The Harry Ransom Center is an archive, library and museum at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in the collection of literary and cultural artifacts from the United States, Latin America and Europe for the purpose of advancing the study of the arts and humanities. The Ransom Center houses 36 million literary manuscripts, one million rare books, five million photographs, and more than 100,000 works of art.
The Center has a reading room for scholars and galleries which display rotating exhibitions of works and objects from the collections. In the 2015-2016 academic year, the center hosted nearly 6,000 research visits resulting in the publication of over 145 books.
Harry Ransom founded the Humanities Research Center in 1957 with the ambition of expanding the rare books and manuscript holdings of the University of Texas. He acquired the Edward Alexander Parsons Collection, the T. Edward Hanley Collection, and the Norman Bel Geddes Collection.
Ransom himself was the official director of the Center for only the years 1958 to 1961, but he directed and presided over a period of great expansion in the collections until his resignation in 1971 as Chancellor of the University of Texas System. The Center moved into its current building in 1972.
F. Warren Roberts was the official director from 1961 to 1976 and acquired the Helmut Gernsheim Collection of photographs, the archives of D. H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, and Evelyn Waugh, and in 1968 the Carlton Lake Collection.
After Roberts's tenure, John Payne and then Carlton Lake served as interim directors from 1976 to 1980. It was during this time (in 1978) that the Center acquired its complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible.
In 1980, the Center hired Decherd Turner as director. Turner acquired the Giorgio Uzielli Collection of Aldine editions, the Anne Sexton archive, the Robert Lee Wolff Collection of 19th-century fiction, the Pforzheimer Collection, the David O. Selznick archive, the Gloria Swanson archive, and the Ernest Lehman Collection. Upon Decherd Turner's retirement in 1988, Thomas F. Staley became director of the Center. Staley had acquired the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers, a copy of the Plantin Polyglot Bible, and more than 100 literary archives. In September 2013, Stephen Enniss was appointed director of the Ransom Center. Enniss was formerly the Head Librarian of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Under Enniss the Ransom Center has continued to collect several archives, including Kazuo Ishiguro, Arthur Miller and Ian McEwan.
The two most prominent items in the Ransom Center's collections are a Gutenberg Bible (one of only 21 complete copies known to exist) and Nicéphore Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras, the first successful permanent photograph from nature. Both of these objects are on permanent display in the main lobby.
Beyond these, the Center houses many culturally important documents and artifacts. Particular strengths include modern literature, performing arts, and photography. Besides the Gutenberg Bible and the photograph, notable holdings include:
A Florentine Tragedy is a fragment of a never-completed play by Oscar Wilde. The subject concerns Simone, a wealthy 16th-century Florentine merchant who finds his wife Bianca in the arms of a local prince, Guido Bardi. After feigning hospitality, Simone challenges the interloper to a duel, disarms him, and strangles him. This awakens the affection of his wife; and the two are reconciled.
The original manuscript for the play is held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin as part of their larger holdings by and about Oscar Wilde.In 1914 the young Italian composer Carlo Ravasegna (Turin 1891-Rome 1964) wrote a short opera "Una Tragedia Fiorentina" to a translation/libretto by Ettore Moschino. The libretto was published with Wilde's name by the Tipografia Subalpina, Turin, 1914.
Alexander von Zemlinsky wrote an opera based on a German translation of the play, entitled Eine florentinische Tragödie, which premiered in 1917.
Sergei Prokofiev wrote his opera Maddalena to his own libretto based on a play by Magda Gustavovna Lieven-Orlov written under the pen name Baron Lieven. That play was in turn based on Oscar Wilde's play. The opera had its premiere in a BBC studio recording in London in 1979; and its first live staging was in Austria in 1981.
T. Sturge Moore wrote an opening scene for this play for "presentation" purposes.In 1989, C. René Hirschfeld wrote an chamber opera named "Bianca" based on the Florentine Tragedy. He used the German translation by Max Meyerfeld. Filling in for the absent first scene, a love scene between Bianca and the prince, Hirschfeld used love poetry from Oscar Wilde himself. The opera was first performed at the Salzburg Festival in 1991.Bob Henriques
Bob Henriques (1930–2011) was a photojournalist associated with Magnum Photos known for candid portraits of notable people, including Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. He was active during the 1950s and 1960s.
Henriques was born as Robert Granville Henriques on February 1, 1930 and spent the last years of his life in Homestead, Florida. His photography is known for its focus on famous icons, as he often worked on the sets of major motion pictures, such as The Seven Year Itch and Long Day's Journey Into Night as well as for major magazines. His work has been included in exhibitions in Germany at Kunsthaus Hamburg as well as in the United States at Staley + Wise Gallery in New York City and in the Print Room at Magnum Photos. Some of his photos are now in the Magnum Archive housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.Donald Albery
Sir Donald Arthur Rolleston Albery (19 June 1914 in London – 14 September 1988) was an English theatre impresario who did much to translate the adventurous spirit of London in the 1960s into theatrical reality.
Born into a theatrical family, his father was director Sir Bronson James Albery, his first job was struggling to manage Sadler's Wells Ballet during the air raids of World War II. Perhaps such an experience formed a modernist sensibility and when he launched his own Donmar company in 1953 he championed plays by Graham Greene, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Jean Anouilh, and an adaptation by J.B. Priestley of an Iris Murdoch novel.
Though always commercially minded, his spirit of adventure endured with the first London production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot and sponsorship of Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop. In 1960, Albery, in collaboration with William Donaldson, produced Beyond the Fringe in London and, in 1962, in New York.
From 1964 to 1968, Albery served as director and administrator of the London Festival Ballet.Albery was knighted in 1977 for his services to the theatre.
In 1982, Albery added his archive to the British theatre holdings of the Harry Ransom Center. Records include correspondence, legal and financial documents, scripts, sound recordings, prompt books, manuscript and printed music scores and parts, and printed and publicity materials such as clippings, programs, playbills, posters, proofs, and tickets concerning the theatrical productions and business affairs of Wyndham's Theatres Ltd., The Piccadilly Theatre Ltd., Sadler's Wells Theatre, the Royal Ballet, and the touring productions of the Festival Ballet.Donald Wolfit
Sir Donald Wolfit, CBE (20 April 1902 – 17 February 1968) was an English actor-manager, known for his touring wartime productions of Shakespeare. He was especially renowned for his portrayal of King Lear.Edward Gordon Craig
Edward Henry Gordon Craig (born Edward Godwin; 16 January 1872 – 29 July 1966), sometimes known as Gordon Craig, was an English modernist theatre practitioner; he worked as an actor, director and scenic designer, as well as developing an influential body of theoretical writings. Craig was the son of actress Dame Ellen Terry.
The Gordon Craig Theatre, built in Stevenage (the town of his birth), was named in his honour in 1975.Edward Larocque Tinker
Edward Larocque Tinker (New York City, September 12, 1881-July 6, 1968 New York City) was an American writer and philanthropist who developed a deep interest in the culture of Latin America and spent much of his life exploring it. Tinker was the grandson of Joseph Larocque. He studied at Columbia University Law School. He achieved Ph.D.'s in literature from the University of Paris and the University of Madrid. He also wrote extensively on the culture and history of the city of New Orleans.His mother Louise (Larocque) Tinker, his father was Henry Champlin Tinker, and he married Frances McKee on January 16, 1916.
Tinker created the Tinker Foundation in 1959 in memory of his second wife Frances McKee Tinker, his father Henry Champlin Tinker, and his grandfather Edward Greenfield Tinker.The Edward Larocque Tinker Library is located at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin.George Aiken (playwright)
George L. Aiken (December 19, 1830 – April 27, 1876) was a nineteenth-century American playwright and actor who is best known for writing the most popular of the numerous stage adaptations of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Aiken was a writer of dime novels before he turned to theatre. He became an actor in the troupe of his cousin, George C. Howard. In 1852, shortly after the publication of Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, Aiken wrote his stage adaptation. It was performed by Howard's company, with Aiken playing the hero, George Harris. The play become a spectacular success. His other works include a dramatization of Ann S. Stephens' novel The Old Homestead. He retired from the stage in 1867.
Aiken's original manuscripts for Uncle Tom's Cabin were passed down through the family along with other memorabilia from Howard's company. The family placed the collection at the Harry Ransom Center in 1963.Harry B. Smith
Harry Bache Smith (December 28, 1860 – January 1, 1936) was a writer, lyricist and composer. The most prolific of all American stage writers, he is said to have written over 300 librettos and more than 6000 lyrics. Some of his best-known works were librettos for the composers Victor Herbert and Reginald De Koven. He also wrote the book or lyrics for several versions of the Ziegfeld Follies.
Smith was born in Buffalo, New York to Josiah Bailey Smith (born 1837) and Elizabeth Bach (born 1838). According to his autobiography First Nights and First Editions (Boston: Little, Brown, 1931), Smith's actual name at birth was Henry Bach Smith. He married twice. His first wife was Lena Reed (born August 21, 1868), whom he married on October 12, 1887 in Chicago, Illinois. They had a son named Sydney Reed Smith (born July 15, 1892). Smith's second wife was the actress Irene Bentley (1870 – June 3, 1940). They married on November 23, 1906 in Boston, Massachusetts, after she had been divorced on June 12, 1906 by her first husband James Thomas Sothoron, Jr. (1867–1913). Bentley retired from the stage in 1910 and died at Allenhurst, New Jersey. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, NY. While on a brief holiday in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on New Year's Day in 1936, Smith died of a heart attack in his room at the Marlborough-Blenheim Hotel.
Smith worked on many of the famous musical theatre productions of his time. His younger brother Robert Bache Smith (June 4, 1875 – November 6, 1951) was also a successful lyricist.
Harry Smith's archive is largely held at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.Harry Ransom
Harry Huntt Ransom (November 22, 1908 – April 19, 1976) was a faculty member and administrator at the University of Texas, becoming the university's president in 1960, and ultimately served as the Chancellor of the University of Texas System from 1961 to 1971. He was instrumental in founding the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (now called the Harry Ransom Center). In 1978, at a cost of $2.4 million, the Center acquired a complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible.Ransom was the only child of Harry Huntt and Marion Goodwin (Cunningham) Ransom. He was married in Galveston on August 11, 1951, to Hazel Louise Harrod. They had no children.Jule Styne
Jule Styne (; born Julius Kerwin Stein, December 31, 1905 – September 20, 1994) was a British-American song writer and composer known for a series of Broadway musicals, which include several famous and frequently revived shows.Kai Lung Raises His Voice
Kai Lung Raises His voice is a collection of fantasy stories by English writer Ernest Bramah featuring Kai Lung, an itinerant story-teller of ancient China. It was first published in 2010 in paperback and ebook in the United Kingdom by Durrant Publishing, and is available world-wide.
The collection gathers into book form the final six Kai Lung stories published by the author during his lifetime, which originally appeared in the magazine Punch and first appeared in book form in Kai Lung: Six, together with the one Kai Lung story from The Specimen Case and four previously unpublished stories, originally written before 1905, transcribed from the Bramah archives at the Harry Ransom Center by William Charlton.Leicester Hemingway
Leicester Clarence Hemingway (April 1, 1915 – September 13, 1982) was an American writer. He was the younger brother of writer Ernest Hemingway and wrote six books, including a first novel entitled The Sound of the Trumpet (1953), based on Leicester's experiences in France and Germany during World War II.
In 1961, Leicester published My Brother, Ernest Hemingway, a biography. The work was well-received and brought Leicester both recognition as a writer in his own right and significant financial rewards. With the capital from the work, Hemingway created the micronation of New Atlantis on a barge off the coast of Jamaica, intended to serve as a marine research headquarters. The project was cut short when New Atlantis was destroyed in a 1966 tropical storm.Lump (dog)
Lump (1956 – 29 March 1973), was a Dachshund owned by David Douglas Duncan who lived with artist Pablo Picasso for six years, and featured in several of his works.Mel Gussow
Melvyn Hayes "Mel" Gussow (pronounced GUSS-owe; December 19, 1933 – April 29, 2005) was an American theater critic, movie critic, and author who wrote for The New York Times for 35 years.Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird
Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (Autorretrato con Collar de Espinas) is a 1940 painting by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.
Kahlo painted the self-portrait, which includes a black panther and a monkey, after her divorce from Diego Rivera and the end of her affair with photographer Nickolas Muray. Muray bought the portrait shortly after it was painted, and it is currently part of the Nickolas Muray collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.Textile conservator
A textile conservator is a conservator-restorer charged with the care, treatment, research, and preservation of textiles. Issues addressed by a textile conservator are generally related to the field of textile preservation, and include damage caused to textiles by: light, mold and mildew, insects, cleaning, surface cleaning, washing, mounting for display, and storage. Variations in textile types and “the diversity of the textile conservator’s work makes it a very rewarding profession”. Textiles are among the most fragile artifacts, as they are susceptible to damage from atmospheric pollutants, moisture, biological organisms, and environmental changes and care varies with size, shape, material, and condition issues, all of which a textile conservator must be well versed.
A textile conservator may be employed by a museum, other institution, or be an independent contractor. Most textile conservators have or will be in private practice at one time in their career. In the current professional climate, “funding cuts have led to a reduction in the number of permanent jobs available in textile conservation and a contract culture exists in many museums”. A positive result “of the economic constraints on modern textile conservation is that conservators have developed a more reflective practice and think in a creative and flexible way of how to balance the key issues of access and preservation in their work.The Boy Friend (musical)
The Boy Friend (sometimes misspelled The Boyfriend) is a musical by Sandy Wilson. The musical's original 1954 London production ran for 2,078 performances, making it briefly the third-longest running musical in West End or Broadway history (after Chu Chin Chow and Oklahoma!) until these were all surpassed by Salad Days. This musical marked Julie Andrews' American stage debut.
Set in the carefree world of the French Riviera in the Roaring Twenties, The Boy Friend is a comic pastiche of 1920s shows (in particular early Rodgers and Hart musicals such as The Girl Friend). Its relatively small cast and low cost of production makes it a continuing popular choice for amateur and student groups.
Sandy Wilson wrote a sequel to The Boy Friend. Set ten years later, and, appropriately, a pastiche of 1930s musicals (in particular those of Cole Porter) it was titled Divorce Me, Darling! and ran for 91 performances at London's old Globe Theatre in 1965. It is sometimes revived as a "double bill" with The Boy Friend.
The original score and manuscripts for the script and lyrics can be found in Wilson's archive at the Harry Ransom Center.Tom Stoppard
Sir Tom Stoppard (born Tomáš Straussler; 3 July 1937) is a Czech-born British playwright and screenwriter. He has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, finding prominence with plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul, The Real Thing, The Invention of Love, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil, The Russia House, and Shakespeare in Love, and has received an Academy Award and four Tony Awards. His work covers the themes of human rights, censorship and political freedom, often delving into the deeper philosophical thematics of society. Stoppard has been a key playwright of the National Theatre and is one of the most internationally performed dramatists of his generation. In 2008, The Daily Telegraph ranked him number 11 in their list of the "100 most powerful people in British culture".Born in Czechoslovakia, Stoppard left as a child refugee, fleeing imminent Nazi occupation. He settled with his family in Britain after the war, in 1946, having spent the three years prior (1943–1946) in a boarding school in Darjeeling in the Indian Himalayas. After being educated at schools in Nottingham and Yorkshire, Stoppard became a journalist, a drama critic and then, in 1960, a playwright.View from the Window at Le Gras
View from the Window at Le Gras is a heliographic image and the oldest surviving camera photograph. It was created by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 or 1827 at Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, France, and shows parts of the buildings and surrounding countryside of his estate, Le Gras, as seen from a high window.