The Austin History Center Association was formed in a small group meeting convened by Sue McBee in September 1979, to establish a home for the Austin-Travis County Collection, which had been created beginning around 1954 by Katherine Drake Hart. The organization was incorporated with the Secretary of State of Texas on January 25, 1980 as the Austin History Center Guild (later Association) and received IRS tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) in January 1980. Its central objectives were to secure the retired, but architecturally significant, 1933 Austin Central Library building for the Austin-Travis County Collection and rename it the Austin History Center. This was achieved by resolution of the Austin City Council in 1980. The members of AHCA raised an estimated $6 million in 2020 dollars for initial renovations and furnishings that included a photo lab, library staff training in archival curation, and general fundraising for critical needs and staffing.
Sue Brandt McBee
After extensive renovation, the building that had served as the site of Austin’s the first permanent library reopened in March 1983 as the Austin History Center. Since then, the AHC has remained at this site, and the support of AHCA has continued for the last four decades and expanded to include aggressive advocacy, when needed, to communicate the vital role AHC plays in the present and future of the city. Past archival directors of AHC have stated that without the work, financial support and advocacy of the AHCA on city budgets, bond initiatives and acquisition of important collections, the AHC might not have survived.
Use the links below to learn more about the history of the AHCA.
In the video below, two founding members of the AHCA talk about the legacy of the organization, the Austin History Center, and Austin history in general. Founding Member Martha Hartzog interviews fellow Founding Member Bob Coffee.