Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Archive Of The Week : The Harry Ransom Centre



My Archive of the Week this week is the Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas in Austin. According to its' website, the Centre "advances the study of the arts and humanities by acquiring, preserving, and making accessible original cultural materials". In previous generations one could be rather disapproving about collections of original documents and historical papers being sold to the highest bidder and then been transported off to some air-conditioned vault on the far side of the world. With the advent of the Digital Age the results of such an international trade in source documents need not be so irksome : if the acquiring institution makes digital copies available they can positively contribute towards the wider availability of source material to all students, researchers and browsers, wherever they may be.
The Harry Ransome Centre has a truely wonderful collection of documents and artifacts covering subjects such as literature, history, philosophy, religion and art and it seems to be making a reasonable stab at making them available through a series of digital exhibitions. Currently such exhibitions are limited to certain topics and the available material represents only a small selection of what the Centre obviously has available. But it is a start and it should be encouraged and therefore it received my Archive of the Week Award.
The collection I looked at in some detail was the collection of papers and photographs of the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll). There is some fascinating material about a man who appears to have had more levels of complexity than an onion skin. Author of "Alice in Wonderland", pioneer of photography, prodigious letter-writer, lecturer in mathematics and logic at Oxford University : Dodgson managed to fit a lot into his lifetime. Many of these elements are represented in the digital exhibition and you get the distinct impression that Dodgson would have approved of the digital dissemination of his papers. Indeed, one suspects, that Dodgson would have been an enthusiastic blogger.

10 comments:

  1. We need to stop this illicit international trade in source documents. Disgusting! I'm sure the Google Family is behind it all, backed up by the Vatican Cartel.

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  2. I first read Harry Ramsden where I've enjoyed arguably the UK's best fish 'n chips!

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  3. CB : The spirit of Lord Elgin lives.
    Baino : No Ransom not Ramsden .... mind you I wouldn't mind visiting the Harry Ramsden Archives.

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  4. And there was me thinking that the man spent most of his time high on hallucinogenic drugs. Or perhaps that was just on weekends.

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  5. He certainly did have a wide variety of interests! I didn't know who you were talking about until you gave his pen name! And Harry Ransom has a nice collection!

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  6. loved the pic of the pages...it would have been interesting if many of the classical authors would have blogger...intriguing indeed.

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  7. Hi Alan, Great info, just want to know more about this Univ...CL Dodgson's work was the inspiration for the Cabinet of Curiosities show up in Denver now....'Lewis Dodgson's Impossible Cabinet'. -Jayne

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  8. KR : I couldn't fit everything into the list.
    Betsy : He has a very nice collection - let's hope they make more of the material available on-line.
    Brian : It is a fascinating question, who would have made the best blogger. I'd probably have to nominate Dickens.
    Jayne : What amazing coincidence although if I think about your work I should have made the connection earlier.

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  9. Thanks for the link. I am going to save that and make a further read when the snow flies. I have a blogger friend, A Brit in Tennessee, who keeps me updated on this guy. I am also ignorant of anything he did except for Alice in Wonderland. His original work has interesting illustrations, different than Disney of course. Take care!!

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  10. Doesn't it seem like those 19th & early 20th century intellectuals all packed a lot in? Dodgson is a good example, but there are lots of others--look at Sir James Frazer for instance--how could anyone write that much?

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