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News Release — January 18, 2000

"Islands of Order: A Decade of Collecting" Opens February 1

Beginning February 1, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center presents Islands of Order: A Decade of Collecting. Visually stunning, and culturally significant, Islands of Order showcases the addition of 100 major literary archives and the impressive growth of the Center's photography, art, film, and music collections during the past decade.

Islands of Order: A Decade of Collecting runs from February 1 through July 31, 2000. The exhibition is being held in the Leeds Gallery located on the 4th floor of the Flawn Academic Center (FAC). The FAC is directly west of the Tower on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. The Leeds Gallery is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Highlights include:

  • Anthony Burgess's score for a musical version of A Clockwork Orange;
  • a radio broadcast script of John Steinbeck's The Moon is Down;
  • a rare draft fragment from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake;
  • a unique set of proofs for Albert Camus's play Les Justes;
  • the original typescript of Simone de Beauvoir's important unpublished work Quand prime le spirituel;
  • playwright Arthur Miller's notes from his work on the Oscar-nominated film The Story of G.I. Joe;
  • Graham Greene's holograph dream diary;
  • photographs by Keith Carter, E.O. Goldbeck, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eve Arnold, and Austin musician Butch Hancock;
  • an early Tom Stoppard draft of Shakespeare in Love, the Oscar winning screenplay by Stoppard and Marc Norman;
  • the last letter of author Bernard Malamud, written only hours before his death;
  • Excerpts from the screenplay for The Shining, Stanley Kubrick's acclaimed horror film;
  • shadow puppets designed by German silhouette artist Lotte Reiniger;
  • Paul Bowles's musical score for the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie;
  • Jorge Luis Borges's notes on astrology;
  • Amos Tutuola's unusual magnifying eyeglasses;
  • the original manuscript of Anita Desai's novel In Custody.

With one million books, thirty million manuscripts, five million photographs, and 100,000 works of art, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center is central to the scholarly life of the University of Texas at Austin and the world at large. Every aspect of the Center's work -- facilitating research on primary materials; presenting free exhibitions, lectures, and performances; and preserving rare and unique cultural treasures -- begins with the intelligent acquisition of manuscripts, notebooks, diaries, correspondence, page proofs, corrected typescripts, photographs, and art from some of the greatest artists and writers of the age. Careful thought and attention is put into each and every acquisition as no responsibility is more integral to the Center's mission than collecting and preserving the cultural records that trace the trajectory of the modern creative imagination.

Islands of Order provides a glimpse of the Center's acquisitions since 1989 as well as providing an overview of the criteria used to determine which archives or items are collected -- aesthetic quality; critical reputation; building to existing strength; and the research potential of a prospective archive.

The Center has used these criteria, under the leadership of Director Thomas F. Staley, to impressively build its collections during the past decade. For instance:

  • its already strong 20-century literary holdings were bolstered by significant additions to the manuscript collections of Robert Lowell, James Joyce, Graham Greene, Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Andre Malraux, Ezra Pound, and Tennessee Williams, to name a few;
  • Special emphasis was placed upon collecting major Jewish writers such as Nobel Laurate Isaac Bashevis Singer, Bernard Malamud, Leon Uris, Benjamin Appel, and Jay Neugeboren;
  • the Center's British theater collections were dramatically expanded with the acquisition of archives from playwrights Tom Stoppard, David Hare, Arnold Wesker, and John Osborne;
  • the archives of Adrienne Kennedy, Terrence McNally, Lee Blessing were added to the American theater collection;
  • the Center's historic concentration in British literature continued with the acquisition of the archives of Booker Prize winners Penelope Lively and Penelope Fitzgerald, the poet Charles Tomlinson, and novelists John Fowles, Doris Lessing, and Anthony Burgess;
  • the archives of a number of American writers have also been added, including Elizabeth Hardwick, Peter Matthiessen, Diane Johnson, Shelby Hearon, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning poets James Tate and Karl Shapiro;
  • the archives of several African and Indian writers--Amos Tutuola, Raja Rao, Anita Desai were added;
  • the Center acquired the archives of two of this century's greatest photographers, David Douglas Duncan and Eliot Elisofon, and added works by other renowned photographers such as Eve Arnold, E.O. Goldbeck, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Keith Carter;
  • Committed to acquiring the entire production of the Limited Edition Club, the Center added works by a number of major artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Betty Saar, and Willem de Kooning;
  • and the Center continued to acquire portraits of the writers it collects adding Eugene McCown's oil painting of Nancy Cunard and Peter Evershed's drawing of Dylan Thomas, among others.

All in all, the Center experienced a remarkably fruitful decade of collecting. According to Dr. Staley, "Acquisitions during the 1990's provide abundant evidence of the Ransom Center's sustained commitment to collection development and its vigorous pursuit of major archives." Islands of Order offers abundant evidence for that commitment.

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Alyssa Morris
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