The fellowships support research projects in the humanities that require substantial on-site use of the Ransom Center’s collections of manuscripts, rare books, film, photography, art and performing arts materials.
The fellowship recipients, more than half of whom will be coming from abroad, will use Ransom Center materials to support such projects as “Global Hollywood and the New Iranian Cinema,” “Photography and the Nineteenth-Century Illustrated Book,” “Spanish Comedias Sueltas of Agustín Moreto,” “The Bird’s-Eye View and the Viewer, 1400–1700” and “Fashioning the French Camus.”
The fellowships range from one to three months in duration and provide $3,000 of support per month. Travel stipends and dissertation fellowships are also awarded. The stipends are funded by individual donors and organizations including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Creekmore and Adele Fath Charitable Foundation, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and The University of Texas at Austin’s Office of Graduate Studies, Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies and program in British Studies.
The Ransom Center will host six additional scholars in collaboration with the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) International Placement Scheme. This program, funded and administered by the U.K.-based AHRC, offers early-career researchers and AHRC-funded doctoral students from U.K. universities the opportunity to enhance their research with a fellowship at one of its seven participating host institutions.
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Attributed to Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, [Geisha having her photograph taken], not dated, color woodblock; Alfred Junge, scene conception for The Barretts of Wimpole Street, 1956; Fred Fehl, still featuring Sara Yarborough from a production of Cry, 1974; Clement Smith & Co., Hercat’s New and Startling Illusion, 1888; Julia Margaret Cameron, [May Prinsep], 1870, albumen print.].
The Ransom Center’s photography collection contains more than 100 photographs attributed to distinguished nineteenth-century photographer O. G. Rejlander. One print is a portrait of Olivia Bennet, The Countess of Tankerville. Researcher Lori Pauli visited the Ransom Center to study the portrait, and she reflects on the possible intersection of the lives of photographer and subject.
Pauli is the Photographs Collection Curator at the National Gallery of Canada. She is preparing a major retrospective on the life and work of Rejlander that will open in 2018.
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The University of Texas at Austin’s LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections and Ransom Center will host the symposium “Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy” on October 28–30 in Austin. In advance of the symposium, the García Márquez archive will open for research in the Ransom Center’s Reading and Viewing Room on October 21.
The symposium will explore the life and legacy of the beloved author and public intellectual. International scholars, journalists, filmmakers, and former colleagues of García Márquez’s will speak about his global influence in the fields of journalism, filmmaking, and literature. Panel topics include “Gabo: The Storyteller,” “Global Gabo,” “Gabo the Journalist,” and “Gabriel García Márquez: Cinematic Scribe and Muse.” Panelists hail from Colombia, Mexico, and the United States.
Author Salman Rushdie will deliver the opening keynote address. Journalist and author Elena Poniatowska will provide the closing keynote.
“Gabriel García Márquez: His Life and Legacy” will be the 12th Flair Symposium, a Ransom Center biennial event that honors the ideals set forth by Fleur Cowles and her landmark Flair magazine.
The week prior to the symposium, the Ransom Center will open García Márquez’s archive for research. At that time, an online finding aid will provide an inventory and description of the collection. Patrons will be able to access the collection in the Center’s Reading and Viewing Room.
Information about using the collections, including establishing a research account, can be found online.
The Ransom Center is pleased to share its annual report covering the 2013–2014 academic year. Ransom Center Director Steve Enniss notes that “the annual report, coupled with the Ransom Center’s recently completed strategic plan, provides a blueprint for how we hope to grow.” The data and information included in the report not only document how the Center serves students, scholars, and the public, but also provide measurable benchmarks to track future progress.
A few key metrics from the report are noted below. Beyond these numbers, the annual report describes the Ransom Center’s responsibility to engage the public, support and enhance the collections, and foster research and learning. Financial information related to the Ransom Center’s operating budget and expenditures, endowments, and donations are included. Data reveals which collections are most often circulated and viewed online and the diligent efforts of cataloging, research services, and conservation staff.
Gabriel García Márquez was a perfectionist when creating his masterpieces, and that quality is demonstrated in his manuscripts. With the Ransom Center’s recent acquisition of the late author’s archive, scholars will be able to see the author’s edits and discuss García Márquez’s writing process. José Montelongo, the interim Latin American bibliographer at the university’s Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, writes about the thrill of delving into García Márquez’s manuscripts and exploring the pentimenti—repentances, compunctions, remorses—in the archive.
Galit Marmor-Lavie is a professor at The University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communication. This semester she brought students in her undergraduate Advertising and Popular Culture class, offered at the Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations, to the Ransom Center’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland exhibition. Below, she explains the project that was inspired by the exhibition and what drew her to use the Ransom Center as a resource.
What students are in this class?
This class is an elective, undergraduate-level class. The students come from across campus; that’s what is so beautiful about this class. This may be the first encounter with communication ideas that students who study mathematics and natural science have. They are curious about the process of advertising. It’s really interesting to see how differently they examine communication messages. We have great discussions.
Why did you choose to use the Ransom Center’s exhibition?
This has not been the first time that I have taken my students to Ransom Center exhibitions. Last semester, I took a different class to The Making of Gone With the Wind. I always find that there are communication, advertising, and marketing aspects in your exhibitions. It’s really important to utilize the Center. It’s right across the street, and we should use university resources. And it’s such a beautiful world, rich with so many ideas. It’s a philosophy to get outside of the classroom and get engaged with different things. Last time I taught this class my students created posters for the South Austin Museum for Pop Culture. Then I saw this exhibition and thought that it would be a perfect match.
What project are the students undertaking?
After visiting the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland exhibition, my students will create posters in groups that convey various messages about Alice. They need to advertise Alice’s story, but with a contemporary outlook. So I wanted to use those themes that we’ve covered in class to try to target millennials. A lot of them will change the way she looks, but it’s not just design and the external part. I’m searching for something deeper. We have a critical point of view of how advertising operates in our society and what should be done. Many times it is food for thought. How stereotypes have been portrayed in advertising – about women, about race, about love, about everything. My students can choose to comment on whatever it is they have passion for. We are so busy in our daily lives and we are so used to seeing all of these daily messages that we don’t stop for a second and see this aggregated persuasion, and I want them to learn to manifest a critical point of view of these messages. It’s a different approach, but the students are excited.
What do you hope they will learn from the project?
I want them to get hands-on experience. I want them to be the advertisers and see how hard their job is. I want them to talk to the target audience while thinking about communication aspects while understanding that advertising is an important conduit. It is about more than persuading people. The poster project is encapsulating these ideas: they learn what it means to be in advertising, they have the responsibility and the power, and they learn how to use the advertising tool in a bright, positive way. It’s a privilege for me to be able to influence the perceptions of these bright and eager students in the world of advertising. I want to teach them how to be proactive; I want them to be aware of communications, specifically advertising and for them to do it in a right way.
Do you plan on returning to the Ransom Center with future classes?
Yes. I remember I took my students to I Have Seen The Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America. I thought it was amazing, especially for us in advertising to see. It is helpful for students to be aware that these collections are here and to know how to ask where to find them or how to analyze them. Every semester I see what the Ransom Center is showing and see if I can make it work.
Students in Professor Marmor-Lavie’s class work throughout the semester to create posters. They tour the exhibition, brainstorm in groups, and are judged on the presentation of their messages. The Advertising and Popular Culture class is just one of the ways that the Ransom Center connects undergraduates to its vast collections.
This week marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. I grew up in Holland where the fifth of May is celebrated as “Bevrijdingsdag,” named for the liberation from German occupation that my father, who was 14 years old in 1945 when he stood by the side of the road and cheered a stream of Allied tanks and trucks into The Hague, still vividly recalls.
The Ransom Center holds one unique war trophy “liberated” by an American G.I. that weighs in at 23 pounds of evil: a giant vellum-bound copy in heavy boards of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Emblazoned on the front with a golden eagle atop a swastika, this large-format edition of Hitler’s manifesto is likely one of fewer than a hundred such lavish presentation copies specially produced in München for Nazi leaders during the war.
The book is now kept in a large box, along with two typed letters from the Red Cross nurse-turned-army-wife, Carmel White Eitt, who donated it in 1988. She writes of its being “liberated by a lad named Willie, a cook in the headquarters company of the 143 regiment” (she could not recall the spelling of his Polish surname), during the search of Heinrich Himmler’s residence in Tegernsee, Bavaria, by the 36th division after the signing that ended the war. Once Stateside, this G.I. showed up at her doorstep to give her his war trophy as a thank-you. I get chills every time I read her letter; even now the hairs on my arms tingle a bit.
A rare wartime survivor, the book has physical features and injuries that tell tales. The battered copy suffers from a slightly “cocked spine,” which makes it want to open to the pages where in 1945 it was stepped on and bayonetted by members of the 36th. Those pages still bear the imprints left by muddy army boots and the ragged cuts and punctures made by bayonets. There is something visceral about the damage left behind—a muddy snapshot of a violent history more compelling than the braggadocio of Hitler’s lavishly printed pages.
This particular copy of this particular book is a powerful object that brings up important questions about why a library or archive painstakingly preserves even the ugly aspects of history. When I show this book to my students, the cover alone is usually enough to solicit disgust from them. Yet in 1988 the former Red Cross nurse wrapped this copy of Mein Kampf in “swadling clothes” [sic.] to protect it on its journey to the Ransom Center. Using language more suitable for a fragile and treasured infant rather than Hitler’s 23-pound screed, this army wife who had witnessed the horrors of war first-hand wanted to preserve her enemy’s book because, as she says, she held a “very deep and abiding affection for the 36th Division and those men who fought so long and so well.” Himmler’s copy of Hitler’s ideas had, over time, become a testament to something else entirely.
This semester I called it up for my undergraduate class “The Paperback,” which studies a number of collections in the Ransom Center to measure the impact that the new portability and packaging of the inexpensive twentieth-century book had on literary interpretation, distribution, and audience. Hitler’s monument to vanity served as my anti-paperback example. His massive commemorative edition demanded veneration with its high production values by mimicking an old book, complete with a blackletter typeface that harkens back to Gutenberg. During our show-and-tell it sat near a giant folio edition of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, dated 1596, which still bears remnants of clasps and a metal chain (it was likely locked to a desk) and is bound in leather over thick wooden boards. Both the Brobdingnagian edition of Mein Kampf and the heavy Renaissance tome embody the traditional elitist stance towards knowledge that the modern paperback combats. On the same table lay some of the first-generation Penguin Specials from 1938 and 1939, with their no-frills orange and black paper covers: Germany Puts the Clock Back by Edgar Mowrer and What Hitler Wants by E. O. Lorimer. These lightweight paperbacks were, some say, an effective instrument in the war of ideas that helped the Allies win WWII.
Not all books worth keeping look pretty or are even good books. Nor are books always studied for the words printed on their pages. In 1988, Eitt mused how “it is very possible that some feet are still walking around Austin that trod over this volume,” since many men in the 36th had been from Texas. Today, more than another quarter century onwards, these men are unlikely to still be with us in person. But this week, in particular, we remember them and their moment in history.
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In 1986 when the Ransom Center acquired the Carl H. Pforzheimer library of early English literature, with books dating from 1475 to 1700, the book world gasped. The Pforzheimer library was the outstanding private collection of early English books available, and the acquisition of this exceptional private library of carefully selected rare, and in some cases, unique books in extraordinary condition, represents one of the Ransom Center’s great achievements in book collecting.
The Ransom Center first acquired Pforzheimer’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible in 1978, one of the most interesting of the 49 known copies of the bible. Rich in both provenance (early annotations place our copy in a fifteenth-century Carthusian monastery) and textual variations (including unique type settings), it is one of the greatest treasures here at the Ransom Center. When the Pforzheimer library arrived eight years later, it continued to impress. It contains the first book printed in English, by William Caxton, titled Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, all four Shakespeare folios, deep holdings in Chaucer, Milton, and Spenser, three copies of the King James Bible from 1611, and the 1535 Coverdale Bible, which is the first bible printed in English, just to name some of the highlights.
The Pforzheimer books are significant bibliographically, intellectually, and culturally, thus the conservation department is proactively looking after their preservation needs. The conservation department has performed previous condition surveys on this collection, but this time we wanted to have a more comprehensive approach. The previous efforts were analyzed, the current curator of the collection was consulted, and the new survey was designed for a wider capture of information that will inform not only conservation needs but curatorial interests such as bibliographical data, bindings, provenance, and metadata. This particular survey will examine all 1,100 books in the collection, in order to address its conservation needs. The survey will be complete by the end of 2015, and the results will be shared publicly.
The Pforzheimer Library is the most frequently used early book collection at the Ransom Center, with many teaching faculty in the humanities using the collection for their classes and several visiting fellows researching within this collection. And with the arrival this year of the new curator, Gerald Cloud, the collection’s use is certain to increase and attract a broader audience.
One of the most unusual items in the Ransom Center’s collections resides within the Gloria Swanson archive, and it’s as challenging as it is amusing. The “sugar coffin,” as it has become known, was given to Swanson by avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger, in response to a lawsuit filed by Swanson against Anger.
A little backstory: When Anger wrote his salacious tell-all-book Hollywood Babylon he included a chapter on the death of Lana Turner’s boyfriend, mobster Johnny Stompanato, who was killed by Turner’s daughter. In the chapter, Anger mistakenly quotes Swanson as saying Turner was “not even an actress… she is only a trollop.” Anger was apparently unaware that when it was first printed by Hollywood gossip columnist Walter Winchell, Swanson had the quote retracted.
When Swanson was alerted to Anger’s use of the false quote she filed a libel suit against him and his publishers, but before the verdict was handed down, Swanson began receiving hate mail from Anger, including voodoo dolls and mutilated photographs with pins stuck through them. Anger knew Swanson was a serious health fanatic (William Dufty, her sixth husband, wrote the book Sugar Blues), so he filled a green, foot-and-a-half-long coffin with sugar, writing Hic Jacet (Here Lies) Gloria Swanson on its lid.
For the Ransom Center, the challenge was how to preserve a coffin full of sugar? The Center’s Curator of Film wanted to keep the object in its original form, so the coffin was encapsulated in Mylar to prevent the sugar from spilling out. After many discussions we decided to remove the sugar and place it into several polypropylene bags.
Unbeknownst to us, Anger had another message for Swanson. As I was removing the sugar, I noticed there was a word in Hebrew printed on a piece of newsprint that translated as “shalom.” No one at the Ransom Center had seen this before or knew that it was there.
Consequently, I encapsulated the newsprint in Mylar, placed the polypropylene bags with the sugar inside the coffin, and constructed housing for the object, an amazing item to have in the Ransom Center’s care.
When boxes of collection materials arrive at the Ransom Center, conservators and archivists gather at the tables in the quarantine room in the basement to inspect the contents, looking for insects and the telltale signs of them—as well as for mold, another great enemy of archives. Leading the effort is Ransom Center Book Conservator Mary Baughman, who trains personnel to recognize signs of insect infestation. Below, Mary shares a recent department undertaking that may humanize the insects but will also make them more recognizable during inspections.
Upon the arrival of collection materials at the Ransom Center, the first order of business is for staff to inspect the collection carefully—under the diligent leadership of one of our conservators—for signs of insects or mold, or any other damage that could jeopardize our collections. These inspections are important affairs, for it’s critical that we not introduce pests or mold into our stacks.
In looking for instructional materials to educate and identify insects, I turned to MuseumPests.net, a comprehensive international resource for collection managers. Every institution has insect challenges of some sort. In fact, MuseumPests.net is the result of the efforts of the Integrated Pest Management Working Group, a group of collection managers, conservators, entomologists, and other professionals interested in issues surrounding the implementation of integrated pest management in museums and other collection-holding institutions.
While exploring the MuseumPests.net website, I located a set of amusing and informative insect identification flashcards created by students of Sir Sanford Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship Program in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
Inspired, conservation department volunteer Meaghan Perry and I decided Texas should have its own flashcards depicting insects in the state that attack collection materials. I penned the text, and Meaghan created the images; MuseumPests.net entomologists vetted both.
Identifying and understanding these insects is the first step in preserving our collections. We’re pleased to depict these Texas insects during Preservation Week.