Out of the Vault

Some of UT’s rarest and most valuable artifacts are unearthed in a new exhibit.

 

Fan made of feathers and tortoise shell belonging to Zelda Fitzgerald, ca. 1920s. Credit: LBJ Presidential Library.

Locked away in temperature-controlled rooms in museums and libraries across campus lie some of the university’s rarest treasures. From Zelda Fitzgerald’s blue ostrich feather and tortoise shell fan to notes from the Nuremberg trials, UT is home to a variety of artifacts from around the world. Collaborating with 11 centers on campus,  the LBJ Presidential Library is bringing many of these items out of the vaults.

The library’s exhibit, Deep in the Vaults of Texas: A Campus Collaboration, features artifacts from the Blanton Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Center, the Benson Latin American Collection, and the Tarlton Law Library, among others. Until Sept. 6, visitors can observe these items, some of which have never been on display before, that come from a wide range of eras and locations.

The iconic fedora hat of former Dallas Cowboy head football coach Tom Landry. Credit: H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Sports and Physical Culture.

 

Barbara Bintliff, director of the Tarlton Law Library and the Joseph C. Hutcheson Professor in Law, says the artifacts illustrate the modern condition. “They all help explain who we are as a school, as a campus, and as a greater society,” Bintliff says. “They provide the context and the background for who we are today.”

A page from the first book to contain exercise illustrations, the 1577 edition of “De Arte Gymnastica, Libri Sex.” Credit: H. J. Lutcher Stark Center for Sports and Physical Culture.

The objects are varied, representing everything from art to sports to law. From the halls of the Blanton Museum comes Peter Dean’s Dallas Canvas II, a colorful and chaotic oil painting depicting the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald. The H.J. Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports brings former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry’s iconic fedora hat to the exhibit. Out of the Briscoe Center for American History is journalist Dominick Dunne’s spiral notepad from the 1995 O.J. Simpson trial.

The Tarlton Law Library has seven artifacts in the exhibit, including a 1948 sculpture of the Peregrinus, an imaginary part-bird, part-mammal that has served as the law school’s mascot for more than 100 years. The Benson Center pulled 13 items from its vaults, including memoirs of Antonio López de Santa Anna, who was president of Mexico and lost dominion of Texas. The first line reads: “Written by my own hand without help of anyone, in my last exile … ”

A 19th century indigenous Pomo basket. Credit: Texas Archaeological Research Center.

Another item, a colorful hand-drawn map, outlines Atlatlauca, Mexico. In the 1500s, the King of Spain sent out 50 questionnaires to his provinces in Mexico and Guatemala. He requested a map of the provinces, so map makers hand drew outlines of their areas. “This event highlights what we have and what visitors can get out of visiting us,” says Christina Bleyer, special collections and senior archivist of the Benson Latin American Collection.

Though the historical objects will eventually return to their respective repositories, their time in the LBJ Presidential Library is a display of the wealth of artifacts present across campus. Bleyer says Deep in the Vaults is a good snapshot. “It’s a few things from all these different archives, but at the same time it gives a holistic picture,” Bleyer says. “It shows the breadth and depth of archival resources available at UT.”

 

 

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