As you may have guessed, the focus of the Briscoe Center’s recent communications has been its renovation and pending reopening. However, the center’s day-to-day work of collecting, preserving and making available evidence of the past has continued at its usual brisk clip.
An outstanding example of this is the acquisition of the John Dominis Photographic Archive. Dominis (1921–2013) was a compelling chronicler of American life, and his archive speaks powerfully to the post–World War II transformation of politics, culture and society in America. Like the center’s many other photojournalism collections, its story began through a personal connection. After an agreement was made, the material was shipped to the center by a fine arts service. Once arrived it was stored in a holding area reserved for new collections. From there it was processed—sorted, catalogued and rehoused. The next step is to post an online finding aid and make it available to researchers. Currently this happens in the special collections reading room of the LLILAS Benson Latin American Collection next door in Sid Richardson Hall Unit 1, but starting April 10 it will resume in the center’s newly renovated public service space.
What I want to stress is that a collection announcement is never the end of the story. Like others, the Dominis Archive will soon be on hand to provide historical evidence for researchers (including those at the center) for publications, documentaries, news articles, symposia and theses. Our university faculty will be able to utilize the archive to train the next generation of historians and critical thinkers. Furthermore, portions of it will be exhibited and digitized in the future.
For example, center staff recently digitized large portions of the Matthew Naythons, Shel Hershorn and Fred Maroon photographic archives—three exceptional and important photojournalists. You can now view this material online, as you can over 130,000 other documents and photographs in the center’s digital media repository. And it’s not simply newer collections that archivists are striving to make accessible. We continue to work with some of our oldest collections as well, such as the Bexar Archives (which we continue to both translate and digitize) or the UT Office of Public Affairs (200 recent additions from that collection alone have been added to the center’s digital repository). By preserving these collections and making them available, the Briscoe Center enables historical research to remain rooted in accuracy.
This is what I term, “the call of history” and thankfully the center is not alone in this work. We are able to work with many national partners, including C-Span and the Newseum in Washington, D.C.; JSTOR and the Kasher Gallery in New York City; the Monroe Gallery in Santa Fe; and the Bullock Museum and LBJ Presidential Library here in Austin. In particular, our partnership with the LBJ Library has grown positively over recent years. I’m therefore sad to see that my good friend Mark Updegrove is leaving his position as director of the LBJ Library in order to embark upon a new professional challenge in South Carolina. Mark has been an outstanding director of the LBJ Library who has lifted an already famed institution to an even higher level. Together we’ve worked on major exhibits (such as News to History, Cronkite: Eyewitness to a Century and 25 Years/25 Treasures) and a number of public programs such as An Evening with Dan Rather and The [Vietnam] War and the Fourth Estate, as well as books including Destiny of Democracy: The Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library. Mark will be sorely missed as a collaborator and a supporter. But I look forward to working with him in the future and discovering a new partner in Charleston’s new National Medal of Honor Museum, who from March 1 will be privileged to have Mark as their CEO.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History