Texas Archeological Research Laboratory


Project Archives

The massive collection of documents that constitutes TARL's Site Records was initiated around 1919. Professor James E. Pearce, founder of the Department of Anthropology at UT Austin, directed to Texas public school teachers a set of questionnaires wanting to compile basic information about the types and distributions of archeological sites across the state. His questionnaires are some of the oldest primary documents in the TARL archives. Since that time, literally hundreds of different kinds of site records have made their way to TARL, everything from newspaper clippings to letters to today's official state site recording form. These primary documents are extremely valuable in scientific terms because many of them are the only existing record of archeological sites which have been destroyed by the many forces and faces of "progress," natural erosion, and purposeful destruction. 

Project records from Cultural Resource Management (CRM) projects, contracted research done because of Federal and State laws, are kept as a unit called an accession within the Project Archives.  These records date back to the second decade of the 20th century during the archeological survey work of J.E. Pearce. 

Map files include permanent copies of USGS 7.5' topographic maps on which site locations are plotted and project map archives. Map archives consist of large, flat-filing cabinet drawers of documents including field, and finished site maps, plan maps, profile drawings, project area maps, aerial photographs, and rock art tracings.

Photographic Archives

TARL also houses general and site-specific photographs from thousands of archeological sites and projects that dramatically proves, in some cases, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. Like the site and project records themselves, photographs are primary records that document a great many things and circumstances that no longer exist.  

The old standard photographic medium was black-and-white photography. Many different formats and film types were used to photograph archeological sites. The oldest and most fragile photographic materials at TARL are glass plate negatives are stored in special housing and the nitrate negatives in cold storage. More modern, film-based, black-and-white photographs, color slides, and some color prints constitute the bulk of the print files housed in filing cabinets. Digital photographs are quickly becoming the majority of our holdings.  We require that images from digital photography be printed with captions to mimic the photograph envelope system used for many years.   organized the same way the site records are (e.g., by county and site number). The Photographic Archives are accessible only to qualified researchers and students, but images are also provided to museums, publishers, and for other educational purposes. The reorganization of the project archives will ultimately result in all photographs stored with their accession files.  Until then, staff can assist researchers with locating images.  TARL staff are also slowly digitizing all our old print and slide photography to create an accessible archive.   

TARL's photographic archives also include a number of special collections donated by individual photographers including E. Mott Davis, Norman Flaigg, Alex Krieger, Wayne Neyland, Robert (Bob) Stiba, and Wally Williams. These provide unique records of personal site visits, otherwise undocumented sites and collections, and many of the field schools of the Texas Archeological Society. TARL accepts new photographic collections on a case-by-case basis — neatly labeled and organized photographs are much more useful than boxes full of jumbled, unlabeled photographs. In order to prepare a photograph for the archives it must be identified, labeled, catalogued, and placed in acid-free archival sleeves, a costly and time-consuming process.

Request to Photograph Collections/Order Photograph Copies (download PDF)