During the First World War, dogs attached to the Medical Corps and the Red Cross lived up to the title “Man’s Best Friend” by helping to rescue soldiers.
Medical Corps dogs were trained to enter No Man’s Land (an unoccupied zone between the trench systems of the Allied and Central Powers) at night and locate fallen soldiers. These dogs could recognize the scent of blood, check for a man’s breath, and–if the soldier were alive–deliver his hat to a Medical Corps officer. (The hat’s insignia was an important identification method for the officer.) Stretcher-bearers were then dispatched to rescue the soldier at daybreak.
Indeed, dogs have participated in warfare for thousands of years. According to some Egyptian murals, dogs were unleashed against enemies in Egypt as far back as 4000 B.C.E. Dogs make excellent companions in modern war because of their superior auditory sense, which allows them to hear artillery fire before humans. They also have superior night vision, making them valued message-bearers.
The Ransom Center’s exhibition The World at War, 1914–1918 features a panoramic group portrait of the 103rd Aero Squadron (Lafayette Escadrille), the first U.S. aviation pursuit squadron in combat in France during World War I.
The photograph was sent to the Ransom Center’s conservation lab because it was tightly rolled, making it brittle and fragile. Previous attempts to unroll the paper had left one corner almost detached. The only clue as to its contents was a handwritten inscription on the roll’s outermost edge. Learn more about how photo conservators Barbara Brown and Diana Diaz worked to safely unroll the photograph to preserve it and display it in the exhibition.
Image: Eugene O. Goldbeck. Panoramic portrait of the 103rd Aero Squadron (Lafayette Escadrille). ca. 1919.
Docent-led gallery tours occur on Tuesdays at noon, Thursdays at 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. (There will be no public tour on Thursday, November 28.) The public tours meet in the lobby, and no reservations are required.
Admission is free. Your donation supports the Ransom Center’s exhibitions and public programs. Parking information and a map are available online.
The Cultural Compass blog will be on hiatus during the University’s winter break and will return the week of January 6.
The grant will support a range of activities including facilitating long-range planning, creating teacher training workshops related to future exhibitions, fostering collaboration with other institutions, and supporting print and online publications related to the Center’s exhibitions.
The Ransom Center has four years to match NEH’s $500,000 challenge grant with $1.5 million in private contributions to create a dedicated $2 million exhibition endowment.
“This NEH award is validation of the strong work the Ransom Center does in interpreting its collections for wide and diverse audiences,” said Ransom Center Director Stephen Enniss. “It will enable us to build on that past success and sustain this vital program for years to come.”
Image: Tour of Culture Unbound: Collecting in the Twenty-First Century. Courtesy TxDOT/Stan A. Williams.
2014 will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, a watershed event that claimed millions of lives and changed the course of the twentieth century. The Ransom Center’s exhibit The World at War, 1914–1918 will illuminate the lived experience of the world’s first global war, and will be supplemented with a trip led by exhibition curators and historians to its key monuments and battlefields throughout Great Britain, France, and Belgium, from June 14 through June 23, 2014. The trip is organized by the Texas Exes Flying Longhorns. Information regarding the trip can be found on the Texas Exes alumni travel website.
Sites in London include the Imperial War Museum, Westminster Abbey, the Douglas Haig Memorial, 10 Downing Street, and the Houses of Parliament. Participants will also travel to Oxford to meet with scholar Dr. Jon Stallworthy, the leading scholar on the works of English soldier-poet Wilfred Owen. The Ransom Center holds a collection of Owen’s letters. While in London, participants will stay in the Grosvenor House, a historic 5-star hotel that is frequented by celebrities and royalty.
From London, the group will visit towns such as Ypres, Somme, Verdun, and Rheims, home to key battlegrounds and memorials along the Western Front. The town of Ypres was the site of three major battles, as well as the first documented use of poison gas. Visitors can still view Ypres’ trenches, underground bunkers, and even a church where Adolf Hitler was treated after being wounded. Trip participants will also visit La Maison Forestière in Ors, a memorial to Wilfred Owen, and the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. France is also famed for its champagnes, and participants will enjoy a tasting, featuring classics like Veuve Cliquot and Tattinger.
The trip ends in Paris, home to attractions like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and Notre-Dame. Participants will stay in the Intercontinental LeGrand Hotel, a luxury hotel with views of the Paris Opera House. There is an optional two-day extension of the trip here, which includes a Seine River cruise and a show at the Moulin Rouge.
Don DeLillo once noted in an interview, “The significance of baseball, more than other sports, lies in the very nature of the game—slow and spread out and rambling. It’s a game of history and memory, a kind of living archive.”
DeLillo explored those aspects of the sport in his 1997 novel Underworld. Pictured here is a page from the first draft of that work, drawn from DeLillo’s archive at the Ransom Center. In this passage, he captures the magic of baseball: its ability to unite disparate individuals. The concluding lines in this draft differ from the published version, which reads, “The game doesn’t change the way you sleep or wash your face or chew your food. It changes nothing but your life.”
Widely regarded as one of the greatest pieces of baseball fiction ever written, the prologue of Underworld was originally published as the novella “Pafko at the Wall” in the October 1992 issue of Harper’s Magazine. The text centers on the October 3, 1951 playoff game between the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers that ended with the “shot heard ’round the world,” Bobby Thomson’s homerun that clinched the National League pennant for the Giants. DeLillo pairs his telling of this historic baseball game with another major event of the day: the U.S. government’s announcement that the Soviet Union had successfully tested an atomic bomb. In an interview, DeLillo noted, “The two events seemed oddly matched, at least to me, two kinds of conflict, local and global rivalries.”
This draft page can be seen in the current exhibition Literature and Sport, on display through August 4. Visitors can also view the notebook containing DeLillo’s notes for the novel and the author’s handwritten transcript of Russ Hodges’s broadcast of the conclusion of the playoff game between the Giants and the Dodgers.
In conjunction with the exhibition, DeLillo will read from his work at a Harry Ransom Lecture on Thursday, July 25, at 7 p.m. in Jessen Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
Before the DeLillo event, stop by the Ransom Center’s visitor desk and sign up for eNews between 5 and 6:30 p.m.* to receive a free copy of Underworld.
Materials from the novel are highlighted in the exhibition Literature and Sport, on view through August 4.
Two new exhibitions, Literature and Sport and Contemporary Photographic Practice and the Archive open today at the Ransom Center.
Sport holds a sacred place in Western culture and literature. Writers as diverse as Ernest Hemingway, Willa Cather, Norman Mailer, Marianne Moore, Don DeLillo, Joyce Carol Oates, and David Foster Wallace have written about sport.
Drawn exclusively from the Ransom Center’s collections, Literature and Sport showcases the literature of sport through fiction, essays, poetry, and plays. Organized by sport, the exhibition highlights some of the finest examples of literary writing about baseball, football, boxing, tennis, cricket, bullfighting, and other sports. From Bernard Malamud’s The Natural to Norman Mailer’s The Fight, great literary works capture the appeal of sport and its ability to transform both the individual and society, all the while demonstrating how writers elevate language to literature.
Contemporary Photographic Practice and the Archivewas created in cooperation with the Lakes Were Rivers collective, an Austin-based group of artists working in photography and video. Members of the collective created a body of work influenced in some way by the Ransom Center—its space, its purpose, its collections. Approximately 50 new works are displayed alongside Ransom Center collection materials chosen by the artists, including photographs by Ansel Adams and Man Ray, manuscripts from the E. E. Cummings archive, William Blake’s Songs of Innocence, an embellished Maurice Ravel score, and props from the Robert De Niro collection.
Both exhibitions are on display through August 4 and can be seen in the Ransom Center Galleries on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended Thursday hours to 7 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays the galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Mondays.
Beginning June 18, free docent-led tours are offered on Tuesdays at noon, Thursdays at 6 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Join us for an “All-Star Evening,” the opening celebration for the summer exhibitions Literature and Sport and Contemporary Photographic Practice and the Archive, this Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. Become a member now to receive complimentary admission and valet parking at this event. If you are not yet a member, tickets are available for $20 at the door (valet parking not included for non-members).
This exhibition explores the career of photographer Arnold Newman (1918–2006), who created iconic portraits of some of the most influential innovators, celebrities, and cultural figures of the twentieth century. Newman’s archive resides at the Ransom Center.
A bold modernist with a superb sense of compositional geometry, Newman is known for a crisp, spare style that situates his subjects in their personal surroundings rather than in a photographer’s studio. Marlene Dietrich, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Arthur Miller, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso are only a few of his celebrated sitters. Featuring more than 200 of these well-known masterworks, Arnold Newman: Masterclass also includes rarely seen work prints and contact sheets.
The first major exhibition of the photographer’s work since his death, Arnold Newman: Masterclass showcases the entire range of Newman’s photography, featuring many prints for the first time.
Admission to the exhibition is free, but donations are welcome. Free docent-led tours of the exhibition are offered Tuesdays at noon, Thursdays at 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.
The exhibition can be seen in the Ransom Center Galleries on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended Thursday hours until 7 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays the galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Mondays.
Become a member now to receive complimentary admission and valet parking at “Face to Face,” the opening celebration for the photography exhibition Arnold Newman: Masterclass. If you are not yet a member, you may purchase individual tickets for $20 (valet parking not included) at the door.
The rich history of costume design and its most visionary personalities takes center stage in Hollywood Costume, the latest exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, which opened October 20. Some of Hollywood’s most iconic characters are the focus of the exhibition, which spans a century of film history. Seven costumes featured in the exhibition are on loan from the Harry Ransom Center.
Costumes are significant to a film production because they allow an actor to inhabit the character. In the words of Martin Scorsese, “The costume of the character is the character—the tie a man wears can tell you more about him than his dialogue.” Four of the Center’s costumes on loan to the V&A are from Scorsese films, specifically Raging Bull (1980), Casino (1995), The King of Comedy (1983), and Taxi Driver (1976).
For Robert De Niro, donning the costume was part of the transformation process necessary to fulfilling his role in Taxi Driver. Ruth Morley, costume designer for the film, said, “When I finally found the plaid shirt Bobby wanted to wear, when I found the army jacket, the pants, well he wanted to wear them.” That army jacket and plaid shirt, part of the Ransom Center’s Paul Schrader collection, is on display at the exhibition. A fifth costume worn by De Niro, from Frankenstein (1995), is also featured.
Hollywood Costume is made up entirely of loaned objects, which made the curators’ job of featuring the “most enduring cinema costumes from 1912 to the present day” especially challenging. Historically, there has been a significant lack of documentation regarding Hollywood costumes, which compounds the difficulty of research in the field of costume design. Following the decline of the Hollywood studio system after its peak in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, many props, costumes, and related ephemera were sold off in public auctions. Not surprisingly, many of the more than 100 costumes displayed are on loan from passionate private collectors.
Two costumes from Gone With The Wind, part of the Ransom Center’s David O. Selznick collection, also feature prominently in the V&A exhibition. The green curtain dress and the burgundy ball gown, both worn by Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh), are particularly fragile and required special care, including customized textile boxes that would mitigate any movement or abrasion that might be caused by motion in transit. Jill Morena, the Center’s Assistant Curator for Costumes and Personal Effects, couriered the costumes and oversaw their installation at the V&A. Cara Varnell, an independent costume conservator who performed conservation work on the dresses, also assisted with the installation.
The exhibition offers a chance to explore what V&A Assistant Curator Keith Lodwick calls the “often misunderstood role of the costume designer.” That role, ever adapting to changes in the industry, is powerful enough to influence culture and memory far beyond the scope of a 90-minute film. Ultimately, the costume designer can develop a character into a cinematic icon.
Historian John Speed (1542–1629) worked with Hebrew scholar Hugh Broughton to create a 36-page genealogy to accompany the first printing of the King James Bible. The genealogy traced “euery family and tribe with the line of Our Sauior Jesus Christ obserued from Adam to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Speed’s genealogy (1611) portrays the then-popular view that Noah’s sons went on to populate specific regions of the world: Shem to Asia, Japheth to Europe, and Ham to Africa. In the Americas, pro-slavery advocates used the “curse of Ham” to justify the enslavement of Africans and their descendants.