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News Release — March 19, 2007

Publication Celebrates History of Harry Ransom Center

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin has published a lavishly illustrated history, "Collecting the Imagination: The First Fifty Years of the Ransom Center."

Edited by Megan Barnard, assistant to the director at the Ransom Center, the publication traces the Center's history, starting when the university administration began to collect library materials to support the research of its students and faculty. It illustrates how the Center has developed out of Harry Ransom's vision to establish "somewhere in Texas—let's say in the capital city—a center of our cultural compass to be the Bibliotheque Nationale of the only state that started out as an independent nation."

The book is divided into four parts, spanning the chronology of the Center, with contributions from Barnard; Cathy Henderson, associate director for exhibitions and education and Fleur Cowles Executive Curator; Richard W. Oram, associate director and Hobby Foundation Librarian; Thomas F. Staley, director of the Ransom Center and the Harry Huntt Ransom Chair of Liberal Arts; and John B. Thomas, curator of the Pforzheimer Collection.

In its 50-year history, the Ransom Center has evolved into a world-renowned cultural institution, known for its collections of literary manuscripts, rare books, photographs and art and its holdings in the performing arts and film.

"Until now, no published record of the Center's storied history has existed," said Staley. "The pages in this volume relate the story of an American institution that has absorbed the values and philosophy of the past to better understand the present and prepare for the future."

"Collecting the Imagination" describes the evolution of the Ransom Center under a succession of directors, librarians and curators of the past 50 years, and the rise of its reputation. The work also tells the story of the Center's collections, not only how they came from disparate corners of the world to reside in Texas, but also the philosophy behind their acquisition and the Center's commitment to share its holdings with the public.

Published by University of Texas Press, "Collecting the Imagination: The First Fifty Years of the Ransom Center" is available at bookstores.

A panel discussion with the book contributors will be held on Thursday, May 3 at 7 p.m. at the Harry Ransom Center. The event is free, but seating is limited.

Throughout 2007, the Ransom Center commemorates its 50th anniversary with programs and exhibitions dedicated to "Celebrating the Imagination."