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The University of Texas at Austin


Landmark Southern Exhibit to Inaugurate Reopening

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Carpenter Family

Debuting in the Briscoe Center's new 3,500-square-foot exhibit hall, Exploring the American South: The Briscoe Center's Southern History Collections, is on display from April 10 to September 17. 

"It is fitting that the Briscoe Center's unrivalled southern history collections form the basis for our inaugural exhibit in the main gallery," said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. "Not only does the exhibit highlight the massive potential that exists at the center for researching the South, it also shows how dynamic, surprising, varied and even haunting the region's history was between the American Revolution and Reconstruction."

Exploring the American South speaks to the many layers of southern history during the "long 19th century" through a wide array of artifacts including photographs, letters and ledgers, sheet music, clothing and military hardware. Through the voices of enslaved individuals, soldiers, homemakers, planters, jurists and free people of color, the exhibit gives an account of those who lived and worked in the South during this formative period. Together, these voices open paths into the region's past and invite further research and exploration.

The center began actively acquiring southern history collections following a 1914 gift of funds by Major George W. Littlefield, a Confederate veteran and university regent. Materials preserved at the center through the Littlefield Fund for Southern History and other independent acquisitions provide a diverse, in-depth picture of the history of the South, with special emphasis on slavery, the cotton economy and the Civil War.

The southern collections have several major components: The Southern History Archival Collections, the Littlefield Rare Book and Pamphlet Collection, the Littlefield Map Collection, the Southern Newspaper Collection, the Charles Ramsdell Microfilm Collection and the Natchez Trace Collection, which totals more than 450 linear feet of materials documenting the history of the Lower Mississippi River Valley from 1760 to the 1920s.