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News Release — November 1, 2005

"Technologies of Writing" Examines the History and Style of Writing

"Technologies of Writing," which examines the history and style of writing and its related technologies, runs from Jan. 31 to Aug. 6 at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

The phrase "technologies of writing" refers not to the script or alphabet, the calligraphic or marking system that a text employs, but to the practical methods by which these systems are applied—pencil, brush, quill, ink, paint, print, machine key and pixel—and to the material surfaces and sites of writing itself—clay, animal skin, parchment, linen, wood pulp and cyberspace.

"The exhibition invites visitors to think about writing as they may never have thought about it before," said Kurt Heinzelman, curator of the exhibition and professor of English at the university. "Writing is perhaps man's greatest invention. Not even the emergence of language is comparable, for all species have a means of communication. Writing, though, is what enables language to be copied and stored. Writing is memory. It is what makes us human."

The exhibition showcases rare, original artifacts, dating from 2000 BCE to the present. Featured items range from the oldest writing system to electronic texts/novels, showing the development of writing is ongoing, responsive to technological innovations.

Examining the concept of writing from its invention through its many manifestations, the exhibition includes and explores stone inscriptions from Troy, translucent Greek papyri, the development of the alphabet, Mayan hieroglyphs, the work of medieval scribes, the Gutenberg Bible, and typewriters and tools from modern literary notables.

No significant alteration of the human condition has occurred without a corresponding change in how writing is produced, stored or reproduced. Visitors to the exhibition can learn about what these technology milestones were and the importance of these changes.

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