What’s a more patriotic outing for the Fourth of July than a family visit to the LBJ Presidential Library?
Bonus: It’s free on this red, white and blue holiday.
Plan to spend a couple of hours of quiet comfort in the air-conditioned galleries in the megalithic white structure on the east side of the University of Texas campus.
Extra bonus: Parking is free in UT Lot 38, designated for the library off Red River Street.
As reported here in 2012, the main permanent exhibit, overhauled and updated at a cost of $11 million, “incorporates hundreds of photographs, films, audio recordings, interactive flat screens and assorted ephemera stacked on three floors of the 10-story complex. Telephone handsets throughout the exhibit allow the visitor to hear LBJ conversing with other leaders on public issues from the 1960s.”
Extra special bonus: In the U-shaped first-floor exhibit reserved for temporary shows, one can spend more time with “Deep in the Vaults of Texas: A Campus Collaboration.”
This show, which runs through Sept. 6, displays treasures from a dozen UT libraries, museums and research centers. It includes fun things, such as Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry’s fedora hat, but also serious stuff, like the first dictionary published in the Americas, early documents of the League of United Latin American Citizens and Dominick Dunne’s notes from the O.J. Simpson trial.
To tempt you to stop by, we’ve shared some of the most compelling images, recorded by photographer Jay Godwin and accompanied by descriptions from UT archivists.
Although they were conceived and executed separately, the exhibit makes a fine bookend to the magnificent 2016 publication, “The Collections: The University of Texas at Austin,” which now can be viewed in a digital format for free.
“The university has long been one of the world’s distinguished collecting universities and is renowned for the rich depth of its collections spanning more than 170 million objects,” said Lorraine Haricombe, UT vice provost and director of libraries, who toured “Deep in the Vaults” with this reporter. “(The collections) are rife with culturally significant examples of international arts and humanities — but there are less familiar though equally valuable treasures across a range of subjects in undiscovered corners of campus that support teaching and research and hold great interest for the broader public.”
Haricombe hopes the current exhibit will encourage visitors to delve into UT’s digital resources as well as its brick-and-mortar archives.
“There’s more for the general public to experience at UT than these recognizable objects that garner the most immediate attention,” she says. “Because we serve the needs of students, scholars and researchers, there are collections undiscovered by the public — but which have intrinsic value for scholarship — and the exposure provided by ‘Deep in the Vaults’ might be the catalyst to lure visitors’ further exploration of the vast resources at UT.”
UT’s ‘Collections’ book goes free and digital
One of the most beautiful and compelling books to come out of Austin in many a year is “The Collections,” an encyclopedic account of the 170 million artifacts preserved by the University of Texas. It is now available in digital form for free at thecollections.utexas.edu.
Parallel to but not directly related to the current LBJ Library exhibit, it’s a big one. The doorstop, released in January 2016, comes in at 720 oversize pages. I’ve browsed through it incessantly and have cooked up some tasty stories from its contents, derived from more than 80 collections of art and artifacts over a wide range of subjects.
If you prefer the hard copy, the list price is $125.
“This is the first time a publication of this kind has been produced by a public university,” said Andrée Bober, the book’s editor and director of the university’s Landmarks public art program. “By making it available for free and online, we are putting the collection before a greater public. It’s our hope that this digital edition will increase awareness of these materials and inspire other universities to make their collections known.”
Bober conceived this survey and organized more than 350 individuals to lend their expertise. She’s an enormous asset to the university, to say the least. — Michael Barnes
‘Deep in the Vaults of Texas’
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sept. 6.
Where: LBJ Presidential Library, 2313 Red River St. Free parking in Lot 38.
Cost: Prices vary, but free on July 4