The University of Texas officially opened Sid Richardson Hall on January 12, 1971 (45 years ago this month) Unit 2 of Sid Richardson Hall houses the Briscoe Center’s Research and Collections division. In 1991 (25 years ago this year) the Briscoe Center became an independent research unit of the University. Therefore, 2016 is an important anniversary year for the center.
Before the winter break the University gave us official approval to begin work on the renovation of our space in Sid Richardson Hall. Construction will begin in March, and the new space (complete with new reading and seminar rooms as well an exhibit hall and gallery) will open in early 2017. Though this will bring some disruption to the center’s operations, the renovation is a fitting way to celebrate the center’s 25th and Sid Richardson Hall’s 45th anniversaries.
In addition to the renovation, 2016 is shaping up to be an important year. In the next few issues of our e-news, I’ll be sharing information about major upcoming exhibits and conferences, as well as numerous collection and project announcements. However, this month, I want to highlight a different way the center is bringing its resources to life: through documentary film.
Cactus Jack: Lone Star on Capitol Hill tells the story of one of the most powerful but often forgotten figures in U.S. history — John Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner (1868–1967.) Cactus Jack charts Garner’s extraordinary life, from his humble roots in Texas to his 38-year tenure on Capitol Hill, where he wielded power first as speaker of the House and later as vice president to Franklin D. Roosevelt, helping push through much of the New Deal legislation.
Cactus Jack, presented to the public television community by Austin’s KLRU, has been acquired by WGBH (Boston) and is currently being distributed to PBS stations across the nation. The film has already aired in many local markets (from Alaska to Vermont) and is scheduled to air nationally around the President’s Day weekend (Feb. 13-14.) In total, the film will be shown by 70 percent of the nation’s public television stations.
You can learn more about the film and its airdate here:
Cactus Jack is an important project for the center, representing a cross-campus collaboration with the Department of Radio-Television-Film and the School of Journalism. The film was directed by Nancy Schiesari (Tattooed Under Fire, Hansel Mieth: Vagabond Photographer) and written by Bill Minutaglio. It was produced by Schiesari and Hans-Martin Liebing, and co-produced by Briscoe Center assistant director, Echo Uribe. I served as the documentary’s executive producer. The Briscoe–Garner Museum, located in Uvalde, Texas, is a division of the Briscoe Center. It was Garner’s home for more than 30 years.
Reviving Garner’s historical legacy is part of the center’s mission to foster exploration of our nation’s past. That is achieved not simply by preserving archival sources in acid-free folders and bankers boxes, but by sharing the riches of the center’s holdings through exhibits, books, events — and documentary films.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History
PS The Briscoe Center’s holdings feature prominently in The Collections, a new book from UT Press. UT Austin has long been one of the world’s distinguished collecting universities, and currently preserves more than 170 million objects, many of which are stored at the center. The Collections offers the first sweeping guide to the university’s artifacts, outlining the history, features, and educational strengths of eighty collections many of which are held at the center. My friend Professor Lewis Gould, whose archives are held at the center, penned the introductory essay.