Navigate / search

Love letters from the archive

By Charley Binkow

The millions of materials in the Ransom Center are as diverse as they are interesting. But everything inside is united by one common focus, the humanities—the exploration of what it means to be human. The artists, writers, poets, musicians, filmmakers, and everyone else whose belongings and legacies live in the archives all captured different aspects of the human experience. They explored the essences of art, of beauty, of tragedy, and perhaps most importantly (especially if you trust John Lennon) of love. Read more

Shop for merchandise inspired by Frank Reaugh exhibition

By Christine Lee

 “Frank Reaugh was the most improbable of artists, a European-trained Impressionist whose entire oeuvre was devoted to Longhorn cattle and the West Texas landscape.” –Ron Tyler, “Foreword”


Enjoy a deeper look into Reaugh’s work with Windows on the West: The Art of Frank Reaugh, the companion publication edited by Ransom Center Curator of Art Peter F. Mears. This hard-back publication features in-depth essays from four contributors and more than 100 images that exemplify Frank Reaugh’s life’s work. Read more

Twenty-four Hours with the Herd, a night of image and sound with Graham Reynolds

By Kathleen Telling

Critically acclaimed Austin composer Graham Reynolds (Golden Arm Trio, Bernie, Before Sunset) breathes new life into Frank Reaugh’s 1933 masterpiece, Twenty-four Hours with the Herd, a musical presentation of Reaugh’s stunning seven-part pastel series depicting the West Texas plains as a backdrop to cattle drives. Read more

Teachers mine Ransom Center archives for lesson planning gold

By Charley Binkow

With the support of UTeach Liberal Arts and the Jefferson Center for Core Texts and Ideas, University of Texas at Austin professor Elon Lang led a one-week workshop at the Harry Ransom Center this summer called “Teaching from the Archives.” It gives educators first-hand experience with the resources of the Ransom Center so they can enhance their own middle and high school classes. About a dozen teachers and librarians met at the Ransom Center each morning to explore and learn from the archive. Read more

Commitment to collecting

By Harry Ransom Center

Going back to the origins of research libraries, there is a long history of scholars building collections to suit personal interests, constructing around themselves an athenaeum of books that supported their individual research goals. And when that scholar moved on—to another job or another world—the collection sometimes withered, without a champion to continue telling its story. Read more

Social Media: Nothing New? Commonplace Books As Predecessor to Pinterest

By Kelsey McKinney

The Ransom Center’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland exhibition includes a commonplace book kept by Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll) with information about ciphers, anagrams, stenography, and labyrinths. As Kelsey McKinney, a former public affairs intern, writes, these “personal anthologies” functioned as “literary scrapbooks”. While these scrapbooks were “commonplace” in Victorian culture, modern means of communication fulfill the same desire for people to record and share their life experiences.

The exhibition—and Dodgson’s commonplace book—are on view at the Ransom Center through July 6, 2015.

Before the affordability of personal libraries, and before people were able to access the world’s knowledge through the Internet, readers and writers had to find reasonable ways to consolidate and store information that could be useful to them. There were no social media to help them aggregate and share stories, quotes, recipes, or images. That doesn’t mean they didn’t do exactly that. They created personal anthologies called commonplace books. Read more

In the galleries: Jason Reed’s "Motel, Terlingua" and W. D. Smithers’s "View of Study Butte, Texas"

By Abigail Cain

Jason Reed, "Motel, Terlingua," 2011. Courtesy of artist.
Jason Reed, "Motel, Terlingua," 2011. Courtesy of artist.
W.D. Smithers, "View of Study Butte, Texas," 1932.
W.D. Smithers, "View of Study Butte, Texas," 1932.

As photographer Jason Reed sat in the reading room of the Ransom Center, awaiting a box of Walker Evans photographs, he noticed a binder on the reference shelf nearby. In what he calls a “moment of coincidence,” he picked it up and discovered notes and captions describing photographs of West Texas—both the place he grew up and the area he has spent his life exploring through video and photography.

The binder contained a finding aid to the work of early-twentieth-century photographer W. D. Smithers, whose archive is held by the Ransom Center. Although 80 years separate the two artists, their work shares an uncanny similarity—take Reed’s Motel, Terlingua (2011) and Smithers’s View of Study Butte, Texas (1932) as an example.

The relationship between archives and the work of modern-day artists is the subject of the Ransom Center’s current exhibition Contemporary Photographic Practice and the Archive. Created in conjunction with the Lakes Were Rivers collective, an Austin-based group of artists working in photography and video, the exhibition highlights members’ works that were influenced in some way by the Ransom Center. Approximately 50 new works are displayed alongside Ransom Center collection materials chosen by the artists.

Smithers began his career in commercial photography when he was 15 years old, eventually working as an aerial photographer for the U.S. Army Aviation Service during World War I. Between 1935 and 1939, under a contract with the International Boundary and Water Commission, Smithers photographed the entire U.S.-Mexican Border from Brownsville to San Diego.

Reed, too, focuses on the interplay between culture and land in the Texas-Mexico borderland. By pairing his and Smithers’s works, he said, “I work to elicit historical comparison and dialogue with the past while also creating space to reflect on photography’s role as an index of place and time, its inherent limitations in telling histories, and the archive as a catalyst in forming new ways of seeing.”

Motel, Terlingua and View of Study Butte, Texas are on display in the Ransom Center until August 4. On July 18, the artists of Lakes Were Rivers will discuss their work at 7 p.m. in the galleries.