The largest physical culture archive in the world, The University of Texas at Austin’s H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, has announced the opening of its Joe and Betty Weider Museum of Physical Culture, featuring an inaugural exhibition of around 700 photos from the center’s holdings.
The exhibition, called “Muscle and Grace: Images of Physical Culture and Sports,” is arranged thematically through 10 distinct galleries in the 10,000 square foot museum space.
“The term ‘physical culture’ refers to all of the activities in which humans have engaged for centuries to enhance their physiques, increase endurance, improve health, combat aging and become better athletes,” said Dr. Jan Todd, Stark Center co-director. “This new exhibition illustrates something of the scope of that term.”
The photos offer candid, inspiring images of the greatest weightlifters and bodybuilders of the past century, iconic shots of the golden age of Muscle Beach, images of 19th century circus and vaudeville strongmen and strongwomen, and images of female pioneers in weight training.
The exhibit also contains large photo displays of golfing legends Babe Didrickson Zaharias, Harvey Penick, Ben Crenshaw, and Tom Kite, as well as more than 150 photos from Sports Illustrated photographer Stephen Green-Armytage. One of the Armytage photos is of Stark Center co-directors Terry and Jan Todd at the time Jan was being called the “Strongest Woman in the World.”
“Joe and Betty Weider created a $1 million endowment to support our Physical Culture Collection in 2004,” said Terry Todd, a former University of Texas at Austin letterman and record-setting powerlifter. “That gift convinced the university that the collection should be given an appropriate place in the build-out of the football stadium. They told us we could have the space if we raised $3.5 million to complete it, and the Stark Foundation agreed to fund the project, which actually wound up costing $5.5 million. But the key that unlocked the door to the Stark Center was the Weider gift, and in recognition of that gift, plus a second million to help with operating expenses, UT named the museum galleries in their honor.”
The museum opening was celebrated with a reception and dinner that drew over 100 legends of “the Iron Game” to the Stark Center. Guests included seven-time Mr. Olympia winner Arnold Schwarzenegger, eight-time Mr. Olympia winners Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, five-time Mr. Universe winner and best-selling author Bill Pearl, and winner of three World’s Strongest Man titles Bill Kazmaier.
“Six former winners of the Mr. Olympia contest attended,” said Dr. Terry Todd, “and together they accounted for 29 of the 45 titles won since 1965. Olympian, world powerlifting champion and pro wrestler Mark Henry was also there, as well as ageless strongman competitor Odd Haugen; two-time World’s Strongest Woman winner Jill Mills; and Scotland’s prolific writer and Highland Games authority David P. Webster, O.B.E. It was a very emotional evening as all of these champions reconnected and shared stories. Best of all, everyone had an opportunity to speak to Joe and Betty and thank them.”
Attendees were able to preview the new exhibition and tour much of the 27,500 feet Stark Center, as well as view a documentary about how the Weiders shaped and defined physical culture in America. During the dinner honoring the Weiders, University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr., the Todds and Schwarzenegger offered remarks.
“I’m very passionate about the sport and in awe of the people I see here tonight,” said Schwarzenegger. “I’m humbled and privileged to be with so many champions. When it comes to inspiring others and promoting weight training, Joe Weider is the king. He was a true pioneer, and we can thank him for breaking down so many of the negative stereotypes surrounding bodybuilding.
“We take it for granted now that there’s not one large hotel in the world that doesn’t have a gym. And I haven’t been to a military base anywhere on this planet or to a football team’s gym or high school or fire station that doesn’t have a weight room. So much of this fitness and health awareness is attributable to the Weiders. I want to thank the them for all they’ve done for the sport.”
The Stark Center, which was founded by scholar-athletes Jan and Terry Todd, is a major international research facility in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Education. It is home to numerous collections related to strength training, physical education, alternative medicine, ergogenic drugs, golf, and other sports. Holdings include photos, films, paintings, posters, 35,000 books, journals, and magazines. Artifacts range from century-old shot-loaded barbells to Tom Kite’s scrapbooks, Tom Landry’s family photos and Ben Crenshaw’s Ryder Cup golf cart and Master’s trophy.
The Center also recently became one of only 10 facilities in the world to be selected as an “Olympic Studies Center.”
The Weider Museum is now open to the public, and tours of the Stark Center are available. Over 200 photos and a video of the museum’s opening celebration — including the speeches — can be accessed at the Stark Center’s Web site.