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Mission & History

Instructing  •  Illuminating  •  Inspiring

The voices and visions of any region’s artists are rooted in the land, inspired by a certain lay of the earth and line of horizon, informed by the history and myth, traditions, and relationships of the people who live upon it. This “Spirit of Place” is at the very heart of The Wittliff Collections — it is the keystone that joins the literary, photography and music archives.


The Wittliff Collections are dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the creative legacy of the Southwest’s literary, photographic and musical arts. The Wittliff presents major exhibitions year-round; hosts readings, artist talks, lectures and other events; publishes significant books from its holdings, and makes its collections available to statewide, national, and international researchers.

The Wittliff welcomes visitors, tours and classes, and admission is always FREE.

Entrance to the Southwestern Writers Room

History of The Wittliff

Bill and Sally Wittliff founded the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University in 1986 with the first of many gifts:  papers from author and folklorist J. Frank Dobie which included diaries, journals, manuscripts for published and unpublished books, personal correspondence, candid snapshots, and memorabilia.

The Southwestern Writers Collection moved into its permanent quarters on the seventh floor of the Albert B. Alkek Library when the new library building opened in 1990, and it was formally dedicated during a week of activities in October 1991. The Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection was established in 1996. To showcase this additional collection, The Wittliff’s physical space in the library was expanded by creating a specialized gallery for photography. The very first photograph to be hung on the new walls was Cosmos by Keith Carter.

In 2007, in recognition of the kinship of the two collections, and in appreciation of the generous contributions of the founding donors, the Southwestern Writers and the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collections were formally joined as The Wittliff Collections.

The Lonesome Dove Collection permanent exhibition gallery opened in 2007 and was dedicated in a special ceremony that was attended by several members of the miniseries’ cast and crew.

Entrance to the Wittliff Collections main gallery

2009 marked a major expansion of The Wittliff’s facilities. The expansion nearly tripled the exhibition areas, with the large photography gallery doubling as the venue for receptions, readings, panel discussions, and other special events. The expansion likewise doubled the size of the reading room, relocated and enlarged the main office and provided much-needed space for continued growth.

In 2016 the reading room was dedicated as the Laura Walser Reading Room, in honor of Bill Wittliff’s mother.

In 2017, the Texas Music Collection was established as a new major collecting area. When created, the collection already had an excellent foundation through a large number of materials and archives from songwriters and music journalists that had been acquired as part of the Southwestern Writers Collection over the past 30 years.


About the Keystone Logo

limestone star-WEB.jpgAfter Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie’s death, his wife Bertha gave Bill Wittliff a keystone, which Dobie had saved from one of the arches of the old Bee County courthouse and kept at his Paisano ranch west of Austin for many years. The limestone block, incised with a large Texas star, was set into the stucco of the Southwestern Writers Room when The Wittliff moved into the new library building in 1990. Its rustic beauty and symbolism as a joining and stabilizing force made it a natural choice as the emblem for The Wittliff Collections.