Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2003 Newsletter

First Impressions


Scholars at work in the Reading Room.
Photo by Pete Smith. 2003.


Photography gallery at the Ransom Center.
Photo by Pete Smith. 2003.


Southeast corner of the Ransom Center.
Photo by Eric Beggs. 2003.

Now that the excitement surrounding the reopening of the Ransom Center has (to a degree) subsided, we can begin to reflect on the past several months since the building renovation was completed.

The project was an immense success. The Center now has a room of its own for exhibitions, presentations, and general awe. The corner lanterns beckon, and the theater entertains. The new reading room, with its natural light and honey tones, atones for the unforgiving sterility of the fifth floor facility that served the purpose for the previous 30 years. Even those who venture to the second floor for their initiatory visit are taken aback by the gentle ambience of the space.

There have been celebrations. The Gala went off in the grand style expected, all silk and jewels, black ties, and modest portions, peppered with a certain amount of mutual praise and back-patting over the successful completion of the project and the prospect of great things to come. Welcome mat in place, the Center's annual sponsors gathered for a first look, expressions of delight emanating from all four corners. Those with the foresight to get in on the ground-level of the membership group were treated to a preview of the fully dressed gallery spaces, complete in the full regalia of In A New Light, the premiere salvo of what's to come from the Center's collections.

The deluge of visitors to the new public areas has so overwhelmed the location that the front doors have already died a thousand deaths. Broken too are previous attendance records-smashed, shattered, completely obliterated, in fact. The Center has seen all manner of patron pass the sentry signatures surrounding the doors, and the response to the space is exceedingly positive. Events that previously attracted a handful of loyal patrons now leave little of the precious commodity of space available to latecomers.

The media's relationship with the Center is in the ascendant. Klieg lights permeate dark corners to reveal the stories that always existed but went untold. Journalists clutch notepads scattered with scribbled musings on effects unrealized in bygone days when edifice undermined curiosity.

The theory is that perception is everything. We're here, singing the same song as always. It's just that the chorus grew.

This is not the same old Ransom Center.  

-Travis Willmann

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