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About the Collection

A Place of Inspiration

An extraordinary collection of rare and unique treasures awaits visitors to the Southwestern Writers Collection, a distinguished archival repository that collects and preserves the works of the region’s renowned writers, filmmakers, and musicians. Click here to see the A to Z Guide to Collections.

Celebrating the Southwest’s unique heritage, the Writers Collection explores the relationship between art and place with public exhibitions, research opportunities, and lively events that bring together many of today’s leading voices in the arts.

Bill and Sally Wittliff founded the Writers Collection 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gifts: papers from author and folklorist J. Frank Dobie which included diaries, journals, manuscripts for published and unpublished books, personal correspondence, candid snapshots, and memorabilia. In the years since, the Writers Collection has grown tremendously—thanks to university support, the work of staff members, the continuing efforts of the Wittliffs, and the gifts of hundreds of individual donors—resulting in a rich assemblage that commands international attention.

Click here for a list of research topics within the Southwestern Writers Collection.

Literature & Drama

The Southwest’s greatest writers are inevitably touched by the power of this region, a place of distinctive geography and compelling human history, a land rich in stories and open to limitless possibility. Available to everyone, the archives at the Southwestern Writers Collection offer surprising insights into the lives of artists and the works they have made, revealing hidden aspects of the creative process. The original archive materials are complemented by an extensive supporting collection of Southwest-related books, magazines, videos, and recordings, which further illuminate the profound sense of place that affects us all.

The complete literary papers of Cormac McCarthy – author of some of the finest fiction of our times, including Blood Meridian, All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road – document his entire writing career. Handwritten and typed drafts, correspondence, notes, and unpublished manuscripts reveal McCarthy at work on both novels and screenplays.

The Writers Collection also holds the papers of nearly 100 other significant authors, including James Crumley, John Graves, Stephen Harrigan, Beverly Lowry, Larry McMurtry, Katherine Anne Porter, Rick Riordan, Sam Shepard, and Edwin “Bud” Shrake. The archives of Larry L. King contain an astounding 40,000 pieces of correspondence that detail his evolving relationships with friends, enemies, fellow writers, and politicians.

Additionally, the 3,500-volume personal library of Molly Ivins shows the political columnist’s wide range of interests, and the extensive Texas Monthly archives, which currently comprise some 1200 manuscript boxes, illustrate the award-winning magazine’s production with everything from early story drafts and original artwork to cover layouts and business files.

Film & Television

Film archives are essential to the Southwestern Writers Collection, and central to these holdings is the entire production record of the highly honored CBS miniseries, Lonesome Dove. Included is every draft of Bill Wittliff’s screenplay, which he adapted from Larry McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, as well as principal costumes, set designs, props, production paperwork, photographs, and 77 hours of “dailies” representing all the printed takes from the filming. Much of the material is on permanent display in The Lonesome Dove Room.

The filmmaking process is also notable in the archives of Academy Award-winning writer-director Robert Benton (Bonnie and Clyde, Places in the Heart, Kramer vs. Kramer, Nobody’s Fool) and screenwriter William Broyles, Jr. (Apollo 13, Cast Away, China Beach), in select materials from Tommy Lee Jones and Sam Shepard, and in over 600 screenplays.

The major archives of King of the Hill, Fox TV’s animated series set in Texas, document all stages of the Emmy Award-winning show: from the writers’ research materials, stylebooks, and office photos to storyboards, drawings, and the progressive script drafts of every episode.

Texas Music

The music archives of the Southwestern Writers Collection embrace a rich variety of Texas music, from country and Western Swing to blues, polka, rock-and-roll, conjunto, and Tejano.

There is original work by Willie Nelson: a handmade songbook he created as an 11-year-old, and dozens of his song lyrics written on everything from notebook paper to cocktail napkins. Posters, concert programs, tour itineraries, recordings, tour jackets, T-shirts, photographs, publicity clippings, Farm Aid papers, bandanas, and even an old pair of running shoes chart the trajectory of this Texas star.

Austin City Limits creator and longtime executive producer Bill Arhos has donated numerous personal archives from his twenty-plus years guiding the televised concert program, offering a unique backstage look at the celebrated series. Author and music journalist Joe Nick Patoski has donated the papers for his acclaimed biographies of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Selena, and Willie Nelson. The Writers Collection also serves as the repository for the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame, and includes stage costumes worn by the Light Crust Doughboys and a fiddle played by Western Swing legend Bob Wills.

Preservation & Stewardship

Many of the treasures at the Southwestern Writers Collection are one-of-a-kind objects, and all materials are given the utmost care. They are stored in archivally stable containers and housed in a climate-controlled environment. The archival team ensures sound preservation practices while cataloging the materials, and once a collection is processed, posts a “finding aid” describing its contents online for the benefit of students and researchers.

The Southwestern Writers Collection continually creates and mounts major exhibitions, all of which are drawn from the permanent holdings and shed light on various aspects of life in the Southwest. Along with multiple exhibits, each year the Writers Collection hosts numerous classroom visits and stages dozens of literary events, ranging from first-time readings by graduate students to book signings and panel discussions with leading authors and poets.

Tours, events, and exhibits are free and open to the public, offering visitors the opportunity to engage firsthand the wondrous archived treasures, and to celebrate and draw inspiration from the artists who continuously redefine the Southwest in our collective imagination.