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Hotels in Clarksville... from 1885. And an Archive Rant.

The Donoho Hotel in Clarksville (Red River County Library).

Today, Clarksville (Red River County, Texas) has only a handful overnight accommodations. But a bit over 100 years ago, when the city was much more prominent, at least two hotels graced its downtown: the Donoho Hotel and Hotel de Florence.

The Donoho Hotel was a stage coach stop, with conveyances bringing passengers to Memphis; the last leg of the journey was conducted by train. It was built prior to the Civil War and was torn down in 1885. During its life, it sat just west of the county's third courthouse, which was built in 1850 and demolished prior to 1885.

I'm unsure when Hotel de Florence was built in Clarksville (Red River County, Texas) but it was extant in 1885. The hotel had several businesses on the bottom floor, with rooms on the top. It burnt in 1901.

The photos of hotels in Clarksville from 885 are from the Red River County Public Library, found in the Northeast Texas Digital Archive, which is no longer available. The university's board renamed the repository to reflect "Texas A&M" (once East Texas State University) and is apparently strong-holding the collection because of copyright laws. This is insane, as the majority of collections' photographs are held by public institutions (to wit: the two photographs from the Red River County Library) and were donated to them, then digitized to be shared widely through an archival portal. The ages of the photographs are also too old for any other copyrights: the US copyright office even states that photos taken before 1923 can be assumed to be "safely in the public domain."

I'm assuming that the archive did not keep its donation forms???

In essence, photographs held digitally in the archives at Texas A&M University are no longer accessible, even to people who DONATED them directly for research purposes. We're talking about photographs from small county libraries and museums, which do not have the resources or staff to create their own digital access: Van Alstyne, Clarksville, Mount Pleasant, New Boston, DeKalb, and more. They entrusted the archives to hold historic images to avoid damage to the originals.

Some archives upload only low-resolution or thumbnail images so that the person wanting to use a photograph for publication must pay a fee to use the high-resolution photograph: this is a very fair and understandable solution, which I applaud and support. Others insert copyright watermarks onto their digital photographs, which is a fool's errand now that applications can remove the watermark layers (I won't do that out of principle).

Digitization is the essence of democratizing history. In the not-too-distant past, the history of towns, plantations, counties, and more were held fast by small groups of well-connected people who acted as gate-keepers, not stewards. They wanted the history to be told only through certain lenses and channels; it's one of the reasons that still, to this very day, documentation about the Reconstruction-era (1865 to 1877ish) is extremely difficult to find along the Red River Valley. Those people in charge of the town's history do not want others to know that their ancestors lynched people and probably have a souvenir from a lynching still up in their attics.

I don't get riled about a lot of things anymore --- I'm a very small fish in a large pond. But I get upset when the gatekeepers continue to influence laws and actions to their own benefit, a microcosm of the cults of personalities that has invaded every aspect of public life in my country.

Hotel de Florence in Clarksville, Texas about 1895-ish (Red River County Public Library).

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