Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2003 Newsletter

Director's Note


Thomas F. Staley

Stephen Kinzer's recent New York Times article has brought a great deal of attention to the Center. Not to say that this isn't welcome, but it has generated an avalanche of peculiar propositions.

Among many interesting letters, I've received offers from people wishing to donate their heirlooms, personal effects and collections. One man has suggested the benefit to the Center of housing his collection of stuffed parrots, a gift contingent on our promise to "keep the feathers fresh." One woman proposed to augment the Selznick Collection through the donation of several dresses previously owned by her aunts and other relatives, which she claimed would look stunning beside Scarlett's curtain dress. While these are a couple of amusing examples of the responses that exposure can generate, the article has also informed many people of the Center's collections and programs, and it came at a good time as we are establishing new public programs such as "Fridays in Photography."

The Center houses extraordinary resources in the literary and visual arts, not the least of which is our amazing photography collection. Simply stating its overwhelming size doesn't do the collection's content justice. The Center's photographic collections cover the entire history and development of the medium, from the World's First Photograph to recent innovations in image digitization, and thus chart the course and various subgenres within this relatively new art form. In addition to providing expert assistance with the collections, the Photography Department has initiated interesting public programs under the rubric of "Fridays in Photography" (which has already featured a pair of successful events, one focusing on the First Photograph and the other on the Gernsheim Collection), and is in the process of coordinating an international symposium in collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute, slated for November, to discuss recent analyses of the First Photograph as well as other photographic topics.

Our internationally important photography collection is thriving. This is due in no small part to the talent and abilities of the staff, and to the beneficence of our patrons, such as David Douglas Duncan and The Inman Foundation. To that end, we especially thank the Perkins-Prothro Foundation for its invaluable support of the photography collections and of the Ransom Center.  

—Tom Staley

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