By Stephen Enniss
As I take up duties as director of the Harry Ransom Center, I am reminded of Ezra Pound's injunction to "make it new," which coincidently was also the theme of the first exhibition I attended at the Center 10 years ago. Pound was talking about the imperatives of art and the need to cast off old molds in favor of new forms of expression. Even before he coined that phrase, the Futurist poet F. T. Marinetti had taken this modernist position to a further extreme and called for tearing down the museums, libraries, and academies. Such was the fervor for the new in the early days of the twentieth century.
Yet for all of modernism's revolutionary zeal, Pound and his fellow artists wrote with a high degree of awareness of those who had come before. For Pound that past was long, reaching as far back as Confucius, Homer, Ovid, and the troubadour poets of northern Italy. In fact, the modernists so well documented in the Ransom Center collections maintained a vital connection with those traditions that they were remaking.
As I take up duties here I am mindful of these dual commitments to embrace the new while also maintaining continuity with the past. The truth is the Ransom Center has always been in the process of reinvention.
What forms will our future work take? I daresay it will be a combination of the old and the new. New challenges will continue to be met in preserving the physical and virtual records of our finest writers and artists and in making these collections available to all. We will continue to find innovative ways to share these resources with students, scholars, and a broader public. And we will bring the Ransom Center's considerable expertise to bear in interpreting this history in classrooms, exhibitions, symposia, conferences, and in online communities.
But the most provocative thing we may do, and the most important, may well be the first. We will continue to capture the creative expression of our time in all its ephemeral forms and hold it for the benefit of all who share a curiosity about where we have been and where we might still go.