Dive deep into the vaults of Texas at the LBJ Presidential Library

12:00 a.m. Monday, July 3, 2017 Austin360
This papier-mâché sculpture, circa 1948, is one version of the UT law school’s mascot, the Peregrinus. During a course in equity in 1900 at UT School of Law, a professor requested of a student a description of the Praetor Peregrinus, a Roman official who administered justice in disputes between foreigners and Roman citizens. The student, caught unaware, asked whether it was some kind of animal. Junior law student Russell Savage overheard the exchange and took the opportunity to draw the fictional animal on a nearby chalkboard. The Peregrinus has been embodied in many forms, including on banners and in wood and papier-mâché sculptures. It always features the tail of a fox (bushy, to sweep away technicalities), the eyes of an eagle (all-seeing in its quest for truth) and the head of a stork (with pointed beak to delve deep for facts) and is often capped with the Crown of Truth. At various times, the Peregrinus has sported work boots, boxing gloves and cowboy boots, and sometimes has bare claws exposed (all showing its willingness to fight for justice). The artwork is from the collection at the Tarlton Law Library. Contributed by Jay Godwin

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.”

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