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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Academics & Research

Shell Deer Park Historical Society donates years of documents to UH

Shell Deer Park donated decades of historical documents and artifacts to UH Special Collections. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

Roughly 90 years of documentation have been saved by the Shell Deer Park Historical Society, with items dating back to the late 1920s. The archives also include items from Royal Dutch Shell, Shell USA and Shell Canada.  

“There’s this saying nowadays, ‘local is global,’ ” said Head of Special Collections Christian Kelleher. “For 90 years Shell Deer Park has been local and global. It’s really a great demonstration of that with all these materials.”

Kelleher, who is also the curator of the Energy and Sustainability Research Collections, said Shell Deer Park has had a significant role in the growth and development of the Houston area as well as the Deer Park community.

“To be able to study primary source documentation of something like the individual and corporate impact of Shell Deer Park on the war effort during World War II,” Kelleher said, “is really a unique opportunity to offer our campus.”

Efforts to organize the archives began in the 1980s, according to a news release from UH. Items were placed in an onsite museum that was open to the public.

Due to increased security measures following 9/11, the release said that the museum was no longer available to the public until pop-up exhibits could be curated.

Head of Special Collections Christian Kelleher looks at one of the documents donated from Shell Deer Park. | Katrina Martinez/The Cougar

Conversations between UH and Shell began because of Shell’s interest in having an oral history created by UH’s Center for Public History. This soon evolved into a donation because of the Special Collections department and their expertise in historical preservation.

“We thought that this was a very serendipitous conversation,” Kelleher said. “A great way to connect what they’re doing with what we’re doing and really have a big impact on campus.”

The materials that will now be available can help offer students, who will soon work in the oil industry, insight into the history of oil in the Houston area.

“UH Energy is such an important interdisciplinary research focus of the University of Houston,” Kelleher said. “This supports that effort historically and with contemporary materials.”

The partnership between Shell Deer Park and UH took time and hard work from both parties, Kelleher said, but it opens the door for future partnerships for the university.

“I hope this is something that we can pursue with other parts of Shell and with other oil and gas, and alternative energy companies in the state and even around the world,” Kelleher said. “If there is going to be a world-leading research center for energy and sustainability, I can’t think of a better place for it than the University of Houston.”

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