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Illuminating Texas: 25 Lone Star Moments

Cabeza de Vaca
AUGUST 22 – NOVEMBER 30, 2011 


From the first step of Spanish explore Cabeza de Vaca on what is now Galveston Island to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Texas has had no shortage of dramatic moments. In recognition of the Wittliff’s 25th Anniversary, this exhibition highlights the Collections’ impressive reach by focusing on 25 major historical events.

Illuminating Texas: 25 Lone Star Moments shows how the rich literary and photographic holdings relate to culture and history, as well as how artists translate shared experience into creative legacy.

“Part of the vitality of a repository such as the Wittliff is how the archives help inform so much of our cultural history,” said Collections and exhibition curator Steve Davis. “While it’s true our literary papers have nourished scholars from around the world, the importance of these archives goes beyond literary scholarship. Many of our collections help interpret—and in some cases reinterpret—major episodes in our state’s history.”

Among the key moments featured in the exhibition are the fall of the Alamo, the rise of Austin’s music scene, Waco’s fiery Branch Davidian conflict, the murder of Tejano music star Selena, and the establishment of Juneteenth as a major holiday. The private papers of writers give personal glimpses into the lives of notable Texans, including U.S. President and Texas State alumnus Lyndon B. Johnson.

Davis points to the archives of author Bud Shrake as an example of how the collections help inform our history. “Shrake was the close consort of Ann Richards, and his papers contain hundreds of letters, postcards, and faxes exchanged between the two over a period of 30 years—during the time Ann Richards advanced from County Commissioner to Governor of Texas. Ann’s letters to Bud read almost like a campaign diary at times, as she tells him the stories of her adventures on the road while running for the state’s highest office.”

[above] 1555 edition of La relación y comentarios by Alvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca