Crunch time as Ransom Center looks to continue free exhibitions

Tristan Stitt

The Harry Ransom Center was awarded a five-year challenge grant in 2014 and is looking for a big push to come from UT’s fundraising site, HornRaiser, to meet its fundraising goal by April 25.

This is the last year to meet the challenge given by the National Endowment for the Humanities. If accomplished, the total value of donations and matching funds will equal $2 million and will help the HRC sustain its promise of “free exhibitions for all.”

The HornRaiser page has reached a fourth of its $20,000 goal and has three weeks left of its campaign. This is the first time the HRC has chosen HornRaiser as a method for collecting donations.

“HornRaiser is a really unique platform because it is specific to UT,” said Amy Kristofoletti, HRC development specialist. “We were excited to try it out, and HornRaiser is a way that we can spread the word using an online system rather than trying to rely on tracked mail and other techniques we’ve used in the past.”

Very few loans have been made to the library for the more than 50 exhibitions which have been put on over the years, said Cathy Henderson, associate director for education and exhibitions.

“The broad goal of the exhibition program is to share the collections that the Ransom Center holds for the benefit of both the general and research community,” Henderson said. “We’re not just saying, ‘Here are the things we have in the Ransom Center collection,’ but we put an interpretive net around those collection items.”

With artifacts such as the Gutenberg Bible always on display, Monte Monreal, visitor services manager, said many visitors are surprised there is no entry fee.

“We’ll always happily tell people that it’s free, and people are surprised, but hopefully if they connect with the exhibitions they can find other ways to support what we do through a donation,” Monreal said.

Henderson said there are many extra costs that go into every exhibition.

“Additional research, print collateral, design expenses and marketing the exhibition to the community all have costs,” Henderson said.

The minimum donation for the fundraiser is $25, a number that organizers say encourages donations large or small.

“The HornRaiser is focusing on raising $20,000 to reach a larger audience than our main base of donors and is a way to get the word out and almost celebrate that we’re so close,” Kristofoletti said.