Shaping the Future Through the Lens of History

Jan and Trevor D. Rees-Jones


Thanks to the generosity of Jan and Trevor D. Rees-Jones ’78, SMU Libraries begins the next chapter for significant historical scholarship, research and collaboration.

This article by Pat Ward appears in the Fall 2023 issue of the SMU Libraries Newsletter.





For the past two decades, Dallas entrepreneur Trevor D. Rees-Jones ’78 has been unearthing the untold stories of our nation’s history by assembling a unique collection of rare historical artifacts of the American West. Through a recent gift, he and his wife, Jan Rees-Jones, make this remarkable treasure trove available to scholars for generations to come.

At the heart of their gift lies a substantial portion of the Rees-Jones Collection, encompassing 30,000 items, including rare books, manuscripts, maps, photographs and ephemera. Their support – part of SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow, the University’s multiyear $1.5 billion campaign for impact – includes $25 million to establish and build the Rees-Jones Library of the American West and a $5 million endowment to support the library and its collections.

Their commitment is the largest and most impactful gift ever received by SMU Libraries, says SMU Libraries Dean Holly Jeffcoat. This historic gift will expand opportunities for researchers and historians and open new paths for academic exploration, learning and collaboration for students, faculty and the community beyond campus.

“We are incredibly grateful to Jan and Trevor Rees-Jones for their generous contribution to SMU Libraries and our community,” says Jeffcoat. “Importantly, having both the Rees-Jones Collection and the existing DeGolyer Library on the same campus makes our resources on the American West among the very best in higher education and an essential research destination for scholars.”

These SMU Libraries resources strengthen the University’s standing among leading institutions with special collections devoted to the history of the American West, such as the University of California at Berkeley and Yale University.

Constructing the Rees-Jones Library

Construction of the Rees-Jones Library is expected to commence in late 2024, when the Science Information Center (SIC)[Fondren Library Blue] that’s now part of Fondren Library is torn down to make way for the new structure.

In preparation, staff members and materials will be relocated. In December, the dean’s suite will move temporarily to the SIC while the current suite is renovated. In January 2024, the SMU Archives will be moved to Iron Mountain, a secure storage facility in Dallas. In early summer 2024, Technical Services, the Norwick Center for Digital Solutions and the Interlibrary Loan Department, as well as the temporarily relocated dean’s suite, will move to refurbished quarters in Fondren Library.

Also starting in summer 2024, all collections now in the Science Information Center [Fondren Library Blue]– government documents, maps, microforms, Dewey classification books, and science journals and books – will be moved to Iron Mountain.

“DeGolyer Library will remain operational for researchers but will not be mounting exhibits in Hillcrest Hall for three years; instead, the exhibit space will be used as a reading room for students, to compensate for loss of study space in SIC,” says Russell L. Martin, III, director of DeGolyer Library. Since the announcement of the construction project in May, library staff members have been weeding collections, updating catalog records and preparing for the migration of collections to off-site storage. Most collections will be accessible during the three years of construction, Martin says. “Moving over 1 million items requires both brains and brawn.”

The new hub for historic preservation and future-focused discovery will bring together library staff with students, faculty, community members and visiting scholars for immersion in the Rees-Jones Collection and DeGolyer Library’s expansive special collections focused on the American West. Library staff will have, for the first time, workspaces designed for special collections. Programming will unfold in spaces that showcase digital and physical materials and behind-the-scenes library work; enable independent and collaborative research; and provide impactful learning opportunities, curated exhibits, and signature events.

A grand opening for the new library is expected in winter 2027, when the Rees-Jones Collection is installed, DeGolyer Library’s companion collections are moved to the new space and other collections stored off-site will return to stack space in Fondren.

Look for updates about this transformative resource in future newsletters.

Read the full article in the Fall 2023 issue of the SMU Libraries newsletter.

Header image: Thomas Moran (1837-1926), Yellowstone National Park and Other Mountain Regions, 1876.