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Frequently Asked Questions

The banner on the homepage represents a small sampling from the collections in the TDA. The collection names below provide direct links to the items in the TDA (in order from left to right on the banner):

Note: In addition to what is provided below, please see the Navigation and Search Tips page for more advice regarding searching and browsing in the TDA.


Copying content General Information

Why should I consider browsing if I can just search?

Records are created in the course of specific activities, usually business, and are very rarely created in isolation. The materials that surround a specific record can provide a researcher with important information about the reason why a record was created. Just as taking a statement out of the context of a speech can completely misrepresent the intent of the speaker, reading a record out context  can misrepresent the importance and purpose of the record. What makes an archive such as the TDA special is that the records it stores are in the order the record creator gave them (or as near as possible). After finding the specific record you seek, it is highly recommended that you review the surrounding materials to understand the context of its creation.

How do search results get sorted?

The TDA sorts search results by type of level, then order of importance for results. Search results will always show collection-level results before record-level results, and record-level results before item-level results. If no collection-level results exist, then record-level results will show first. If this result order hinders the results, we recommend using the facets and filters to remove unwanted results levels.

Currently, search results within the different levels of the TDA (Collection-level, record-level, item-level) are arranged be relevance. Within that relevance, results are in no specific order. A future development which we hope to have implemented in the spring of 2018 is the ability to sort results based on title, collection name, and size.

Why aren’t the right things coming up in a search/is my search accurate?

Accuracy of a search is tricky to master, and in a system as large as the TDA it can be hard to wade through the results to know if your search results are accurate. In some rare instances, the index the TDA uses (Solr) will forget content, which will need to be re-indexed for it to show up in a search. In most cases, search results are accurate to the computer but may not be accurate to what was meant. For example, a misspelled word in the search term or the records would not yield the desired results. If your search text is part of a larger text, like a filename, the results may also be unexpected. Please read the search tips pages, especially the section on wildcards for more suggestions.

Why am I having trouble searching for a specific document/media file when the record is so new?

The TDA holds digitized and born-digital records. Digitized records were originally created in some other format and tools were used to create a digital copy. Born-digital records, in contrast, were created in a digital environment and, although someone may have made a copy, the original is in digital form. When digitizing records, Texas State Archives staff touches every single digitized record and so have the opportunity to create some descriptive information about what we are digitizing at the individual item or folder-level. Due to the volume of born-digital records, we cannot touch or create descriptive information for every single item. If you are having trouble finding a born-digital record, we recommend you browse through a collection to find what you require.

How do I search for a record created on a specific a date?

Dates in the TDA follow a number format of year-month-day.  You may search for a specific year (yyyy) or a specific day (yyyy-mm-dd). When searching for a date, you must search using numbers, with four (4) digits for the year and two (2) digits for a month and a day. A dash is necessary to separate sections of a date; computers will sometimes treat a dash (-) as a space, so it is best to use quotations (“date”) around the date to ensure it searches everything together. For example, January 26, 1861 would be searched using the following format: “1861-01-26”.

What are the limitations of dates and faceted search?

If the Texas State Archive has a record that does not have a known exact date or year, the archival rule is to use the term “undated” or provide a date range. Due to the nature of searching in the TDA, a specific year or year/month/day format is required for a date to show up as a date in the faceted search. Because it could be considered misleading in the TDA to provide a date of creation when none is known or is inexact, the archives has chosen to retain the “undated” term for the cases where information is unknown and to provide a date range for inexact dates.

Why are there more hits in the faceted search than are actually available?

The TDA runs on Preservica, which is a digital preservation system. For many of the records in the TDA there are master original files and secondary access copies. When a secondary access copy exists, this is the copy provided in the TDA public access portal and a patron must request the master original file. When a faceted search provides a hit count, it shows results based on ALL files that exist, even those that need to be requested.

Copying Content

Can I download electronic records?

Electronic records that are accessible in the TDA may be downloaded by using the download button located directly above the electronic record viewer pane. This will only download a copy of the record you are viewing. A user may download as many copies of as many records as they wish. However, there is no way to download multiple records at the same time. A copy request can be submitted to download multiple files without visiting the page of each individual record.

How do I Request Copies?

Electronic records can be downloaded directly from the TDA using the download button on an individual File page. If a patron is interested in a select few items, this is the recommended approach to obtaining copies. In cases where there is a large volume of electronic records and a patron does not wish to visit each individual page to download copies, they may contact the reference staff to request copies. In most cases a copy request will involve a fee related to resources used to complete it.

Copies of paper records listed in the TDA may also be requested. Contact the reference staff for more information on obtaining copies of paper records.


Copyright is the set of rules/laws that determine what person or persons have the right to access, view, provide access to, reproduce, or otherwise handle an item. Copyright most commonly refers to the ability to reproduce, and make a profit from, the content of a record. The majority of TSLAC’s holdings have no known copyright restrictions and are available for public use.

Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).

When a copyright restriction is known, it will be stated and the electronic record will not be available in the TDA. It is the responsibility of the researcher to verify the status of copyright for a record before reproducing a record of any kind.

Preferred Citation

When using images and other records from the Texas Digital Archive for publication or display, please use the credit “Courtesy of Texas State Library and Archives Commission (and cite the collection name and record title or image number).”

For other uses of records, such as a source in an article, please use the TSLAC preferred citation. The preferred citation is provided at the series level in the descriptive guides for your convenience.


There is no fee to use the TDA through the public access portal. In addition there is no fee to download material made available through the public access portal. However, there are fees for copy requests of electronic records if the files need to be provided on physical media such as paper, CD-ROM, DVD or other storage device. For further assistance with copy requests, please contact the Reference Desk. For an explanation of the fee structure, click here.

General Information

How we use cookies

Cookies are a common method of tracking use of a website. A small tracker placed on your computer that the system identifies when you access the website through the web browser. The method of storing cookies can vary by browser type and a cookie is specific to the browser used to access a website. The cookie does not store information itself, but creates an identifier for the system being accessed to link information to a specific device (not person using the device). The information collected is processed by Google Analytics to generate reports relevant to TDA use. The data tracked with cookies using Google Analytics includes, but is not limited to:

  • General geographic location. i.e. Austin, Texas vs. Tokyo, Japan
  • Web browser type. i.e. Google Chrome vs. Mozilla Firefox.
  • Type of device being used. i.e. computer vs. smart phone.

We use this data to:

  • Track public use of specific collections and types of materials.
  • Gauge efficacy/use of specific tools, such as customize search pages, and determine whether improvement to pages have an effect on public access.
  • Determine the most popular web browsers being used so that we can ensure any tools/pages are usable with those browsers.
  • Determine the types of devices being used to access content so that we can ensure pages/content is compatible with frequently used devices.
  • Enable the favorites feature (heart icon), allowing users to keep track of their favorite items and facilitate easy download of a group of collection materials.

Please note that all usage statistics is anonymous, no personally identifiable information is collected. Incidentally identifiable information is not used to target specific individuals and is only used in the aggregate in analysis for the purposes listed above.

Why do I get an error message when trying to view a PDF file?

When trying to view a PDF in the TDA, some users may get an error message showing that the structure of the PDF being viewed is invalid (see image below for an example of this message). This error message is most likely caused by the web-browser type being incompatible with the PDF viewer technology. A 32-bit browser type is partially incompatible with the PDF viewer. To resolve this error, we recommend upgrading the web-browser to a 64-bit version or clicking on the download link to view the PDF locally on the computer. If this message continues after upgrading the web-browser, please contact the reference desk for additional advice on accessing records.

Why can’t I see some files that show up when browsing/searching?

The are two possible reasons for this problem:

  1. The TDA does not have a viewer/player that can render the file. While the TDA has many built-in players, it does not support many exotic and some common formats for viewing playing. If this is the case, you may still download the file and use your own viewer to access the content.
  2. The file was uploaded with multiple versions created by the Archives. See “Why are the duplicate versions of a file and why can’t I view both of them” for an explanation of this particular situation.
Why are there duplicate versions of a file and why can’t I view both of them?

The TDA system runs on the Preservica digital preservation system. This system includes both master copies of files are received or created by the Texas State Archives, and access copies. In circumstances where the access copies are directly created by the Archives before being added to Preservica, the TDA will list a file for everything uploaded. By design, only the access copy is actually rendered. All others versions will show a “This file cannot be displayed.” message. This is a known concern with the TDA that we are attempting to resolve by removing duplicate entries for the same files.

How are URLs created in the TDA?

There are two types of webpage within the TDA: handmade webpages and automatically generated webpages.

  • Handmade webpages: These have a persistent URL and a pubic-friendly version. The persistent URL will always direct you to the correct webpage and look like “[a number]”. The URL shown in the web address bar is the public-friendly version, copying this will take you to the correct webpage so long as the TDA site structure does not change.
  • Automatically generated webpages: Collections, records and files in the TDA all have a unique identifier. URLs are made “on-the-fly” following a specific structure. The structure is ([ ] are used to indicate something that can change) “[archive or uncategorized]/[collection or deliverableUnit or digitalFile]_[unique identifier]/”.
Why isn’t the URL I copied before November 2017 working now (and how do I fix it)?

The TDA received a major upgrade in mid-November 2017. Part of that upgrade involved a change to how webpage URLs for collections/records/items are automatically constructed. Most web browsers will automatically take the old URL and correct it to the new structure without problems. If this is not the case for you, first try opening the webpage in a different browser program as it could be that your browser is not properly redirecting you to the correct webpage. If that does not work, try searching for the file again using the unique identifier. The length of the unique identifier can vary, but it is usually the last twenty (20) or so characters of the URL. Once found, copy the new URL for your reference.

Why else could my URL not be working?

There are three other common causes of URLs no longer working: site structure changes, the file is no longer available, the record/file had to be re-uploaded.

  • Site structure changes: In rare cases a handmade webpage will go through a name change or be re-assigned to a different part of the descriptive guides. When this happens the public-friendly URL does change and an old URL (probably) will not work and you will need to navigate to the new location to copy the new URL. However, the persistent URL for the page will never change and should still work.
  • Files no longer available: In rare cases, files initially deemed open to the public are later determined to be restricted. When this happens, you are no longer able to browse to the collection/record/file in the TDA and using a direct link to the collection/record/file will generate an error message. The unique identifier for the collection/record/file should still be valid if you need to request it. If you do need to make a request, it is highly recommended that you have the filename or item description available as well as a unique identifier.
  • Re-uploaded record/file: In some cases records/files uploaded to the TDA need to be re-uploaded and previous copies removed from the system. When this happens the system automatically assigns a unique identifier to the “new” records/files. An identifier for a record/file cannot be changed to match a previous unique identifier. URLs for records/files include the unique identifier, because the unique identifier has changed the URL has also changed. Try searching or navigating to the desired file and copying the new URL once you have located it.
Common Terminology in the TDA

The definitions listed below are important for understanding how to navigate the content found within the TDA:

  • File: An individual electronic file within a “Record.” May also be written as “Files”. The File is sometimes referred to as an electronic record.
  • Record: A set of Files that are bundled together when uploaded into the TDA. This is comparable to a file folder on a computer. May also be written as Records. A Record may also include subsidiary Records.
  • Collection: A container used for Records. Collections usually hold a set of Records. Most often, a Collection represents the series or subseries for record groups held in the TDA. A Collection may include subsidiary Collections, just as a series may have several subseries. A top-level Collection will hold all of the Collections, Records, and Files for an entire major group of records held in the TDA. The top-level Collection is the equivalent of the archival record group.
  • Scope and Content: A basic description of what records exist within a Collection. Typically this does NOT include an interpretation of the meaning of the content of the records.
  • Conditions Governing Access: Circumstances that will limit or prevent the ability to view the electronic records.
  • Conditions Governing Use: Circumstances that will limit or prevent how the electronic records can be used/reused by a person with access to them.
  • TARO Identifier: TARO is an abbreviation of Texas Archival Resources Online, and is an online resource space many archives within Texas use to share information about their collections through descriptive finding aids. The TARO Identifier is an alphanumeric code given to a finding aid and usually is unique to a specific collection. The finding aids in TARO are the authoritative source of TSLAC descriptions of a collection, regardless of whether the collection is paper or electronic. Click here to access the TARO website.
Public Information Act (PIA) requests

The Public Information Act (PIA) is a Texas law that provides for public access to all records of State government. However, the law provides for some records to be excluded from public access based on specific criteria. When one or more criteria are met that causes a record to be excluded from public access, this is called an exception. In some cases information can be redacted from a record and access can be granted to the redacted version.

At the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, if a set of records is known or suspected to have an exception, then the records are marked as restricted and the public must access the records by making a PIA request. Upon receiving a PIA request, the Archives will review the records and proceed appropriately. Please note that the ability to redact some information in a record does not necessarily guarantee that public access with be granted. For more information about PIA, click here.

Reference Requests

The reference staff of TSLAC are a valuable resource for researcher access to records. Although the reference staff are unable to conduct research for patrons, they will facilitate and/or help patrons learn how to access records. For example, the reference staff can assist researchers with navigating the TDA, finding a specific record, or accessing electronic records that are only available upon request. The TSLAC reference staff may be reached at or by phone at: 512-463-5455. Click here to access the reference desk homepage.

Why Records May NOT be Accessible in the TDA

There are several reasons why an electronic record may exist but is not accessible through the TDA. The most frequent reason is an exception to the Public Information Act that causes a restriction. However, other reasons may also exist. The following is a list of common reasons for inaccessibility to electronic records and what do when this happens:

  • Public Information Act: The Public Information Act (PIA) is a Texas law that provides for public access to all records of State government. However, the law provides for some records to be excluded from public access based on specific criteria. When one or more criteria are met that causes a record to be excluded from public access, this is called an exception. If a set of records is known or suspected to have an exception, then the records are marked as restricted. Records with this restriction will be marked (RESTRICTED) in the finding aid. A PIA request is necessary to verify whether an exception exists, and what access can be made available to the records. For more information about PIA requests, click here.
  • Unusual format: The electronic records exist and do not have restrictions, but the file format is unusual enough that special verbal or written instructions may be necessary to access the content. Records of this type are marked as (available on request). A PIA request can be filed for these types of records, but is not necessary. Contact the reference staff to discuss access to these records. For example, a set of 100 audio clips that were intended to be a single recording would require special instructions on programs used to properly compile the clips.  For more information about file formats in the TDA, click here.
  • Large file size: The electronic record is too large to reasonably provide online. These records are not restricted but widespread access through the TDA is not feasible. Records of this type are marked as (available on request). A PIA request can be filed for these types of records, but is not necessary. Contact the reference staff to discuss access to these records.
  • Available elsewhere: Many electronic records exist that have been made accessible through the Online Collections prior to the establishment of the TDA. In these cases, although the original page has been moved to the TDA and re-titled Other Online Collections, access will continue to be through the TSLAC main website. An example of this case is the Texas Senate Recordings collection.
What is a virtual collection and why is it used?

Sometimes a set of records can be categorized in official and unofficial ways. When this happens, records are put in the TDA under the official category and a cross-reference is put in the system to have the records render in the unofficial categories as well. This cross-reference is called a virtual collection. If you access the records using an unofficial category, using the back button will take you out of the records the same way you came, but the breadcrumbs at the top of the page will reflect the official location of the records. Virtual collections allow the TDA to offer records in a thematic way, such as all digitized records held at a regional repository like the Sam Houston Center or a time-period such as the Republic era.

Why are Paper Records listed in TDA Inventories?

Most collections represented in the TDA include both paper and electronic records. This is called a hybrid collection. Records in a hybrid collection that are paper or some other analog format are NOT accessible in the TDA. By listing the paper records in the inventories, the Archives is making researchers aware that records not readily visible in the TDA exist, and that an in-person visit may be necessary to fully research the collection.

Where can I find Electronic Materials NOT in the TDA?

TSLAC holds many electronic records that are not stored in the TDA. This is especially true with materials in which TSLAC holds the original paper copy of a record, but has digitized the item in order to provide online access. Access to some electronic records not held in the TDA can be found in the Other Online Collections page.

Some collections may have electronic records stored on physical media (hard-drive, floppy disk, digital linear tape, etc.), and not stored in the TDA or online collections. TSLAC is endeavoring to preserve electronic records held on physical media using the TDA. Preservation priorities in the TDA follow a number of criteria; once an electronic record is ready for upload and preservation, TSLAC will provide access to it as soon as practicable.

A patron wishing to access electronic records that are not accessible through the TDA or Online Collections should contact the Reference Desk.

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Texas State Library and Archives Commission | 1201 Brazos St., Austin TX 78701 | 512-463-5455 | | P.O. Box 12927, Austin TX 78711-2927