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The University of Texas at Austin

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Message from Director Don Carleton

April 2018

Earlier this month, the center launched a new exhibit, a graphical reproduction of a giant historical mural that depicts Texas news media history. You may remember that last year the Belo mural was removed from the Dallas Morning News building and added to the center’s news media history collection. A team of fine arts specialists worked all day to carefully dismantle, wrap, and pack the mural’s sections so it can be preserved. During that process, the mural was comprehensively photographed. The resulting images were then stitched together in order to create the reproduction.

The exhibit wraps around the exterior of the north end of the center’s Research and Collections division. Though large (50 feet by 6 feet) the original mural is much bigger—175 feet by 15 feet. In addition to the exhibit, the center has created an online version of the mural that you can view here. The exhibit and digital project are another example of how the center not only acquries and preserves historically valuable material, but also puts that material to use for research and public education.

Another way we’re helping people explore the past is through our 1968 web exhibit. Each month we update the site to reflect the 50th anniversary of an event from that turbulent year. This month, the focus is on the assassination of Martin Luther King, who was shot on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was 39 years old. An outstanding orator and a pioneer of nonviolent resistance, King had been at the forefront of the civil rights movement since the mid-1950s. The night before, he had given his famous mountaintop speech.

That speech was the subject of a recent editorial by Paul Stekler, a renowned documentarian who donated his archives to the center in 2015. Paul used footage from the mountaintop speech in the tenth episode of Eyes on the Prize and also interviewed some of King’s closest aides. “Most Americans are familiar with the last 60 seconds of the speech, with its famous declarations ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’ and ‘I’ve seen the promised land,’” writes Paul. “But the full speech included a call for economic justice in language that portended the man he might have lived to become.”

Paul points to one of the great what-ifs of American history: how the last 50 years might have played out different if King had lived. The sense of loss this question evokes is at the heart of many of the events that shook the nation in ‘68. In addition to our online exhibit we’ll have a case display of materials related to ‘68 opening later in the year. In the meantime, keep checking the site as the story of this tumultuous year unfolds. 

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

P.S. This weekend the Shakespeare at Winedale program will perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I highly recommend attending, but if you can’t make it, this summer will see performances of Love's Labour's Lost, All's Well That Ends Well, Julius Caesar, and Arden of Faversham. More information can be found here.

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