The Briscoe Center cosponsored the recent LBJ Foundation’s summit on race in America. The summit brought together statesmen, activists, and artists for a broad-ranging discussion on the challenges the United States faces around racial issues. In particular the center welcomed former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who met with UT students to discuss her storied career and offer insights into how they might shape their own in public service. I was pleased to meet with Secretary Albright and thank her—not just for her service but for the recent donation of over a thousand Czech and Polish-language newspapers (which focus on the 1968 Prague Spring and the 1980s Solidarity movement, respectively).
Andrew Young, the famed civil rights leader former UN ambassador, congressman, and mayor of Atlanta, also stopped by the center, as did Grammy Award–winning musician Wyclef Jean. A personal highlight was the outstanding keynote address given by Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. The summit was an encouraging reminder of how the center’s spaces and collections are part of a wider network of institutions that enrich the national conversation related to social justice and civil rights.
This month, the center welcomes the donation of the Mike Maple photographic archive and the Rod Nordland papers. Both of these collections enhance the center’s nationally renowned news media history archives. I want to thank Mike and Rod for their generous donations. I also want to thank photojournalists Dick Swanson and Matthew Naythons, both of whom have previously donated their archives to the center: Dick was instrumental in connecting us with Mike Maple while Matthew played a similar role for Rod Nordland. In fact, when Ben Wright, the center’s Associate Director for Communication interviewed Nordland ahead of the announcement, he commented that “my friend [Matthew] basically talked me into it.” Like many collection donors, Nordland’s papers (around 50 boxes) had become a “headache.” But for the center they are the exact opposite! They provide inspiration for our exhibits, digital projects, and publications. I’m confident that both the Nordland papers and the Maple photographic archive will be valuable resources for additional research and projects.
Such collections always inspire the center’s programs, and I’d be remiss not to thank photographers D Gorton (March 26) and Carolyn Cole (April 3) for their vibrant and fascinating presentations over the last few weeks. In addition, I hope you can join us on April 30 at 6 p.m. for a book signing with Brendan McNulty and Timothy McNulty, authors of The Meanest Man in Congress: Jack Brooks and the Making of an American Century. The center is home to the papers of Brooks, who served as a congressman for the Beaumont-Port Arthur region in southeast Texas between 1953 and 1995. The book relies heavily on his papers as well as on interviews with his peers and family members.
Finally on May 6, we’ll open our latest exhibit, Greatest Hits: The Briscoe Center’s Music Collections. (We’ll have a special preview from 6-8 p.m. on May 2, for which you are more than welcome to join us.) Since the 1980s, the center has been collecting archives that document the history of American music. At first our focus was statewide, with efforts resulting in the acquisition of music related to Texas, local music photography, and the business records of iconic Austin venues such as the Armadillo World Headquarters and the Soap Creek Saloon. Today, the center’s music collections are national in scope. They include the papers of Nashville super producer Bob Johnston, the archive of rock photographer Tom Wright, the papers of pioneering musicologist John Lomax, and a career-illuminating material culture collection donated by Willie Nelson. Greatest Hits will include a Lead Belly letter to Lomax written from Angola prison, Townes Van Zandt’s handwritten lyrics to “For the Sake of the Song,” and a 26-foot painted mural by Jim Franklin that once hung at the Armadillo. I hope you can join us at the preview!
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History