FAQS

About the Background

Searching 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 not collection-level results exist, then record-level results will show first. If this result order hinders the results, we recommend using the Document Type facet to remove unwanted results levels.

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 around the date to ensure it search everything together. For example, January 26, 1861 would be searched using the following format: “1861-01-26”.

Why can’t I find something without a specific date in the 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” to let users know that the date is unclear. Due to the nature of searching in the TDA, a specific yyyy-mm-dd 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 exists, the archives has chosen to retain the “undated” term for the rare cases where a year or day is unknown.

I’ve faceted my search results, how do I get rid of the results with (0)?

Even though selecting facets might eliminate some options from search results, the original facet options from when you started will stay on-screen as a “sticky” result. To remove results that are no longer relevant and have a (0) next to them, refresh the web-page. To do this, click on the refresh button, which is always to the right of the web address bar, or hit F5 (function+F5 on a Mac).

Why are there more hits in the faceted search than are actually available?
The Texas Digital Archive 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 Texas Digital Archive public access portal. A patron must request the master original file. When a faceted search provides a hit count, it shows results based on ALL files that are available, 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

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.

Fees

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

Are the listed creators in the properties accurate when viewing born-digital materials?

Yes and No. With office productivity documents and other formats on computers, any name stamped into the file information is based on the registered user for that specific installation of the software. Most office workers only use the computer assigned to them and change the registered author name when they receive a computer previously used by another employee. However, if someone other than the registered user creates a record on a computer, or forgets to change the registered author name, then the author name will not accurately reflect the person who created the record.

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 reference.desk@tsl.texas.gov 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, access will continue to be through the Online Collections page instead of the TDA. 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 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.