Dallas Cowboys Archivist is the Guardian of Team History

One man is in charge of nearly six decades of Dallas Cowboys team history.

Jonathan Thorn is the team archivist, a position typically reserved for academia and museums.

But as the team began to plan the move of their world headquarters from Valley Ranch to The Star in Frisco, they recognized the need to collect and catalog their rich history.

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“Everyone has kept the important things over the years, which makes my job much easier when the materials exist,” Thorn said, laughing.

But when he came on board in 2014, his work was clear.

The items were scattered among various buildings and departments, boxes and boxes stacked in warehouses.

“People are being paid and compensated to do the work to win today, so [history] often goes on a shelf or goes in a box,” Thorn said. “It’s your job to kind of sort through the mess and make sense of it.”

For Thorn, every shred of information is important to tell the Cowboys’ story.

“It could be a sticky note on a player contract written by Tex Schramm, it could be all of our game film, anything. Anything,” he said.

Thorn, once a one-man band, has recently been given two part-time archival assistants.

They have digitized more than one million documents – player’s contracts, game programs, medical records, photographs – and still have 500 miles of film to convert.

Pieces of the history are now on display at The Star; Thorn working closely with Charlotte Jones Anderson to choose what players and visitors see on a daily basis.

Iconic photographs decorate the halls and offices. In the dining room is a row of team “firsts” – first logo, first game program, even the hat worn by the first head coach, Tom Landry.

One of Thorn’s favorite finds, unearthed in Valley Ranch as they prepared for the move, nearly went undiscovered.

“People didn’t look at it, didn’t know what it was. We happened to find inside one folder three little green audio disks,” Thorn explained.

Those audio disks contained recordings of Tex Schramm, Clint Murchison and Bedford Wynne back in 1959, discussing exactly how they would form the franchise.

“It’s very easy to look at that and not know what it is, not care, and throw it away,” Thorn said.

But Thorn is never one for throwing things away.

Don’t call him a hoarder – he prefers “champion and guardian of history and heritage.” 

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