This collection is the result of a partnership between the William R. Jenkins Architecture and Art Library and the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. It includes the oral histories of people who strongly impacted the built environment in the Houston Area. Architects, developers, scholars and philanthropists discuss their work, projects, and the influences that shaped Houston. Each subject is interviewed by an architect or architectural scholar who frames the discussion and provides context. The collection of oral histories is ongoing, so Building Houston's content will regularly expand to accommodate new subjects. Photographs of the Zemanek House on Bomar Street courtesy of Catherine Essinger.
Additional Building Houston oral histories are available in the UH Audio/Video Repository.
Burdette Keeland, Jr. was an influential Houston architect who left a legacy as a designer, an educator, and a member of the Houston Planning Commission. At the peak of his practice, from 1950 to 1980, Keeland produced some of the city’s best modernist architectural design. Yet he will also be remembered for his four decades on the faculty of the University of Houston, where he dedicated himself to mentoring the next generation of architects. This digital collection provides a sample of five of his imaginative works, including architectural drawings and renderings, photographs, clippings, and audio interviews.
A 1950 graduate of the University of Houston, Keeland quickly developed a successful architectural practice. As with many architects of the period, his work of the 1950s reflected the influence of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Keeland’s innovative design for the Fred Winchell Studio and Apartments (with Harwood Taylor, 1953) combined a professional office with rental apartments on a small city lot. Two years later he produced his best-known work, a steel-frame residence for homebuilder W. K. King, featured in the 1955 Meyerland Parade of Homes.
In the 1960s Keeland’s work expressed other trends in architectural design. He interpreted the Brutalist aesthetic in the Essex-Houck Office Building (with Herman F. Goeters, 1962), where his tight grouping of masonry towers gave this small office building a sense of the monumental. In the Williams Beach House of 1967 (with Alan Rice), his crisp, shed-roofed volumes evoked the barnlike structures of California’s iconic Sea Ranch development.
Keeland experimented with new ideas in his own house on Ferndale Street. In 1976 he transformed a modest 1930s house into an urban retreat for his family. He made further changes in the 1980s and 1990s, but the rear courtyard received the most attention. He showed his flair for artistic and whimsical details in the over-scaled metal column that supports a second floor overhang; a few feet away a vine-covered spiral staircase offered access to a roof-top office and observation deck.
Dr. Mehra's research in the history of 20th century physics has produced taped interviews with many famous scientists. The tapes compile discussions on physics, astrophysics, cosmology, quantum mechanics and quantum physics. Those interviewed include P.A.M. Dirac, W. Heisenberg, Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Willis E. Lamb Jr., Murray Gell-Mann and numerous other Nobel Laureates and distinguished scientists. Other tapes record speeches by many Nobel Prize winners in physics and the humanities. The information included in these oral histories are not only vast but varied and unique.
Some of Dr. Jagdish Mehra's literary works include; The beat of a different drum: the life and science of Richard Feynman, The Historical Development of Quantum Theory, and Einstein, physics and reality.
This first digital collection to go online consists of remastered audio tapes, transcripts and speaker biographies from a small portion of this unique oral history collection. It features speakers from the annual humanities series presented at the Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute (now the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth).
Margaret Mead (anthropologist)
William Slone Coffin (clergyman and activist)
Archibald MacLeish (Poet)
Gerald Holton (engineer and physicist)
Jerome Wiesner (engineer and mathematician)
Oscar Handlin (historian)
Philip Morrison (physicist)
Through images and video, this digital collection sheds light on the groundbreaking creation and dedicated running of the first public television station in the country. Hundreds of black and white photographs illustrate the work that went on both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes at KUHT-TV, while approximately 35 films provide a rich sample of the station’s diverse offerings. In all, the collection contains 336 items.
Most of the photographs date from the station’s early days in the 1950s, but later decades are also represented. The snapshots capture production staff, cameramen, set designers, and engineers, as well as on-air personalities and sets from Channel 8 News and other shows. Items of note include photos of the figures who were instrumental in getting KUHT up and running, such as University President Dr. Walter W. Kemmerer, faculty member and choral director Dr. John Schwarzwalder, and producer/director George Arms. The collection also includes images of celebrities appearing on PBS programs through the years: Mister Rogers, Julia Child, Phyllis Diller, Dustin Hoffman – and even Sesame Street’s Big Bird.
The films in this collection explore a wide array of topics of both local and national interest, including the evolution of African-American music; the blowout of an offshore oil well in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979; the controversy surrounding the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in 1977; integration in two area school districts in the 1960s; and documentaries on boxer Jack Johnson and Tejano music legend Lydia Mendoza. Of particular note is a series of programs from the 1960s called “Education for Survival – Civil Defense,” which covers Cold War-era subjects such as “Weapons in the Nuclear Age,” “Propaganda and You,” and “Radiation and Effects.” Another highlight is a press conference held by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the White House in 1960. Available for viewing in their entirety, the broadcasts generally run about 30-60 minutes each.
Located on the University of Houston campus, KUHT-TV was America's first public television station when it debuted in 1953, and became one of the founding stations of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in 1969. Today, KUHT-TV/HoustonPBS continues to produce innovative programming while serving not only the students and faculty at UH, but the greater Houston community as a whole.
The Oral Histories from the Houston History Project digital collection contains more than 500 oral histories from the oral history collection at the University of Houston, a repository supported by the UH Center for Public History and the University Libraries’ Houston History Archives. These oral histories, collected from 1996 to 2012, discuss topics including the Houston Ship Channel, Hurricane Katrina, and energy development. Most of the interviews also include transcripts.
When the Houston History Archives was created, its mission called for an oral history repository to preserve audio files and transcripts of stories describing the growth and development of the Gulf Coast region. Graduate students and faculty document memories of cultural, political, civil rights, and women’s history, building an assemblage of recollections of the city’s past from multiple viewpoints. To support that effort, the UH Oral History Project in the Center for Public History trains history graduate students to research and interview native and relocated Houstonians.
The Offshore Energy History, a collaborative project among several UH professors and other universities, makes up a large segment of the oral history collection. It was conceived to document the growth of oil production and refining along the Gulf Coast before and after World War II. Other intriguing oral histories include interviews with Katrina emergency responders in Houston, a series of discussions with African American generals from the Vietnam era, profiles of members of Houston's Indo-Asian population, and interviews from the Afro-American Physicians project.
Because the UH oral history project is ongoing, additional oral histories will be added to this digital collection in the future.
This collection of recordings documents the University of Houston Barbara Karkabi Living Archives series. The collection provides access to the videos of the Living Archives panel discussions, which cover such diverse topics as women in sports, female politicians, women and religion, motherhood, and breast cancer survival. Individual interviews with notable Houston women, including former mayor Kathy Whitmire, women’s activist Nikki Van Hightower, and former city councilwoman Eleanor Tinsley, are also a part of the collection.
The Living Archives events are panel discussions and interviews with topics covering diverse aspects of women’s lives in Houston and the issues that affect them, and the public events are held multiple times a year. They are sponsored by the University of Houston Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and the Friends of Women’s Studies. The University of Houston Barbara Karkabi Living Archives Recordings contain recordings of events beginning in 1995, and additional recordings will be added to the collection on a regularly basis.