any zoning restrictions on it. For this, I accessed the City of Austin’s online property profile tool, which provides a map with multiple filters and layers. It allows you to view all the historically designated sites in Austin as well as historic neighborhoods that are considered Neighborhood Conservation Combined Districts (NCCD). I determined that it was neither a historically designated property nor was it in an NCCD. She also asked for any materials we had related to the church. I pulled some archival material that referenced the church. She asked about a large photograph we have of a congregation posed in front of the old Westley Chapel and we talked about it some. Before leaving, she thanked me for my help and talked to me about what it was like to be in the first class of kids that were bused to new schools when schools were desegregated in Austin. She told me that Black students were assigned to their own classrooms and were given lunch in their room instead of in the cafeteria. I can’t begin to imagine what that must have been like.

Another patron came in for information about the house she just purchased on Avenue H in the Hyde Park neighborhood (two houses down from me)! She wanted information about the Austin Women’s Art League because she heard that they would hold their meetings at her house. I pulled the vertical file on the Austin Art League for her. Then, another patron came in seeking information about his house on Edgecliff Drive—he was hoping that we would have old photos of his house, but unfortunately, we did not. He also wanted information about past occupants so I should him how to use the Austin criss-

cross directories. Finally, when things were quiet, I answered an email from a patron inquiring about whether the “Stephanie Jarvis report: The African Presence in Robertson Hill” is located in our vertical files; I checked the “Robertson Hill” vertical file, located the report, and emailed the patron confirming that indeed we do have the report. Before leaving I touched base with Jennifer about my schedule and about some of the reference emails she assigned me.

Maria-Elena Cigarroa

Supervisor: Jennifer Hecker

General Schedule: Sundays (11-6); Thursdays (2:00-6:00); Fridays (12:30-5:30)

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