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Harry Ransom Center Celebrates 50th Anniversary in 2007

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its inception in 2007 with a year dedicated to ‘Celebrating the Imagination.’

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AUSTIN, Texas—The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its inception in 2007 with a year dedicated to “Celebrating the Imagination.”

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. The Center houses more than 36 million manuscripts, 1 million rare books, 5 million photographs and 100,000 works of art and design.

Tennessee Williams signs the

Tennessee Williams signs the “authors’ door” during a visit to the Ransom Center in 1973. Frank Armstrong.

Learn more about the Tennessee Williams Collection, acquired by the Ransom Center in 1962.

Image: Harry Ransom Center

“Fifty years is a short time on history’s clock, especially when measuring the legacies of libraries and museums,” said Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley. “One of the most remarkable things about the Ransom Center is that so much has been achieved in such a short time. With that thought in mind, we see this anniversary as not only a time of celebration but also an opportunity to look forward to the next 50 years of advancing the world of ideas and the imagination.”

Internationally recognized for its archives, the Ransom Center holds artwork from masters such as Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, a nationally recognized photography collection, including the world’s first photograph, and major holdings in performing arts and film, including the archives of David O. Selznick and Gloria Swanson. At the core of its holdings is an extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century American, British and French literary material, including major manuscript collections of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, D. H. Lawrence, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Tennessee Williams.

The central mission of the Ransom Center is to advance the study of the arts and humanities. The Center acquires original cultural material for the purposes of scholarship, education and delight. It preserves and makes accessible these creations of cultural heritage through the highest standards of cataloging, conservation and collection management. It also supports research through public services, symposia, publications and fellowships, and provides education and enrichment for scholars, students and the public through exhibitions, public performances and lectures.

The Ransom Center acquires new items for its archives, and recent acquisitions include the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate papers and the archives of writer and cultural figure Norman Mailer, writer, actor, producer Robert De Niro, author Don DeLillo, acting teacher Stella Adler and photographer Arnold Newman.

Events are planned throughout 2007 to celebrate the anniversary, including the exhibition “The American Twenties,” a symposium on Watergate, a Robert De Niro film series, an American ’20s music series and other public programs.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Ransom Center is publishing an illustrated chronicle of its history, “Collecting the Imagination: The First Fifty Years of the Ransom Center.” This work traces the Center’s growth from the founding of the university, when the administration began to collect library materials to support the research of its students and faculty, to the birth of Harry Ransom’s idea 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.”

“Collecting the Imagination: The First Fifty Years of the Ransom Center” will be available in April 2007, published by University of Texas Press.

A timeline of the Center’s history, highlighting major events and acquisitions for each of its 50 years, contains high-resolution press images.

For more information contact: Alicia Dietrich, 512-232-3667; Jennifer Tisdale, 512-471-8949, Harry Ransom Center.