“The central mission of the Ransom Center is to advance the study of the arts and humanities”. To this end, the Center: “Acquires original cultural material for the purposes of scholarship, education, and delight”. It also “Preserves and makes accessible these creations of our cultural heritage through the highest standards of cataloguing, conservation, and collection management and supports research through public services, symposia, publications, and fellowships”.
Coetzee’s archive was opened only in 2013, and several of the visiting scholars were looking into his work while I was there. They also hold “the finest research collection outside Paris devoted to modern French literature, art, and music” and more relevant to my work, a great collection of Spanish Civil War related material.
Just to give you an idea of its holding, beyond the literary, the Magnum Photo collection was recently donated to the Center: about 1,300 boxes of photographic materials.
Ian McEwan came to the Harry Ransom Center while I was there, and several events were held to celebrate the recent acquisition of his archive.
This is the reading room at the HRC. The staff is extremely friendly, and they go out of their way to help you and assist you in your research. Not just the librarians and curators, but everyone at the center, starting with Bridget Gayle, who is in charge of fellows and looked after us extremely well. The good relationship started before arriving at the centre. You are supposed to contact them before starting on your application for the IPS (which I suggest that you do the minute you walk out of here), and they gave me very good and detailed advice and patiently answered all of my questions. Once you arrive, you get assigned a curator who is an expert in a relevant field for your research, which is very helpful to navigate the material, particularly as not all the finding aids are on-line. Once they have an idea of what you need, the curators and librarians in the reading room make sure that you make the most of your time there.
I was looking into the HRC human rights collections, particularly at the PEN Internationals archive, and writer’s organizations which advocated for freedom of speech, campaigns against censorship and defend writers' right around the world. Founded in London in the 1920s, the HRC holds their very extensive, and still in the process of being catalogued, archives. This was a bit of a headache, but they were nonetheless always helpful and supportive, and their knowledge of the holdings was essential to find my way through the them. I work on Spanish Republican exiled writers (that is, left-wing writer that were exiled after the Spanish Civil War), and have been tracing their links with PEN during the post-war and early cold-war period. Accessing these materials has been essential to my argument.
Time management is also as issue. I was there for two months, and it might sound like a lot. I was confident that I had enough time to look through my material, but as the research developed, I found new collections with relevant documents for my thesis. Much of what I was looking at has not been properly researched or not from the perspective I’m interested in, which means that I am now in a better position to develop my dissertations main argument on the relation of Republican Exiles with intellectuals transnational networks during the 40s and 50s, which is a fairly new approach in the field of Hispanism.
As a treat, I was able to look into Hemingway’s papers, which I had not known were there, and read his dispatches from the Spanish civil War.
You need to stay in the reading room while using archival material, but as a fellow, you also get your own space. Among the other advantages as a fellow is the use of the UT facilities: Check out books from any of the libraries (in my case, I could also use the Benson Latin American library, one of the best collections on Latin American writer’s in the world, and fill my shelves with as many books as I needed) You have free access to Austin’s bus system.
Networking is facilitated by the HRC. They hold a Fellows Coffee every Wednesday at 10.30. Aside from offering coffee and delicious cake, you get to meet other fellows and the staff at the center. After one of our chats, we got another AHRC fellow and I got a tour of the conservation and cataloguing areas, which are normally closed to fellow. You only need to ask, and they will do their best to accommodate you.
UT is a big university, with the fifth-largest single-campus enrolment in the nation, with over 50,000 undergraduate and graduate students and over 24,000 faculty and staff. The university has been labelled one of the "Public Ivies," a publicly funded university considered as providing a quality of education comparable to those of the Ivy League.
You can attend any event at the university, and if you are interested, you can contact the relevant department for your field of research. So, I also benefitted from meeting professors and students at the Iberian and Latin American Department, one of the best in the world, and I was able to attend a conference co-organised by the HRC and the Department.
In you are interested in sports, they are crazy about college football and their team, the Longhorns. I didn't go, but I heard that I is a massive and impressive (particularly for non-americans) event.
It is an urban campus, and the main street for cafes, shops, etc is Guadalupe, which is also called The Drag.
Thai restaurant across from the HRC, where he often had lunch. Musician Daniel Johnston, Austin.
Austin is the state capital, and it is in Texas.
But is known for being a very laid back and progressive city. Very different from the rest of Texas. After government and the university, the biggest employers in Austin have to do with either IT or music. Direct flight from London, only international flight, for these reasons now. A city, but small and manageable.
World Capital of Live Music.
You can also get a real feel for anything Texana.
Mexican influence is very present, in culture and food.
Tex Mex and BBQ.
They take pride on their food.
Very hot in summer. Lovely in Autumn. You can go swimming in urban natural swimming pools.
Bats under Congress Street Bridge.
Thank you to the HRC, to the AHRC, to Allie and Bridget, and to you for listening. The end
The HRC also provides education and enrichment for scholars, students, and the public at large through exhibitions, public performances, and lectures. While I was there, the exhibition was on “The Making of Gone with the Wind”. Scott Fitzgerald, who contributed to the script, advised: “It seems obvious to me that three bitter doses such as the death of a child, a miscarriage and the death of a woman in childbirth will leave a terribly bitter taste in the audience’s collective mouth at the end of a picture”. And he finishes by saying that “there is something about three gloomy things that is infinitely worse than two, and I do not believe that people are grateful for being harrowed in quite this way”
Presentation by 2014 IPS Harry Ransom Center Fellow Eva Nieto
International Placement Scheme Showcase, 4/11/2014
Eva Nieto McAvoy, Birkbeck, University of London
The Center's collections include 42 million manuscripts, nearly
one million rare books, 5 million photographs, and
100,000 works of art, in addition to major holdings in the
performing arts and film.
Anything from Houdini movie poster to letters by Edgar Allan Poe,
from Jack Kerouac's notebook to Robert De Niro's make-up stills.
A Gutenberg Bible, all four of the first folio editions of
Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, John
Locke, John Milton, Queen Elizabeth I, Brontë sisters, Alfred Lord
Tennyson, Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, Dylan
Thomas, George Bernard Shaw, D. H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck,
Evelyn Waugh., J. M. Coetzee, Don DeLillo, Penelope Fitzgerald,
Denis Johnson, Doris Lessing, David Mamet, Norman Mailer,
Jayne Anne Phillips, James Salter, Isaac Bashevis Singer, David
Foster Wallace, Tom Stoppard, Arnold Wesker, John Osborne,