Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2009 Newsletter

Culture Unbound: An Investment in Discovery

A group of students. Photo by Pete Smith. Click to enlarge.

Docent Janice Johnson talks with a school group about
the Gutenberg Bible.
Photo by Pete Smith.

Technology intern Aaron Zacks, shown here in the sound preservation lab, assesses a recording from the Ross Russell collection. Photo by Pete Smith. Click to enlarge.

Technology intern Aaron Zacks, shown here in
the sound preservation lab, assesses a recording
from the Ross Russell collection.
Photo by Pete Smith.

Stephen Dobranski in the Reading Room. Photo by Pete Smith. Click to enlarge.

Stephen Dobranski in the Reading Room.
Photo by Pete Smith.

"Even though we are in uncertain economic times, we ought to remember what was accomplished during even harder times," said University of Texas at Austin President William Powers in reference to the University's $3 billion capital campaign launched last October. "We should do what we can to ensure that UT continues to improve its facilities, and strengthen its endowments, so that future generations of students will experience what we have experienced at this great University."

The Ransom Center has taken up this call with a $15 million capital campaign of its own that will strengthen the Center and enhance the services it provides to students, scholars, and the public. The campaign will support critical areas of need and will enable the Center to continue to reach for excellence in its operations.

One priority of the campaign is to secure funds that support an outstanding schedule of exhibitions and programs. Through these offerings or events, the Center engages the public with its rich and extensive holdings. Audiences from around the world can experience the collections through web-based and traveling exhibitions and an international lending program to other museums. Exhibitions and collection materials have been displayed at museums and institutions throughout the United States and the world, from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art to the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Funds raised for exhibition sponsorship provide critical support for preparation, research, and the many technical and conservation needs associated with the display of rare materials. Support for programs bolsters the Center's commitment to bringing a diverse array of writers, artists, and scholars to campus for engaging lectures, readings, performances, and events.

A generous grant from the University Co-operative Society is a prime example of how campaign gifts can make a major impact. This grant enabled the Ransom Center to launch the Harry Ransom Lectures, a series of programs that, in its inaugural season, featured such distinguished speakers as Azar Nafisi, David Mamet, Ed Ruscha, and Barry Unsworth. In addition to delivering public lectures, these speakers met with students and faculty in classroom settings.

The campaign is also committed to enhancing the Center's curatorial excellence. As collections grow and evolve, it is essential that the Center nurture an exceptional curatorial staff that presents collection materials to audiences in insightful and meaningful ways. The Center will seek funds to endow curatorial positions in the Romance languages and photography and to support the work and professional development of all its curators.

The Center has long been recognized for its literary collections, but it is also home to one of the finest photography collections in the world. This collection captures and complements the great figures, events, and achievements represented in the literary collections. In order to elevate its photography programs and services to a level of quality equal to its collection, the Center will establish an endowment to support a new curatorial position in photography and increase support for photography departmental priorities, including acquisitions, publications in the new Ransom Center Photography Series, and programming. The Center has already raised $1 million toward this goal and is seeking matching funds.

The Center will raise funds to enhance conservation services for the photography collections and establish an endowment to support the work of a conservator. Moreover, to ensure the preservation of collection materials for generations to come, the Center will enhance its conservation services by purchasing and installing a cold storage unit to house and preserve its rare and fragile photographic negatives, color transparencies, motion picture film, and audio and magnetic tape materials.

The campaign will also seek funds to create an endowment to support the work of student interns, who will gain valuable experience in the technology services offered at a major humanities research center. Internships instill a spirit of new enthusiasm at the Center as interns bring knowledge of current trends, fresh thinking, and energetic assistance to the Ransom Center's programs and services.

Furthermore, to maintain its preeminence in collection development, the Center must continue to raise substantial funds for acquisitions. These funds enable the Center to act quickly when significant collections and archives become available, such as the African and African American literature collection and other recent acquisitions.

Capital campaigns require long-term planning and commitment. Working with Director Thomas F. Staley and the Center's staff on meeting the goals of the campaign are the dedicated members of the Ransom Center's Advisory Council, some of whom have been affiliated with the Center for a decade or longer. Co-chairs for the campaign are Lynne B. Bentsen of Houston and Thomas P. Borders of Austin. "We are fortunate to have a diverse council of enthusiastic, talented people who are dedicated to the ongoing mission of excellence at the Ransom Center," says Bentsen who has been on the Council since 2005. For a complete list and profiles of the Ransom Center's Advisory Council members see www.hrc.utexas.edu/contribute/advisory/

The campaign, which concludes in 2014, is already off to a strong start. The Center has raised 42 percent of its goal.

"We are deeply grateful for the support we have received," says Staley. "One of the Center's strengths is the diversity of its holdings and its broad view of culture. Through stewardship of these collections, the Center ensures that the rich materials that trace and reveal literary and artistic accomplishments across the centuries will be accessible for future generations. The campaign gifts we receive are an investment made by individuals, foundations, and companies who believe in our mission. With the wisdom and support of our donors, I am confident we will succeed."

Further details and updates on the Ransom Center's capital campaign may be found at www.hrc.utexas.edu/cultureunbound.

For more information on the campaign please contact, Lisa Avra, Chief Development Officer, at 512-471-5174 or lisaavra@mail.utexas.edu.

Capital Campaign Goal: $15,000,000

Strengthening Collections and Enhancing Curatorial Excellence: $7,500,000

         Collection Development ($2,500,000)
         Curatorial Excellence Endowment ($2,500,000)
         Endowed Curator of Romance Languages ($1,000,000)
         Exhibitions and Programs ($1,000,000)
         Cataloging ($500,000)

Bringing Greater Prominence to the Photography Program: $3,500,000

         Endowed Curator of Photography ($1,500,000)
         Endowed Photograph Conservator ($1,000,000)
         Photography Conservation Services ($500,000)
         Endowed Photography Internship ($500,000)

Leading the Field in Technology and Digital Services: $2,000,000

         Endowed Digital Collections Coordinator ($1,000,000)
         Endowed Technology Internship ($500,000)
         Technology Initiatives ($500,000)

Sustaining Excellence: $1,500,000

Creating Greater Opportunities for Scholarship: $500,000

         Endowed Research Fellowships

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