Casey Greene Retires After 37 Years of Service

 Casey Greene Retires After 37 Years of Service

Rosenberg Scholar, Casey E. Greene, will be retiring from the Rosenberg Library on January 28, 2022 after 37 years of service to the Galveston community. Casey served as the Head of Special Collections, including the Galveston and Texas History Center and the Rosenberg Library Museum, until 2013 when he began working part-time as the Rosenberg Scholar. Under his leadership, the Rosenberg Library's Special Collections gained a nationwide reputation as an institution for scholarly research on the 1900 Storm, early Texas, African American history, and Galveston history. As the Rosenberg Scholar, Casey has shared Galveston's history through countless publications, speaking engagements, and special research projects.

Casey was generous enough to share some of his wisdom and memories with the Special Collections staff.

What was the highlight of your time at the Rosenberg?

I’ve had five highlights during my career.

  1. Meeting many interesting people, among them PBS journalist Jim Lehrer in 1985 and Clive Cussler, in 1986. I assisted both with using our collection. .
  2. Compiling the 1900 Storm Victim Database, which will be uploaded in 2023 for public use. This has been a laborious project. I spent thousands of hours sifting data to determine the identities of named victims and whether they actually died or survived.
  3. Numerous speaking engagements and television interviews. One of them involved a trip to Houston on a Sunday at 4:30 am to speak on the morning show of Channel 26 (Fox).
  4. Participating during 1999-2000 in the 1900 Storm Centennial Commemoration. Our book, Through a Night of Horrors, a team effort, was well received and is in its second printing.
  5. My professional involvement in the Society of American Archivists. In 1996, I began serving as newsletter editor of the Archives Management Roundtable, working with Dr. Michael J. Kurtz, chair. I read thereafter that he was head of the National Archives in Washington, DC, and College Park, Maryland. In 2005, he nominated me to take his place as chair. I still keep up with him.

What are some of your favorite items from the Galveston and Texas History Center collections?

Favorite items include a 1900 Storm letter written on wallpaper, as well as another letter penned by an unknown nurse at John Sealy hospital during the morning and afternoon of September 8th. The Forshey Postcard Collection, which we received in 2009, is yet another. It has approximately eight hundred picture postcards of Galveston from the early 20th century.

 Casey Greene Retires After 37 Years of Service
Casey's favorite photo from the History Center's collection - a haunting and surreal 1919 Storm view, with waves and spray crashing over the Seawall. Murdoch’s Bathhouse and the giant Seawall sign, which stood at 25th Street, are in the background. Galveston Photographic Subject File. Storms, G-17714 FF2 #1. Rosenberg Library, Galveston, Texas.

What was the biggest challenge you faced?

The Galveston and Texas History Center’s vault has a space shortage that has developed since the early 1980s. We did everything we could to keep the collection growing. I’m delighted that Mike Miller, our affable Executive Director, will provide compact, moveable shelving, thus allowing the collection to grow.

What changes have you seen in the archive over your career?

Automation and digitization are the most significant changes. I graduated with my first Master’s degree several years before the advent of the desktop computer in the workplace. I have a rudimentary understanding of both areas. The internet and social media created an instant demand for information. Research is pick-and-shovel work, not pointing and clicking, and takes time. It’s also hard work.

Describe a typical day in the archive when you first started.

I served as Assistant Archivist from 1984 to 1994. We had several hundred walk-in researchers monthly. That decade I spent learning the archives. I answered up to 60 reference letters monthly. Another staff member handled photograph orders. The reading room didn’t open until 10 am, so we worked on projects, such as processing manuscript collections, before we opened. Over the years, I encountered many people whom I helped long ago. They remembered me and thanked me for my help. Their words made my professional commitment worthwhile.

What are you most looking forward to in retirement?

Carol (my wife) and I want to volunteer in Waxahachie for the Gingerbread Tour and to help the disadvantaged. I want to catch up on reading the many books I’ve purchased the past few years. Of course, I look forward to keeping in touch with the Rosenberg Library’s Special Collections Department. It’s in fine hands.

What will you miss the most about Galveston?

I’ll miss Galveston – its fine people, its wonderful history. I’ve often said that Galveston can hold its own historically against other cities in Texas. The residents are South Texans, noted for their down-to-earth, friendly nature. I’ll miss the superb Rosenberg Library. Every day involved a discovery or learning something new on the job. The Rosenberg Library expanded my horizons and made me a better person. I know Lauren, Sean, Kevin, and Ivy will move the department forward. I leave with my workplace in good hands.

What topic do you think needs more representation in the archives?

One of the of the gaps of the archives collection is the dearth of documentation of the local Latino community. Our African American history component is substantial and is growing. I’d like to see the department try to document the working class.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for the staff?

My suggestions to staff include:

  1. Learn the collection. Knowledge of the collection establishes professional credibility in serving researchers, working with donors, and developing public programs and exhibits.
  2. Put yourself in a learning mode. If you don’t know the answer to a question, be ready to admit it, and keep digging until you find the answer.
  3. View honest mistakes as learning opportunities. Periodically review your decisions. Ask yourself what details may have not have considered before you reached a decision.
  4. Serendipity. Be observant for incidental information that may later be useful.
  5. Smile! This is the simplest way to welcome our guests, Go to the extra mile in helping them.
  6. Read! I sometimes spoke to the Archives Management Roundtable. In speaking on leadership, I read books by John P. Kotter, Michael Kortya, and other authors.
  7. Develop interpersonal and presentation skills. I built self-confidence by taking on speaking engagements and conducts media interviews.
  8. Serve as ambassador of Special Collections. Believe in your product. Share it with others. Show enthusiasm; it’s contagious. I still stop on occasion and realize how fortunate I was to work with one of the very best departments in the United States.