Katherine Drake Hart
First Curator (1957-1975, Curator 1961-1975)
Passionate about local history, Katherine Drake Hart increased the size and use of the Austin-Travis County Collection* during her years as curator. She explained her passion for local history commenting, “I cannot imagine any field of endeavor more rewarding than to be a local historian. The horizons are not wide, but the roots are deep, and before long, one is completely immersed in a history, small enough for one to grasp, and especially significant because it is the past, present and future of one’s own little spot in the universe.”
Katherine Drake Hart’s humor and ability to relate to people through stories contributed to her success at as a local historian. She once wrote of an incident at an elementary school “Certainly I have never had a compliment that I treasured more, or repeated oftener, than when a third-grader, after I had shown his class slides starting with the scalping of Josiah Wilbarger in 1833, wrote me a thank-you note on tablet paper, illustrated with crayola, and said—“Dear Mrs. Hart, I think it’s wonderful you can remember so far back.”
Upon retirement in 1975, Katherine Drake Hart told the Austin American-Statesman “We’ve always worked on the theory that it (the collection) is not just for the scholars, but (for) the Boy Scouts who come to work on their badges or the [people] who are doing papers for their clubs.” From its humble beginnings as the Austin Collection, the prestigious Austin History Center has undertaken the responsibility to gather, preserve and organize local history documents detailing the rich historical tapestry of Austin and the surrounding area.
*The Austin History Center was called the Austin-Travis County Collection from 1955-1983.