About the Archives/Special Collections, J. Conrad Dunagan Library

Service Information

For any archival project, it is wisest to contact the Archives prior to a visit to discuss research needs and parameters.    Patrons are encouraged to make specific appointments and to notify the Archives if they are not able to keep the appointment.

All materials must be used in the Archives/Special Collections public study area. First time patrons must read and sign a form outlining the rules for use of materials. Photocopying is subject to restrictions of copyright, fragility of materials, restrictions by donor etc. Photocopying  is done by staff and is paid for by the patron (by check in our cash-free library).

We have a nice new library built in 2001. The archives has a climate-controlled windowless stacks room. Four large tables are useable by researchers and the use of two computers if needed.

Overview of Collections


Special Collections (documents produced by UTPB) tells the history of the university with campus publications and other material. These are in frequent demand for school spirit projects and public relations projects.

Special Collections (books) include rare editions and autographed editions of works of English and American literature, history and other fields. These are of use for serious work in textual and bibliographic studies.

Special Collections (documents owned by UTPB) include original manuscripts and movie scripts of Larry McMurtry (Texas Modern Fiction Writers Collection); Gordon Bankston Collection and J. Frank Dobie Collection; Frederick Francis Nye papers; Harold Young Civil Rights Collection, histories of Texas counties, and petroleum in the Permian Basin.  In other words, here is the research material needed in order to be steeped in the area’s history and be, if not be another Larry McMurtry, at least a well-informed student of the area’s history and culture.

Special Collections (photos, audios, videos). The collection contains Dallas Glass Plate Negatives, Ellen Dorothy (Schultz) Quillan botanical photographs, John A. Stryker rodeo photographs,  historical post cards. Important as words are, these pictures take the viewer into the past in ways that words cannot.

Special Collections: John Ben Shepperd Collection. The boxed collection of documents  consists of 300 cubic feet of documents from his years as Attorney General, his efforts to establish UTPB, his years of civic service and public service.

The collection includes his library of 2000 books indicating the range of his interests and taste and acquaintance with authors. Some of the books are interesting in themselves; some are interesting because they belonged to John Ben Shepperd.

It is easy to understand his importance as an icon and why this material is here at UTPB. But it is important to communicate that everyone who has spent time reading his speeches and other documents has been caught up in his charisma and intellect and found him fascinating above and beyond his objective importance.


The materials are the most basic Permian Basin-specific historical materials: KOSA-TV newsreels, photographs, audio and video histories, documents from individuals, clubs, schools, churches, county histories, newspaper clippings.  Patrons come here to recall their own “early days” in the Permian Basin or their parents’ days, or their grandparents’ days; sometimes for nostalgia, sometimes for research.

The papers of J. Conrad Dunagan are 125 cubic feet of material covering his businesses, his work in historical associations, in charitable and civic organizations and in establishing Monahans Sandhills State Park.  As with John Ben Shepperd material, it is obvious why this material would be here, but less obvious why younger people should be interested.  People who get good things done, big things done, by their skills and expertise and strength of will are worth studying.


UTPB was the pilot site for this state program.  Non-current business and government records owned by the Texas State Library and Archives are placed here from area counties: Andrews, Crane, Ector, Gaines, Mitchell, Upton, and Winkler. The obvious use is for genealogical research, but broader historical/statistical study is also possible.


On the catalog page,  you can select <advanced search> at the outset. Or you can do a search and then select <modified search> or <limit search>. Any of those will take you to a page where you can scroll on <location> to <archives>.

Obviously, you can search by authors and titles for published works. But for archival manuscripts and collections, keyword searches are generally best. An obvious source of keywords are general and specific items mentioned in the overview.

This not only picks up subjects and words in titles but words in the copious note fields, so that it is possible to search for specific individuals, battles, historic buildings, et cetera. <Texas Rangers> limited to archives gets 61 hits. <Llano Estacado> limited to archives gets 17 hits.

(The most rewarding subject search is for photographs, limited to the archives, which shows all 295+  photograph collections. Maps by subject limited to archives gets 28 hits, by keyword 231, by archives, material type <print map> 47).

To get a detailed look at collections by local call number [not recommended except as an exercise in frustration]:

On the catalog page, select <local call number> and enter <80>. These are the 1980 Special Collections (collected or generated by the University), and, you will see on that first page, J. Frank Dobie and Larry McMurtry collections. You can look year by year into 2008. But some of the collections lack titles on the first level screen and some of the titles are not helpful and many of Special Collections are only of interest to someone doing a history of UTPB.

Select <local call number> and enter <A> and there will be a complete list of all Permian Historical Society Archive collections.

Due to the way the search engine works, the A2000’s appear first, followed by the first collection A5901 [first collection of 1959] and on through A99XX. These titles sometimes refer to the material, but often are named by the collector. And “Grace King, “Betty Orbeck” et al mean something to local historians but not to outside researchers.

For more information, visit the J. Conrad Dunagan Library Online.  See also: Article on the evolution of the collection.