On the closing of Alice
By Danielle Brune Sigler
The closing of an exhibition is always bittersweet. The closing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is particularly so for me. During the run of the exhibition we saw the galleries come alive with more than 50,000 visitors, many of whom had never been to the Ransom Center before. We hosted tours and fieldtrips for public, private, and home school groups, retirement communities, lifelong learners, and University faculty, staff, and students.
Children’s excited voices filled our lobby and changed our own day-to-day experience of an otherwise familiar space. The generous support of the Austin Community Foundation funded two special family days and an activity book for exhibition visitors. University of Texas at Austin museum theater students brought Lewis Carroll and Alice to life in the galleries through an imaginative performance piece. The young and young at heart stamped their White Rabbit cards, hosted tea parties, and posed for photos with Alice.
Of course, the closing of one exhibition also holds the promise of something new. The dark galleries and the quiet lobby are deceptive. Behind the scenes, staff throughout the building are working at a fevered pace.
In a matter of weeks, exhibition services de-installs one exhibition and installs a new one. The photographs, manuscripts, books, and the Movie-Jecktor paper film strips that helped tell the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will be carefully removed from their cases and returned to the collection so that they will be available for use by researchers in the reading and viewing rooms.
The gallery must be reconfigured to realize a new curator’s vision. Walls moved, repaired, and repainted. Cases rearranged. Installation begins. The efficiency of this work is a tribute to years of preparation by curators, conservators, the registrar, exhibition services staff, and education staff. In a matter of days, the gallery will be transformed. More than 150 artworks will be hung and cases filled with photographs, manuscripts, and books.
Beginning August 4, we hope you will return to the Center to discover Frank Reaugh: Landscapes of Texas and the American West. Reaugh (pronounced “Ray”) devoted his career to visually documenting the vast, unsettled regions of the Southwest at the turn of the twentieth century. The exhibition and the companion publication will provide a new and comprehensive view of this master pastelist, often called “the Dean of Texas artists.”
Images from our social media #aliceinaustin. Thanks to all who shared their visitor experience at the exhibition.
We hope to see our young visitors returning as well. For the world of Frank Reaugh is a wonderland all its own—one that will speak to burgeoning artists, inventors, explorers, and environmentalists.
For our members and frequent visitors, we are grateful for your support and your continued commitment to the Center and our mission to share the humanities with the broadest possible public. We look forward to welcoming you back into the galleries when Frank Reaugh: Landscapes of Texas and the American West opens.
Danielle Brune Sigler is the Harry Ransom Center’s Associate Director for Scholarly Programs and the exhibition curator for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which closed July 6.