A more balanced picture of UT

Charlie Saginaw

Look at a map of the UT campus and the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium dwarfs the other buildings. One only needs to witness the 100,000 fans in the crowd walking to a home game to gauge the importance of the stadium on the 40 Acres.

Given the national attention paid to UT sports programs, we often overlook the strengths of our university’s cultural and scholarly contributions. UT students stand to enjoy a combination of both field goals and featured art exhibits.

On the corner Guadalupe and 21st streets, the Harry Ransom Center (HRC) provides educational events on the arts and humanities. Founded in 1957, the HRC focuses on the culture and literature of the United States, Great Britain and France. The center boasts 36 million leaves of manuscripts, 1 million books, 5 million photographs and 100,000 pieces of art. While the UCLA game will attract more fans than the HRC, the Ransom Center will draw preeminent thinkers from the world seeking inspiration.

Some scholars will pull out fascinating pieces from the archive and create exhibits on the bottom floor, which are free to students. The center’s permanent exhibits range from a complete Gutenberg bible to the first photograph, taken in 1826. The HRC’s main temporary exhibition, entitled “Discovering the Language of Photography: The Gernsheim Collection,” reveals the origins of photography. Unlike those charts in your class notes, what you learn at the HRC will not be covered on the midterm.

On the third floor of the HRC, the British faculty seminar provides public lectures in English literature, history and government that include faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates and members of the Austin community. Professor Roger Louis brings in world-renowned scholars to discuss their current projects, spanning from the Belfour declaration, which formally recognized the formation of Israel as a state, to a discussion of Rudyard Kipling in America. While the stadium collects the most talented athletes on game day, the British studies seminar rallies the countries’ greatest minds every Friday.

Just a block over, on the corner of MLK Boulevard and Congress Avenue, stands one of the largest university art museums in the United States, the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art. The Blanton houses more than 18,000 pieces of art from Europe, the U.S. and Latin America — pieces one won’t be able to purchase at the annual Jester poster sale. The museum provides a cultured midday study break, and instead of paying $9 for an adult ticket, entrance to the Blanton is free with a valid UT ID.

On the other side of campus, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum offers world-class research archives and a three-floor interactive museum chronicling the life of the 36th president. Starting with LBJ’s humble beginning in the Texas Hill Country and tracing his rise through the Congress and eventually to the White House, the extensive exhibition highlights an extraordinary life of public service. Through the bloodshed of Vietnam and Civil Rights protests, the museum provides a glimpse into the turbulent 1960s from the perspective of the man who shaped it.

If the commercial that appears between touchdowns is true and “what starts here changes the world,” UT students must first broaden their horizons through the opportunity provided by our university.

The next time you spot the stadium on a UT map, squint to find the world-class museums and libraries. Perhaps then a more balanced picture of UT appears.

<em>Saginaw is a history junior.<em/>