Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2004 Newsletter

National Endowment for the Humanities Outfits the B.J. Simmons & Company Costume Archive


"The Prince," production photograph, The
Beggar on Horseback, 1925.

The Ransom Center has been awarded a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to preserve and establish access to archive of the London-based costume firm B.J. Simmons & Company. B.J. Simmons & Co. dressed hundreds of Britain's greatest shows, ranging from the Victorian spectacle to the "kitchen sink" dramas of the 1960s. The archive provides a unique and comprehensive portrait of the artistic research of this internationally renowned costumier, offering an unmatched record of London theater and film costuming and design from 1878-1964. The major impact of the project will be in the areas of the performing and visual arts, most significantly for theater, film, opera, dance, and costume and fashion design, though other areas of the humanities, such as literature and history, also will benefit.

The Center's Department of Archives and Visual Materials will organize, arrange, and describe the approximately 210 linear foot collection while also attending to basic preservation and re-housing needs. The Center's Conservation Department will carry out the skilled preservation work required for this collection, including crucial work to unfold, humidify, flatten, and house approximately 10,000 oversized costume designs. The Book Cataloging Department will catalog the published works in the library of Simmons research materials.

One exciting component of the project will be the digitization and mounting on the Web of some 300 images representing the various facets of the Simmons Collection. The Web site will provide unprecedented access to the Simmons Collection to scholars who visit the Ransom Center and to those living thousands of miles away from Austin, fitting well with University of Texas at Austin president Larry Faulkner's vision of a digital "Knowledge Gateway" to make the treasures of the University accessible to citizens of Texas and the world. The Ransom Center is deeply indebted to the National Endowment for the Humanities for funding this project.  

Tom Galyean
Development Coordinator

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