Over the years, The University of Texas at Austin has not only collected archival materials on countless subjects, it has also itself created thousands of documents, letters and publications that track its institutional development and speak to its history. With this in mind, I’m delighted that Clyde Rabb Littlefield, a member of our advisory council, has bequested funds to endow an archival staff position that will work exclusively in the area of Texas and university history.
I am sincerely humbled by Clyde’s generosity. The University of Texas remains the state’s flagship institution of higher education and it has been at the heart of Texas history since its founding in 1883. The University’s fascinating history is not simply worth preserving—it’s worth sharing. With Clyde’s gift, we will be able to better catalog the individual collections that make up the university archives while also having access to the resources we need to fully promote them across campus through exhibits, public programming, internships and outreach.
Clyde’s endowment will be recognized permanently in the new entrance lobby of the Briscoe Center after our renovation is completed early next spring. The renovation work continues at a brisk clip and, as I am always eager to point out, researchers and students remain able to access the center’s archival materials in the special collections reading room in the LLILAS Benson Latin American Collection, our good neighbors in Sid Richardson Hall Unit 1.
The Briscoe Center is currently gearing up to sponsor three important programs over the summer. First in June, the Truman Scholars 40th anniversary conference in Washington, D.C., will bring together some of the sharpest minds in public policy and service for both a celebration and discussion of President Harry S. Truman’s legacy. I am pleased that the center is sponsoring the conference in partnership with the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, with additional support from our friends at the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation. The center also will host a panel discussion on Truman’s relationships with three Texas political legends— Vice President John Nance Garner, House Speaker Sam Rayburn and President Lyndon Johnson. For more information, please contact the center’s event coordinator at (512) 495-4609 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Second, on July 29, the center will sponsor a book signing event for famed photojournalist Neil Leifer at the Monroe Gallery, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Leifer’s entertaining memoir, Relentless, has just been published by the University of Texas Press as part of the Briscoe Center’s “Focus on American History” series. Neil is a good friend of the center and has donated a valuable group of iconic photographs to our collection. His memoir is attracting national attention with recent interviews on NBC’s “Today Show” and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Our book signing will be open to the public. I hope to see all of our friends who live in the Santa Fe area, as well as those of you who would like to travel to this historic city for the event. We are also planning a book talk and signing for Neil this coming fall in Austin. Stay tuned for more information.
Third, in August, we will sponsor and participate in the Texas Standard Tower Project, an extensive series of programming around the 50th anniversary of Charles Whitman’s tragic attacks on the UT campus. The project will create a series of reports using newly conducted oral history interviews with survivors of the attacks, most of whom have never shared their stories publicly. More than 80 participants have been identified.. The interviews will be made available online (as will many documents and materials from the center’s collections) to help students and scholars reflect upon a sad day, with issues that are still sadly relevant. The project’s archives will be preserved at the center.
Finally, I would like to salute my colleague Karen Engel, co-director for the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice, on the award of an “Emma” for our collaborate project, “Frances Tarlton ‘Sissy’ Farenthold: A Noble Citizen.” Launched in April 2015, “A Noble Citizen” is an interactive media project that highlights materials from the center’s Sissy Farenthold Papers. The project received an “Exceptional Merit in Media” Award on May 16 from the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History