The Ransom Center: With the Lid Off
The seemingly interminable reconstruction of the Ransom Center has reached completion, so we look forward with anticipation to the events that surround the reopening of the building and introduction of the new space to the public.
The Ransom Center can now boast an additional 40,000 square feet of public space including the new and expanded Reading and Viewing Room on the second floor and the Ransom Galleries on the first floor which were previously occupied by the University's art collections.
Prior to entering the building, visitors get a taste of what to expect from the reconstructed northeast and southeast corners, which are enclosed in etched glass featuring imagery from the Center's collections. The northeast corner of the building, previously an open-air fountain area, has been converted into a Theater Lobby and the southeast corner will serve as a grand staircase accessing new research spaces on the second floor.
For the first time, the Ransom Center has a large area on the ground floor for exhibition of its collections. The galleries will have dedicated space for literary, art, and photography exhibitions as well as permanent displays of the Gutenberg Bible and the World's First Photograph.
Adjacent to the Galleries is the new Ransom Center Theater, with seating for 130 people and outfitted with state of the art audio and digital electronics capable of on-stage and remote operation, a highly flexible stage lighting system and a movie quality screen.
The entire second floor has been established as a research wing, consolidating all areas of Ransom Center Public Services into one convenient space for scholars to access all of the collections. The research areas accommodate over 40 scholars, roughly double the amount of space formerly available, and the facility supports three separate seminar rooms having a combined capacity of nearly 100. There are individual rooms for studying audio and visual collections, for working with microforms, and for using specialized lighting techniques for difficult to decipher works.
The Center will mark the completion of the construction project with a grand gala and convocation of writers and artists who are represented in the collections, as well as several other events for press, faculty, and the community at large.
The Ransom Center Gala will occur on April 12, 2003 and attendees will include, among others, Honorary Chairperson and First Lady Laura Bush, former Texas Monthly editor and author William Broyles, who will serve as Master of Ceremonies, and eminent British playwright David Hare, who recently received an Oscar nomination for his adaptation of Michael Cunningham's The Hours.
The public will get its first chance to see the new space in May 2003 as the Ransom Center opens the new galleries with "In A New Light," an exhibition celebrating some of the Center's most iconic pieces set to run through September 13, 2003. There will be press and media previews early in May, and a public opening and reception for "In A New Light" will be held in the galleries at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, May 12. The galleries will assume regular hours beginning Tuesday, May 13.
Despite the obstacles that prevail in any building project, we are certain that the completion of the building is evidence of our continuing commitment not only to improving the character and resources of our world-renowned institution, but of our enrichment of The University of Texas at Austin as well.
—Travis Willmann, Public Affairs Assistant