Archivist Reflects on Children’s History

Children's Archivist Mary Hayes in front of the hospital's centennial exhibit

Many thanks to Children’s Archivist Mary Hayes for writing this post and sharing with us how 100 years of history was gathered and presented as part of the tribute to the Children’s Centennial year.

I love history. I love the stories, and I really love to imagine what “a day in the life” might have been like for those who were here before us.

Too often I think we forget those folks we read about in school weren’t just stories in a book. They were real, honest-to-goodness people who lived in a Technicolor world, just like we do. They led what they thought of as regular lives, doing what they were born to do – just like us.

I’m a native Texan who sat through junior high Texas history like everyone else. My teachers tried so hard to corral what little attention we could muster during class, but Six Flags over Texas (and it’s history lessons) were so much more fun!

Remember when Six Flags was truly a theme park – home to La Salle’s Adventure, the Crazy Horse Saloon, El Sombrero and that dusty stagecoach? We didn’t think of them as “museum exhibits,” but that’s exactly what they were: serious, yet light-hearted interpretations of our state’s very colorful history that entertained and educated little kids (and their parents) at the same time.

As the Centennial projects at Children’s Medical Center took shape, our team didn’t just want to talk about our history. We wanted to share it in a way that would allow others to experience it the way we have – to feel as if they were a part of our history too.

Children’s Centennial Projects: Where’d All the Information Come From?

The rich history of Children’s was revisited through the use of historic materials preserved and cataloged here in the Children’s Archives Center. Our early story came together largely from The Dallas Morning News Historical Archive, as well as a collection of Nurse May Smith’s memorabilia graciously donated to our archive by Mrs. Bobbie Carr, one of the babies cared for at the Dallas Baby Camp.

The Centennial timeline exhibit, located just inside the lobby of Children’s Medical Center Dallas, includes clips from old 35 mm films produced to advance our mission as far back as 60 years ago. You can view some of these vintage films on YouTube.

The Dallas Baby Camp

Baby Camp tents on the lawn of Old Parkland. 1913 photo courtesy Dallas Morning News Historical Archive

Old photographic prints, along with modern digital ones, tell our story in a way that captures the spirit of Children’s – from our truly amazing founding with the Dallas Baby Camp under those oak trees to the world-class pediatric hospital Children’s Medical Center is today. And speaking of those oak trees, the author in me had a wonderful time writing the narrative that accompanied our successful State Historical Marker application last summer.

As Texans, we sometimes tend to take those Historical Markers for granted. But those markers are like our Centennial timeline exhibit and the old Six Flags. They’re there to remind us of the people and events that make us who we are today and help guide us to where we’ll be tomorrow.

The Dallas Baby Camp historical marker will be dedicated this week under the very same trees that Nurse May Smith might have gazed at while rocking her young charges on those long ago steamy summer mornings.

What part of our history are you most proud of? What do you think May Smith would have to say about what Children’s has become?

More on the first 100 years of Children’s


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