Undergraduate Research: Andrea Gustavson on teaching undergraduates at the Harry Ransom Center

We love it when we can draw your attention to the awesome teaching our grad students do and the exciting research our undergraduates do. Today, we’d like to point you toward the Harry Ransom Center’s newsletter, Ransom Edition, where our very own Andrea Gustavson talks about her work teaching undergraduates in the archive. 


Teacher Andrea Gustavson shares photography materials with undergraduate students in her class “American Images: Photography, Literature, Archive.” Photo by Robert V. Reichle.


Undergraduate in the class “American Images: Photography, Literature, Archive.” Photo by Robert V. Reichle.

Here’s a taste of Gustavson’s article:

In the fall, I taught a class called “American Images: Photography, Literature, Archive” that made extensive use of the collections at the Ransom Center. Each week, the students and I explored the intersections between photography, literature, and archival theory using the Center’s primary materials as the foundation for our discussions. On Mondays and Wednesdays we met to discuss the week’s reading, closely reading passages or images and making connections to contemporary events. On Fridays the students had the opportunity to view rare manuscripts and photographs that illustrated, extended, and even challenged many of the concepts we had discussed earlier in the week. Over the course of the semester, the students worked within a variety of written genres as they built toward a final project for which they conducted their own original research.

Check out the full article here.

Gustavson is a PhD candidate in American Studies here at UT and she worked as a graduate intern in Public Services and as a Graduate Research Assistant at the Ransom Center in 2010–2014.

Announcement: Julia Alvarez Speaks at UT Tonight!

Today! Acclaimed novelist, poet, and essayist Julia Alvarez will speak about her life and work with University of Texas at Austin professor, Dr. Jennifer M. Wilks, at 7:00 p.m. in Jessen Auditorium at Homer Rainey Hall. A book signing and reception will follow at the Harry Ransom Center. The event is sponsored by the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies (TILTS) as part of their “Reading Race in Literature and Film” series. It is also sponsored by the Harry Ransom Center, where Alvarez’s archive resides.


Here is a little more about Alvarez from TILTS:

Alvarez was born in New York City but raised in the Dominican Republic until she was 10. In 1960 her family was forced to flee the Dominican Republic when it was discovered that her father was involved in a plot to overthrow dictator Rafael Trujillo. Much of Alvarez’s work is considered semi-autobiographical, drawing on her experiences as an immigrant and her bicultural identity. Alvarez’s unique experiences have shaped and infused her writing—from such award-winning novels as How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies to her poetry.

Seating is limited, so get there early! Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Announcement: Dr. Steve Hoelscher Speaks on “Reading Magnum” Tomorrow @ The Jones Center

Thursday evening, November 21, at The Contemporary Austin / The Jones Center (700 Congress Ave, downtown), Dr. Steve Hoelscher will be speaking about his most recent project, Reading Magnum: A Visual Archive of the Modern World. We spoke with Dr. Hoelscher a few weeks back about this exciting new book, and he was also featured recently on KUT. The Austin Center for Photography, UT Press, and The Contemporary Austin will host a book signing and reception Thursday from 5:00-7:00pm, and Dr. Hoelscher will offer remarks at 6:00pm.

-1Here’s a little info from the Austin Photography Center on the Magnum Photos archive and on Dr. Hoelscher’s’s important new book:

The Magnum Photos archive—a collection of more than 200,000 photographs by some of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries’ greatest image makers—is the most comprehensive accumulation of prints made by the distinguished photo cooperative. Consistently and with striking artistry, Magnum’s photographers have done more than simply document the far reaches of the globe; they have helped shape generations’ understanding of the world around them. While many of its photographs have been widely published, no one has examined the Magnum archive itself until now. Reading Magnum presents this first examination of the archive, now housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Stories from Summer Vacation: Andrea Gustavson in the Archive

Today’s story comes to us from Ph.D. student Andrea Gustavson, who has spent the past two years as a Public Services Intern at the Harry Ransom Center here at UT:

This summer has been my final semester in the graduate internship in Public Services at the Harry Ransom Center, a program that has provided me with access to one of the world’s best collections and has given me the opportunity to think about my own research and career in new and dynamic ways.  In the two-year program, graduate interns spend the first year answering research queries for remote patrons, teaching visitors how to access the collections, and preparing presentations on collection highlights to visiting guests and classes.  In our second year, we are encouraged to develop an extended project that connects our own research to the needs of the Ransom Center.  My summer has been spent digging through the Ransom Center’s Magnum Photos Photography Collection, working closely with Steve Hoelscher to develop six short sections of the forthcoming book on the print archive.

The Magnum press print library evolved as a very practical tool for the distributing of photographs to potential clients. There are more than 1300 boxes in the collection, some labeled to indicate the photographer and year, others designated as images of various political figures and celebrities, including Richard Nixon, Ernest Hemingway, and Miles Davis.  There are also a few boxes labeled a little less intuitively with titles such as, “Historical Emotions 1970s,” “Monkey Research,” “Nifty Pics” or “Neon Lights.”  The Ransom Center has retained the original organizational structure of the press print archive and one of the more fascinating elements of my work requires me to trace Magnum’s distribution process back through the collection as I search for a single photograph relevant to many subjects that may have been placed into several different boxes. For example, an image of kids playing in ruins taken by David Seymour as part of his series on children in post-war Europe might appear as a press print in a box marked “Children of the World,” in another marked “International,” and in a third marked “War.” The backside, or verso, of many of the prints in these boxes have been stamped, annotated, stickered, dog-eared, and captioned by editors and Magnum librarians as they were distributed to news agencies, picture magazines, galleries, and book editors.

Robert Capa, Magnum Photos, Inc. Collection. Harry Ransom Center. The University of Texas at Austin.

Robert Capa, Magnum Photos, Inc. Collection. Harry Ransom Center. The University of Texas at Austin.

It is the reverse sides of the images that I’ve been using to track down the publication history—the subsequent life of the image—for sections of the forthcoming book and exhibition. For example, this iconic photograph (see above) taken by Robert Capa is one of several photographs taken during the second wave of American troops to invade Omaha beach on D-Day June 6th, 1944.  On the verso of the print that we have at the Ransom Center are indications that, in addition to its publication in Life Magazine, the photograph was also distributed to Popular Photography and slated for use in Robert Capa’s book Images of War. Tracing Magnum photographs back through their publication history and following Magnum librarians back through their organizational and archival decisions has made for an occasionally maddening but also incredibly fun summer project.