What a month for the Briscoe Center! I’m sure many of you have seen stories in the press and on television related to the center’s activities, but for those of you who haven’t, here’s a recap.
First, we opened a major exhibit of items from our Texas music collections at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport that will run through January. If you fly through ABIA for the holidays, you’ll notice ten tower cases placed around the restaurants and shops after you pass through security or exit a plane. If you have relatives coming to Austin through ABIA, be sure to let them know about the cases and understand that you can be a few minutes late picking them up—it’s a great exhibit!
November also saw the center open a permanent display of items from the Willie Nelson Collection at the north end of UT’s Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium. I was personally delighted that Willie joined UT Austin President Bill Powers and myself for the display’s opening reception. He very kindly spoke to the gathered crowd and the event was well publicized in the local media.
Exhibits are compelling, visually oriented ways to tell the story of America. The four exhibits we currently have on display enable collection materials to “come alive.” Traditionally, books and journals have not been able to match exhibits in this regard. However, technological change is sweeping through the archival world, so that may not be true for long.
For example, the Briscoe Center has just launched a special digital edition of Being Rapoport: Capitalist with a Conscience, originally published by the University of Texas Press in 2002. The ebook, freely available online, is the enhanced memoir of a monumental Texan, Bernard Rapoport.
The online edition is special because it is linked to 1,500 digitized documents and photographs selected from Rapoport’s papers and other Briscoe Center collections. As you read the ebook, these archival documents “leap out” though the click of a mouse.
I first met Bernard Rapoport in 1972, but we didn’t work closely together until the early 1990s, soon after Governor Ann Richards appointed Rapoport to the University of Texas System’sBoard of Regents. Our collaboration culminated in the 2002 print publication of his memoir.
I remember once, when interviewing Rapoport for the memoir, his phone rang—it was Senator Ted Kennedy. Rapoport put the call on speaker and explained to the senator that he had a “very famous historian” in his office who was working with him on a book. After Rapoport identified me as the “famous historian,” Kennedy graciously pretended to know who I was and even claimed to have read one of my books. Eager to return the favor, I did not ask which one!
I’m proud to say that B was my friend, and he was a loyal supporter of both the Briscoe Center and the University of Texas. Shortly before he died in 2012, he committed to paper his thoughts on the state of affairs in America today. Those thoughts have been reworked into a new epilogue for the memoir.
Rapoport donated his papers to the Briscoe Center in 1992. Composed of over 200 feet of material spanning nearly 100 years, this collection is the source for the bulk of the digitized memoir’s 1,500 hyperlinks. I’m thrilled by how the ebook’s features enrich the text, connecting it with important archival materials. It’s exciting to think of the possibilities that enhanced ebooks offer the center, and I look forward to how they may influence our future publications.
Don Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History