Skip to NavSkip to Content

The University of Texas at Austin


Message from Executive Director Don Carleton

February 2015

Dr. Don Carleton, Executive Directory of the Briscoe Center

Earlier this month, the New York Times wrote about the center's acquisition of the James "Spider" Martin Photographic Archive. The article appeared on the front page of the paper's Art section and led to the news being picked up by many other publications including the Washington Post, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express-News.

Obviously this represents great national exposure for the Briscoe Center, raising our profile and boosting our reputation—but it's really about two other things.

First, its about the excellence of the center's archival staff, who preserve the Martin collection and countless others—keeping them safe, organizing them and digitizing their contents so we are able to move quickly and accurately in response to public interest.

Second, it's about the center's mission to foster exploration of our nation's past by providing historical evidence for research and teaching. The movie Selma and the upcoming 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday have together precipitated a national debate about the civil rights movement, which has been evocative, heated and at time misinformed. The center's now internationally recognized Martin collection informs and enhances that debate.

The buzz around the Martin collection reminds us that archives are as much about sharing as they are about preservation. With that in mind, I'm proud to see that the center currently has so many exhibits on display across Texas, along with others in the works.

In honor of Black History Month, March to Freedom, our new exhibit collaboration with the LBJ Presidential Library, celebrates the 50th anniversaries of the civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, as well as last year's Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Library.

Seeing Double: Paired Versions of Popular Quilt Patterns, now on display at Winedale, features pairs of quilts constructed years apart but based on the same pattern. Briscoe Center Quilt Curator Kate Adams oversees Winedale's annual quilt exhibit, and I want to congratulate her on being honored as the 2015 Bybee Scholar.

Kate will use the scholarship, announced earlier this month by the Texas Quilt Museum and the Faith P. and Charles L. Bybee Foundation, to continue work on her book, Comfort and Glory: Quilts from the Briscoe Center for American History, which UT Press will publish next year. I'm delighted for Kate, whose work with the Winedale Quilt Collection is outstanding.

In addition to March to Freedom and Seeing Double, the center's touring exhibit, Russell Lee Photographs, is now on display at the Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, and From FDR to JFK is being prepared for display starting March 11 at the center's Sam Rayburn Museum in Bonham, Texas. Look for more details in our March e-news.

As a medium of expression, exhibits open up the center's collections to the public in a different way than books, films, articles or web features. They remain, in this digital age, a timeless resource for historians to share the riches of an archive with students, scholars and members of the public. 

Don Carleton, Ph.D.
Executive Director
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History