New “Waco History” Website and Mobile App, Created by Baylor University, Showcase Central Texas Heritage

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    Camp MacArthur, a military training camp during World War I, in operation from 1917-1919 (Photo Courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University)
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    Map of Texas Cotton Palace exposition in Waco, held from 1894-1895 and 1910-1930. (Photo Courtesy of The Texas Collection, Waco)
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    Lovers' Leap in Cameron Park, where folklore says that two Native American lovers leapt to their death. (Photo courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University)
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    Stephen Sloan, Ph.D., director of Baylor's Institute for Oral History (Baylor University photo)
March 2, 2015

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Contact: Terry Goodrich,(254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (March 2, 2015) — A "virtual museum" to help tourists and residents learn about the rich history of Waco and Central Texas has debuted as a joint venture of Baylor University’s Institute for Oral History and Baylor’s The Texas Collection.

The project — “Waco History” — is a website at www.wacohistory.org and a free mobile app showcasing the people, places and moments that have shaped “the heart of Texas,” said Stephen Sloan, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Oral History.

"We have the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, the Waco Mammoth site, the Dr Pepper Museum . . . But we’re one of the largest cities in Texas that doesn’t have a museum solely devoted to city history," he said. “We wanted something that says, 'This is Waco.'"

The app features layered, map-based, multimedia presentations, and visitors can experience curated historical tours of Central Texas through audio and video, Sloan said.

"The value for tourism is inherent, but this also speaks to local audiences and is an opportunity for people to learn about the value of our arts and cultural development and the richness in our community," said Liz Taylor, director of Waco & the Heart of Texas and Waco Convention Center.

The Institute for Oral History houses more than 5,700 oral histories, both audio and video, while The Texas Collection has a wealth of historic images.

"We have more than 50 historical entries on the site and will build this to have hundreds more," Sloan said. “This will be an ongoing project."

Events and sites featured will range from pre-history — such as the Waco Mammoth Site — to the present.

Among "Waco History" highlights:

  • Cameron Park, inspired by the Progressive Era’s City Beautiful Movement, was set aside for "the pleasure of the people" in 1910. One of the country’s largest municipal parks and a natural refuge. It became known for its woods, limestone bluffs, playground and hiking paths, as well as a history of shifting public perceptions of the area.
  • The Roosevelt Tower, formerly The Roosevelt Hotel, built in 1928 by Conrad Hilton as Texas’ third Hilton Hotel. Among its distinctions are the arrest of famed outlaw Clyde Barrow in one of the hotel rooms in 1929 and its emerging unscathed from the Waco tornado of 1953, despite being in the path of the devastation.
  • The 22-story ALICO building at Austin Avenue and Fifth Street, completed in 1911 and until 1929 known to be the tallest building west of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
  • A.J. Moore High School, started in 1875 by Professor Alfred James Moore of Paul Quinn College, who was concerned at the lack of quality education for African-American children in Waco and began teaching small groups of young children out of his home. The inaugural graduating class contained only five students, but since then, more than 4,000 have graduated.
  • "Waco History" began with an undergraduate class in oral history that Sloan taught in the spring of 2014, with more than a dozen students researching and writing entries for the site.

    "Many wonderful projects and ideas get bogged down in the mechanics, but marshaling the resources of a 'student army' can make things come to fruition sooner," Taylor noted.

    From an educational perspective, students involved with the project develop their skills in digital publishing and will be able to emphasize that impressive experience on their resumés, Sloan said.

    Amanda Sawyer, a Baylor senior University Scholar, became interested in the project while in Sloan’s class and sought to become involved further. Today, she is a student worker who researches and writes project entries, an experience she said has been rewarding.

    "My concentrations are in Chinese and history, and my plans were to work for the government in language analysis, but this has opened my eyes more to history in America and local history," Sawyer said. "I didn’t know much about Waco until I took that course. There’s so much more out there than I realized."

    For more information about the project, visit

    www.wacohistory.org

    ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

    Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.

    ABOUT THE INSTITUTE FOR ORAL HISTORY

    Through dynamic, recorded interviews, the Institute for Oral History preserves the stories of individuals who helped create the fabric of history and whose lives, in turn, were shaped by the people, places, events and ideas of their day. The Institute has recorded and preserved oral histories since 1970, earning along the way a strong reputation for multidisciplinary outreach to both academic scholars and community historians by providing professional leadership, educational tools, and research opportunities. For more information, visit www.baylor.edu/oralhistory/

    ABOUT THE TEXAS COLLECTION

    The Texas Collection is Baylor University's oldest special collections library and serves as the University Archive that collects, preserves, and provides access to materials on the history, heritage and culture of Texas. It began in 1923 with a gift of more than 1,000 volumes of Texana from local surgeon Dr. Kenneth Hazen Aynesworth. From that philanthropic start, The Texas Collection has expanded to become a major research center. Its holdings on Texas and contiguous regions are among the nation’s strongest. In addition to Texana, The Texas Collection has significant resources on the city of Waco and McLennan County. It provides research fellowships, public outreach, publications and symposia, and it supports historic preservation locally and in Baylor’s birthplace in Independence, Texas.

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