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Carraro/Weller Collection

A Guide to the Carraro / Weller “Retracing Russell Lee” Project Collection
1991 - 1993
Collection 052

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Descriptive Summary

Creator:    Francine Carraro and Eric Weller
Title:    The Carraro / Weller “Retracing Russell Lee” Project Collection
Dates:    1991 - 1993
Abstract:    This collection includes oral histories recorded on audio cassette tapes, transcriptions, videotapes, photographs, notes, and exhibit text panels which document this project, retracing FSA photographer Russell Lee’s Depression era work in Pie Town, NM and San Augustine, TX.
Identification:    Collection 052
Extent:    16 boxes (11 linear feet)
Language:    English
Repository:    Southwestern Writers Collection, Special Collections, Alkek Library, Texas State University-San Marcos

Project History

In July, 1991, a team of photographers and oral historians from Texas State University set out to retrace the steps of Farm Security Administration photographer, Russell Lee (1903-1986).  Fifty years after Lee visited and photo-documented the living and working conditions of the Depression era communities of San Augustine, Texas, and Pie Town, New Mexico, this group was inspired by Lee’s FSA images held at Texas State’s Southwestern Writers Collection. The group visited these same two towns Lee visited, in some cases the same people, taking photographs and conducting oral histories. The team was funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation, and was led by Francine Carraro and Eric Weller. Students included Tom Anderson, Kathleen Dolan, Homero Garcia, Kerri Madden, Darryl Meyer, Stephanie Shaddock, Karen Sorenson, Mark Edward Smith, Russell Smyth, and Sondra Talbert.

The oral histories and photographs taken by this team led to an exhibit and accompanying catalog featuring selected photographs and portions of the oral histories. The exhibit was first shown at Texas State in September, 1992, and traveled to Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX) and Stephen F. Austin University (Nacogdoches, TX) in 1993.
Jean Lee, widow of Russell Lee, and Bill Wittliff, founding donor of the Wittliff Collections, donated a significant collection of Russell Lee’s vintage FSA prints and field notes, as well as cameras, personal papers, and photographs spanning Lee’s entire lifetime and career, to the Southwestern Writers Collection beginning in 1986. While other institutions such as the Library of Congress, National Archives, University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Louisville also hold important Russell Lee collections, the collection at Texas State University includes the largest group of vintage FSA prints.

Scope and Content Note

This collection includes oral histories recorded on audio cassette tapes, transcriptions, videotapes, photographs, notes, and exhibit text panels which document this project, retracing FSA photographer Russell Lee’s Depression era work in Pie Town, NM and San Augustine, TX. Dates range from 1991-1993. The collection is arranged in five series: Oral Histories, Videotapes, Exhibit Catalog, Exhibit Panels, and Photographs.

Series I: Oral Histories (1991) includes audiocassette tapes and transcriptions of oral histories taken by team members are arranged into Subseries A: Pie Town, New Mexico, and Subseries B : San Augustine, TX. Under each town, materials are filed in alphabetical order by the name of the subject, with the audiocassette tapes first, followed by the transcripts. Most tapes have transcriptions, several do not.

Series II: Videotapes (1991) documents the project by capturing the team members traveling and planning their progress, and by including some oral history work. These tapes are marked either “Pie Town” or “San Augustine”, and are numbered. Additionally, one tape includes a thirty-minute interview with Russell Lee circa 1975, produced by Paul Hightower.

Series III: Exhibit Catalog (1991-1992) includes notes, drafts of the catalog text, page proofs, and one final copy.

Series IV: Exhibit Panels (1992) includes roughly the same text as is featured in the exhibit catalog, and are mounted on white mats.

Series V: Photographs (1991) of Pie Town and San Augustine by Kathleen Dolan, Kerri Madden, Daryl Meyer, and Mark Edward Smith are included in this series. They are arranged by photographer in alphabetical order, then in groups featuring Pie Town and San Augustine.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions: Open for research.
Preferred Citation: The Carraro / Weller “Retracing Russell Lee” Project Collection, Southwestern Writers Collection, Texas State University-San Marcos
Acquisition Information: Donated by Francine Carraro and Eric Weller, 1994.
Processing Information: Processed by Amanda Oates, 2000. Finding aid revised by Alan Schaefer, 2010.

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