The Ashes of Waco website Portal page to the digital collection. Includes a transcribed interview with author Dick J. Reavis, and information about the author, the book, the papers, the grant, the digital collection and the Southwestern Writers Collection.
Memorializing Mount Carmel Center in Waco, Texas Excellent site for photos and descriptions of the Mount Carmel property over the past eight years. Also includes photos of the Mount Carmel building model created by the author of the site, and links to other resources.
Waco Siege entry from Wikipedia Information from various contributors on the raid, including its prelude and aftermath, as well as references and a bibliography.
Waco: A New Revelation 1999 documentary on the incident, which uncovers new evidence. Website includes a link to the Danforth Report. You can watch the entire documentary on the Google videos site (video.google.com).
Waco: Rules of Engagement Probably the most famous and successful of Waco-related documentaries. You can order it from this site or rent/buy it from various sources.
Waco: The Inside Story Website for PBS' Frontline program, with a lot of good resources, including pictures, audio clips, official documents, and a bibliography.
All the audio files currently in the digital collection now play directly in the window, thanks to Todd Peters, who embedded the audio player, and Alan Schaefer, who moved the audio files and updated the metadata.
This works a little differently than the streaming video, which relies on whatever media player you have on your hard drive to play. But both the audio and video files work similarly now, and much more conveniently by not downloading to your hard drive before playing. You can play the file immediately, read the metadata as you watch/listen, and skip around the file at will.
So, we currently have the following audio files available online. Hold your mouse over the link for a brief description, and click on the link to go directly to the record.
As I have help, more audio (and video) files will be added to the digital collection, and I will keep the blog informed when new files are added. However, I may be shifting my focus for the next two months or so, to other aspects of the project, or to other projects altogether.
The twenty videos currently in the digital collection have been moved to our streaming server, meaning they are now accessible without having to download them to your hard drive. Here's what we have so far:
RV022 - failure analysis of final assault on Mt. Carmel - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,66
RV026 - flyover footage of Mt. Carmel - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,69
RV028 (two parts) - Bob Kendrick interview by Texas Rangers - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,70
RV078 - home video interviews with children and David Thibodeau during the raid - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,123
RV075 - "smuggled BATF tape" - footage of agents around Mt. Carmel and of Mt. Carmel burning - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,120
I have double checked to make sure these all work, but by all means, please inform me if any do not play on your computer. Next, I'm going to have a student worker here start digitizing more videos (we have about 75 total), and a graduate assistant start converting/moving our mp3 audio files to our streaming server as well. Stay tuned!
Arguably the biggest informational treasures in the Dick J. Reavis Papers is the collection of negotiation transcripts. From the first 911 call made by Branch Davidian Wayne Martin during the height of the Feb. 28 shootout, to FBI negotiator Byron Sage's loudspeaker instructions during the fiery chaos of April 19, the drama is captured in these transcribed conversations between the adversaries.
I believe we have the full set of transcripts, which were procured by Reavis during his investigation from defense attorneys. Technically one can get them from the FBI with a Freedom of
Information Act request, but from what I hear, one will have to wait a while.
Most, but not all, of these transcripts are in digital format, and many of those are already included in the digital collection. You can see what's there so far with this link: http://tinyurl.com/yeh2kmk,
or by searching "negotiation transcript" in the search bar of the
I have been working on adding these
lately and will continue to do so until they are all up there. They are one of
the most researcher-requested items in the collection, and I can see why. Now,
they will be fully keyword searchable, making this aspect of research much quicker
and more productive.
The other type of item most
requested are the actual negotiation recordings. Those will all eventually be
in the digital collection too, and when they are, researchers will be able to
find recorded content using the transcripts, all at their own desks at home.
At the April 19 commemoration in Waco this year, I met Catherine Wessinger, Professor of Religious Studies at Loyola University in New Orleans. She is co-editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions," the author of two books on Millenialism, and editor of two books by Branch Davidians (Mt. Carmel survivor Sheila Martin and David Koresh's mother, Bonnie Haldemann).
Catherine informed me of the Lee Hancock Collection at Loyola--a collection rich with internal government memos, interview reports and expert reports, as well as news articles and FLIR videos, among other items related to the raid, siege, assault and trial of the Branch Davidians. Lee gathered these materials during her numerous years researching the topic as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, and she had access to some government documents that other reporters typically did not have.
Lee, Catherine and the archivists at Loyola were all interested in moving the collection, and after discussions over the ensuing months, we were able to secure acquisition of the collection here at the Southwestern Writers Collection. Although we are a literary manuscripts repository, our collecting scope does include papers from area journalists. We also feel this collection, centered on the government's side, will compliment Reavis' nicely, which focuses more on the Branch Davidian side.
Also, according to Catherine, the Lee Hancock Collection contains photocopies of documents (or detailed notes on classified documents) that have not been or are no longer accessible to the public. Catherine recently wrote an article about the contents of the collection and an article about the startling conclusions she came to as a result of researching the collection. You can read both articles and all the others online in the latest issue of Nova Religio, The entire issue is devoted to the Branch Davidian incident, and will be published in print in October. It also contains an article by Matthew Wittmer, "Traces of the Mount Carmel Community: Documentation and Access," that contains information about the Reavis papers and The Ashes of Waco digital collection.
We're very happy that our work this past year digitizing and providing online access to The Ashes of Waco research materials was instrumental in the future acquisition of the Lee Hancock Collection! We should acquire it around January 2010, and we can definitely see creating a similar digital collection of out of it someday.
Here is an excerpt from a tape that was sent out of Mt. Carmel during the siege. In this clip, Steve Schneider interviews several of the girls about how they were getting along during the ordeal. To view, click the link at the end of this posting.
Multiple tapes were sent out to the FBI over the course of the standoff. Dick Reavis, in The Ashes of Waco, has this to say:
Whatever disagreements one might have with the residents of Mt. Carmel, the film humanizes its subjects. In their post-April 19 investigation of the Waco affair, Justice Department investigators reported: "The negotiator's log shows that when the tape was reviewed there was concern that if the tape was released to the media, Koresh would gain much sympathy." Though the document was news, and would have been ideal for television, it wouldn't have served the agency's public relations goals. Instead of presenting it to the press, the Bureau sat on the videotape[s]. (pp. 228-29)
The girls seen here are, in order of appearance, Lisa Martin (13), Audrey Martinez (13), Rachel Sylvia (13), Abigail Martinez (11), and Sheila Martin (15). All five of them perished on April 19th.
Last Tuesday, December 30, I had the opportunity to interview Dick J. Reavis in his office on the campus of North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, NC. This was the third time that I've had the pleasure of spending time with Dick and discussing Waco (as well as a variety of other topics) but the first time I've had to officially interview him. From the time I started processing his papers, over three years ago, to the current grant project, he has been very helpful and forthcoming with information, and this occasion was no exception.
My visit was over the winter break, so the NC State campus was quiet and almost empty. We ate lunch at El Rodeo, a Mexican place across the street from campus, and talked a lot about Dick's planned book on day laborers in America. After that we walked over to his office in the English building and started the interview. I started the interview asking him to talk about where he was at the time of the siege, and he took it from there, providing valuable insight into the press' involvement (or un-involvement) with the Branch Davidians, and sharing his personal experiences, from the time of the Feb. 28 raid up to his testimony before Congress over two years later, as the book was about to be published.
Dick also shared his thoughts on the Constitutionalists and other right-wing groups he had an unlikely involvement with at the time. He talked about the government's behavior at Mt. Carmel and what they seem to have learned from it, regardless of whether they ever admit that their approach was wrong. And he gave the incident historical, international, and current-event context that was very engaging for me as a listener and an interviewer.
After over three hours, we shut the recorder off and called it a day, not being out of topics to discuss but out of time to discuss them. The plan now is to get the interview transcribed by a student in late January and select portions to post on the blog as well as the online exhibit. I am hoping this will be the first of at least two interviews with Reavis, the second one taking place after the exhibit goes up and being about specific materials we have on display.
Although much if not most of the materials we plan to digitize and make available will be in the public domain, we do have copyright and privacy concerns for the primary materials in the collection. I'm thinking mainly of correspondence between Reavis and survivors of Mt. Carmel, which are unique and highly valuable for anyone interested in life at Mt. Carmel and the beliefs of the Branch Davidians there.
The tricky part will be locating the individuals, most of whom have been released from prison (and in the case of two of them, deported to their home countries) but are still on parole. Part of the conditions of their parole is not being allowed to be in contact with one another, including those survivors who were acquitted! This perplexes me, but I digress. The point is, if I ask the acquitted person I want to ask for the parolee's contact information, he might be opening them (and/or himself) up to parole violations. I don't want to put him in that spot.
Luckily I have recently gotten to know Matthew Wittmer. You can find out a little about him and his connection to the Branch Davidians via the first link listed on the left--"Memorializing Mount Carmel Center in Waco, Texas." He has not only provided me with tons of information on the subject and resources about it, he might be able to get me in touch with people who can provide me with contact information.
We got a letter of support from Dick Reavis to include with all our requests for permission. He also provided support for us during the grant application process. Having him behind it has been of vital importance. He stays in touch with some people, but not so much the survivors anymore.
If we make a "good faith effort" to locate the survivors but can't, we might go ahead and digitize their materials and use the website to invite them to contact us. There's a chance word-of-mouth will bring them to us. Then they can provide their permission or deny it, in which case we'd take their materials down.
At a presentation I attended last week given by an ex-curator of a jazz collection at the University of Idaho, I saw an interesting feature of CONTENTdm that I didn't know existed: password-protected items. He had to enter a user name and password to access the sound and video clips on the site, due to copyright restrictions or concerns. It seems to me that since all of what he was playing was recorded and released before 1972, they would be now in public domain, but anyway, it's an option, perhaps, for getting around temporary privacy or copyright issues.
It's also an option if we want to maintain total control over the content (i.e., prevent unauthorized downloads), regardless of its copyright status. That would allow us to still collect use and publication fees for those who want copies. I doubt I'll go that far, though. We don't want every person who just wants to listen or view something to have to contact us. Probably what I'll do see if we can make the exhibit items lower quality, so anyone who needs publishable/broadcast (or at least higher) quality will still have to come to us.
The finding aid for the Dick J. Reavis Papers will give you an idea of what Ashes of Waco (AOW)-related materials are here. Right now we are entering every item into a database, to determine exact content and assign priority numbers for digitization. Basically, the priority breaks down to this: 1=primary document relating directly to the events of Feb. 28 - Apr. 19, 1993; 2=primary document relating to history of participants or aftermath of event; 3=secondary documents.
The finding aid also contains biographical information on Mr. Reavis and how the Southwestern Writers Collection acquired his papers.
Here is a link to the TSLAC press release announcing their FY 09 TexTreasures grants. We're listed under #3. This will give you an idea of how our project fits into the others that were awarded TexTreasures grant money. Out of 28 applicants from around the state, five were funded. We were one of four awarded full funding.
KWTX.com is one of the outlets that ran part of our press release announcing the grant project. This site includes links in the article to further information and reader comments at the bottom.