by Roy Flukinger, curator
The Photography Collection of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Ccnter of the University of Texas. Austin, was established in 1963 with the purchase of the Gcrnshcim Collection, at that time the largest collection of photo-historical material in individual hands. From that superb beginning the Collection has grown to over a hundred limes its original size. At present it contains four and a half million prints and negatives, a research library of nearly 20.000 volumes, an equipment archive of 2.500 items, and thousands of manuscripts, artifacts and related study materials.
Presently the collection attracts some 1,500 researchers (and twice as many visitors) a year. We provide research materials for scholars, illustrations to hundreds of publications, art objects to a number of major exhibitions, and assistance and advice to many institutions, public organizations and individuals. The Collection is. above all clsch a resource center for the fostering of ideas and the dissemination of information in all aspects of the human experience in which photography has played a role.
A photographic conservator has been hired and a new conservation laboratory has been established for the treatment of our holdings. Staff members in the Collection now spend a major portion of their time with basic preservation and rehousing of the images and other items in ihe archive, as welt as instructing patrons in proper handling techniques. In addition, an automated inventory and cataloging system for the photographs has been designed and implemented.
To broaden our understanding of this medium and add to the permanent artistic holdings of the University, the Collection continues to acquire major works by the past masters and present practitioners of the photographic an.
The Photography Collection welcomes and encourages patrons from a variety of backgrounds and academic disciplines. Photography has always been studied in such traditional areas as fine arts and communications, recently, however, it has been very encouraging for us to witness faculty and students from a number of additional academic divisions - including history, American studies, anthropology, sociology, architecture, economics and the physical sciences - who are constantly bringing their own perspectives to this field. The influx of such diverse humanistic approaches will continue to provide us with a redefinition and clarification of our perceptual and conceptual attitudes toward this important medium.