“This gets the history of the Dome out there and it captures the spirit and personality of it.”
When the Astrodome opened in 1965, it was hailed as a marvel of its era: an interior, air-conditioned domed sports and event stadium that was so brilliantly engineered, it was called the EIGHTH WONDER OF THE WORLD. The Colt 45 and Astros baseball teams played there; so did the Oilers football team. For the better part of nearly half a century, the Dome was an integral part of Houston’s identity as a place of go-getters and visionaries.
But the Oilers left town, the Astros moved downtown, the Texans moved in to the sterling NRG Stadium. And the Astrodome lingers, a silent shadow of another time, as city and county entities struggle to determine what the future for the once-proud structure should be.
Astrodome Memories, however, is concerned with the stadium’s past – and the stories that go with it. A collaboration of the Houston Public Library, the Harris County Archives, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, the Harris County Public Library, Rice University’s Woodson Research Center and University of Houston’s Special Collections, the mammoth community history project aims to collect stories, photos and other memorabilia from the Dome and house them in a digital archive.
“The history and politics of the Astrodome are fascinating to historians, but that’s not nearly the whole story,” says Marie Wise, the consulting librarian and digital archivist serving as the project lead. “This is a way to show what this meant to the people of Houston – which helps tell its story.”
Support for the project came in part from the Institute of Museum and Library Services by the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Since its inception in late 2014, oral histories, photos, pamphlets and scrapbooks have made their way to the digital archive. Houstonians can upload their own stories and photos at www.astrodomememories.org. The website also lists upcoming events surrounding the project, including lectures, community scanning events for items too large for people to upload on their own and other activities. (The group will be handing out an Astrodome coloring book at this month’s Houston Children’s Festival.)
“What we’re capturing is what the Astrodome means to individuals,” explains Dara Flinn, an archivist at Rice’s Woodson Research Center. “Those stories further help explain what it means to the city and county.” “This gets the history of the Dome out there and it captures the spirit and personality of it,” says Flinn’s colleague, Amanda Focke.
Among the many things captured for digital preservation is an outfit from the Spacettes, the ushers who worked at the Astrodome. The gold lamé outfit was photographed and scanned. Oilers cheerleader outfits also made their way to the collection, as did uniforms from the Colt 45s.
“This is a unique project in its scope and partnerships,” says Wise. “It’s neat to see people’s photos, and the stories behind them, which are so personal and interesting. We really want to capture that.” To submit your own images or learn more about how to participate, visit www.astrodomememories.org.