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News Release — April 20, 2020

Ransom Center Appoints Gretchen Henderson Associate Director for Research

The Harry Ransom Center, one of the leading humanities research institutions in the world, has appointed scholar and creative writer Gretchen Henderson as Associate Director for Research.

“Gretchen Henderson brings to the Ransom Center a deep commitment to fostering scholarship in, and creative engagement with, the Center’s world renowned collections,” Ransom Center Director Stephen Enniss said. “She will serve as a facilitator of scholarly conversations centered on these collections, and, in that role, will ensure the continued relevance of these collections in our daily lives.”

Prior to joining the Ransom Center, Henderson held appointments in the Department of English at Georgetown University, in the Humanities at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and she was the Annie Clark Tanner Fellow in Environmental Humanities and Writing at the University of Utah. In 2018-2019, she served as co-director of the National Endowment for the Humanities Institute on Museums: Humanities in the Public Sphere.

Henderson has an undergraduate degree in History and American Studies from Princeton, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her background also includes a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities from MIT.

She was chosen through an international search to fill one of the Ransom Center’s key senior leadership positions. As Associate Director for the Research Division, she will be responsible for developing scholarly initiatives and programs in support of the Center’s research mission.

The Ransom Center is an internationally renowned humanities research center with collections that include nearly 1 million rare books, more than 42 million manuscripts, 5 million photographs and 100,000 works of art. These extensive collections provide unique insight into the creative process of the world’s finest writers and artists, deepening the understanding and appreciation of literature, photography, film, art and the performing arts.

“I cannot imagine a more promising environment to share my interdisciplinary commitment to libraries and museums and my specialties in the creative process of writers and artists,” Henderson said. “Since my research methods cross critical disciplines and creative practices, I have a deep appreciation for the diverse kinds of projects that come into and grow out of the Ransom Center.” She brings a range of experience administering academic programs, teaching across literature and the arts, and publishing widely.

Henderson’s writings — including four books and arts media and opera libretti — have been reviewed in The New Yorker, The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, and TIME magazine. She has taught widely with libraries and museums and at a number of universities, including Georgetown University, the University of Utah, and MIT. Her work also has been shaped by research fellowships and artist residencies, including her time spent this past year as a writer-in-residence at the Jan Michalski Foundation for Writing and Literature in Switzerland.

Henderson says her dedication to research is intertwined with her writing, and her fourth and latest book, Ugliness: A Cultural History (Reaktion Books of London/University of Chicago Press), draws on literature, arts, museums and libraries to untangle the relationship between aesthetics and cultural representations.

Henderson’s leadership duties related to leading the Research Division of the Ransom Center will be to encourage and facilitate research in the collections, to spur scholarly and creative conversations that advance the study of the humanities, and to disseminate research outcomes to national and international audiences.

“My focus always has been to foster strong relationships that help connect faculty, students and staff with research opportunities, both at their home institutions and through partnerships with other universities and beyond,” Henderson said. “At a time of challenges across the world, the humanities play an important role in bringing people together. I always hope to find new ways to cultivate opportunities that benefit diverse constituents, including historically underrepresented communities in higher education. Research provides opportunities to see the collections anew, to ask new questions that animate a living cultural center.”

In this role, Henderson will direct the Center’s publications program; coordinate and plan seminars, symposia and the biennial Flair Conference; and manage and direct the Center’s successful fellowship program, which has supported more than 1,250 research projects since 1990, resulting in the publication of books, journal articles and doctoral theses.

Henderson begins working remotely for the Ransom Center on April 21, 2020.

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