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News Release — September 4, 2008

The Ashes of Waco

The Wittliff Collections awarded $20,000 to create online exhibition
about Branch Davidian siege near Waco

SAN MARCOS, Texas— The Wittliff Collections at Texas State University-San Marcos have been awarded $20,000 to create an online exhibit about the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel outside Waco.

The funds originate from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s TexTreasures grant program, which supports the digitalization of special and unique collections of photographs, newspapers, interviews, and other historical documents that were previously available on-site only.

The Wittliff Collections will create the online exhibit using the primary source materials journalist Dick J. Reavis collected while writing The Ashes of Waco, published by Simon & Schuster in 1995. Reavis donated his papers to the Wittliff’s Southwestern Writers Collection, located at Texas State’s Alkek Library, and his archive opened for research in 2006. The exhibit website is scheduled to begin in early October and be completed by September 2009.

Reavis’s book remains one of the most comprehensive and balanced accounts of this highly controversial incident. Recognizing that the raid, siege, and burning of the Branch Davidian center was a major story being covered by the press primarily from the government’s perspective, Reavis spent two years reporting and investigating the incident, its players, and causes.

Reavis’s research went beyond the book’s publication. His role as an investigator expanded, and he became one of the few impartial experts on the subject. Reavis eventually testified in Congressional hearings as an expert witness, based on his investigation of the topic.

The bulk of the digitized objects to be made available are recordings of negotiations between the Branch Davidians and the FBI, along with the transcripts. Other materials planned for the online exhibit are videos created by the federal government during the siege, Branch Davidian Bible studies going back to the 1970s, and correspondence between Mr. Reavis and surviving Branch Davidians.

Additionally, an online forum will be established for academic and cultural discourse. The website will also provide an unbiased overview of the incident and a brief history of the groups involved, as well as a links to other sources for further information.

This past April marked the 15th anniversary of the tragic incident near Waco, and interest in the subject shows no signs of abating. In the past two years alone, documentary production companies working for major media channels like ABC, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and MSNBC have accessed the Dick J. Reavis Papers at the Wittliff Collections for copies of source materials. The new online exhibit will provide more efficient, expedient, and complete access for future researchers of all types.

The TexTreasures grants are a component of the TexShare Program of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. TexShare emphasizes the benefits of statewide library resource sharing so that Texans can acquire the widest possible range of information regardless of the type of library used. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute’s mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas. For more information, go to

 More about the Dick J. Reavis Papers at the Wittliff Collections can be found online.