2017 is shaping up to be one of the most significant years in the Briscoe Center’s history. That’s because in April our newly renovated reading room, seminar rooms and exhibit spaces will open to the public. In short, that means we will finally have the facilities needed to fully showcase the center’s outstanding collections and better support the teaching mission of the University of Texas at Austin.
With that in mind, I’d like to invite you to our reopening celebration on Saturday, April 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We’ll have an open house, special curatorial tours of our new exhibits, activities for children and light refreshments on the plaza. More details will follow in the February and March e-news, but please save the date!
With the completion of the renovation, the center’s Campaign to Make History draws to a successful close. During the past five years, the campaign has involved over 300 donors in more than 80 American cities. For those of you who donated, please accept my sincere thanks. Your gift is truly appreciated and helped the campaign gain the momentum it needed to cross the finish line.
With its completion, the center’s fundraising priorities are set to evolve. The renovated public spaces will open up a new world of opportunities for the center to connect with scholars, students and the public in our own space through exhibits, programs, talks and symposia. However, our mission remains the same — to foster exploration of the past through collecting, preserving and sharing archives. I’m delighted to say that this mission is being both enhanced and energized!
When we reopen in April, three exhibits will be on display. First in the exhibit hall, From Commemoration to Education will tell the story of Pompeo Coppini’s statue of Jefferson Davis. The statue was originally part of a war memorial at the University of Texas at Austin. It stood on the South Mall of campus until August 2015, when the university’s president, Gregory L. Fenves, decided to relocate it to the center. The statue will be on permanent display at the center as part of an educational exhibit. From Commemoration to Education represents an expanded version of this exhibit, on display around the Davis statue and also in the adjacent exhibit hall.
Second, Exploring the American South will speak to the many layers of Southern history—from revolution to Reconstruction—through a wide array of artifacts including photographs, letters and ledgers, sheet music, clothing and military hardware. It will be the inaugural exhibit of the center’s new 3,500-square foot exhibit gallery. Finally, Imagined Communities: Selections from the Weatherby Map Collection will debut in the Dr. T. Karman and Carolyn Weatherby Gallery.
The center’s new reading room will open on Monday, April 10. In the meantime, the Briscoe Center continues to be indebted to the LLILAS Benson Center for use of their reading room in order to keep our collections open for research.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History