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In a New Light

May 13, 2003 – September 14, 2003

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, holder of one of the preeminent cultural archives in the country, celebrates its grand opening on May 13 after a major renovation designed to present its great collections.

The Ransom Center's inaugural exhibition, "In A New Light," features nearly 300 items from its collections. Part of The University of Texas at Austin, the Ransom Center houses more than 36 million manuscripts, one million rare books, five million photographs and more than 100,000 works of art and design.

"We're pleased to reopen our doors to these new galleries which will enable the public to view these treasures for the first time," said Thomas F. Staley, director of the center. "We hope visitors will discover this gem here in the middle of Texas. We have a world of archives and exhibitions to explore, and of course, a Gutenberg Bible."

In early May the Ransom Center opens its doors to more than 40,000 square feet of newly constructed public space. The first floor includes the Ransom Center Galleries, exhibition space to spotlight the Center's riches; the 129-seat Prothro Theater, a state-of-the-art space for readings, lectures, film and performances; as well as permanent exhibitions of the Gutenberg Bible (c.1450) and the world's first photograph (c. 1826).

The second floor features new public research facilities, including a Reading and Viewing Room and seminar rooms. Two corners of the building's exterior are enclosed by 25-foot-high glass panels etched with images of the Ransom Center's holdings, including a David Douglas Duncan photograph of Pablo Picasso's eyes. Etched names of the collection's various writers, artists and photographers, such as Walker Evans and Edgar Allan Poe, frame the entryway.

"It's our mission to preserve these cultural treasures while providing the public and scholars access to these collections," Staley said. "From Texas and beyond, visitors have the opportunity to tour exhibitions, hear lectures, enjoy poetry readings and view some of the world's renowned treasures in a space worthy of them."

Running from May 13 through Sept. 14, "In A New Light" features some of the center's most revered iconography, much of which has never been displayed before. The exhibition features the breadth of the Ransom Center's collection, ranging from the first printed edition of Dante's Commedia di Dante (The Divine Comedy) to Leatherface's mask from "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

Internationally recognized for its archives, the Ransom Center holds artwork from masters such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, a nationally recognized photography collection and major holdings in performing arts and film. At the core of its great holdings is an extensive collection of 19th- and 20th- century American, British and French literary material, including major manuscript collections of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Tennessee Williams.