Earlier this month, UT released a digital version of The Collections, an encyclopedia of the University’s entire collection of documents and cultural artifacts it has acquired since the school first opened.
“The University of Texas at Austin is built on the core values of learning, expanding understanding, and creating knowledge,” President Fenves said in the book’s foreword. “Celebrating the material holdings that support its mission, this book offers a chronicle of creativity and discovery fostered by the collections.”
The online edition of The Collections is free to download, making UT’s millions of artifacts instantly available throughout the entire world.
“Not only does the book itself document all of these collections together, but an online presence and the ability to download the book gives academics around the world, students around the world, collection devotees and art lovers the opportunity to see what UT has to offer,” said Nick Nobel, external affairs coordinator of landmarks, UT’s public art program.
The University has collected more than 170 million artifacts over time, and the encyclopedia highlights their individual significance.
“These things have scientific and historical importance,” Nobel said. “To be able to use something like The Collections book to document these types of things that UT has is special because the public particularly may not have a lot of opportunities to see these objects or specimens.”
Several schools at the University have significant artifacts to provide to The Collections. The School of Law has a series of patent prototype models that people would use to demonstrate their inventions; The School of Engineering holds the Ohmes Vacuum Tube collection, used in early radios and receivers; The College of Natural Sciences has a culture collection of algae that scientists use for biotechnological development.
“Our ultimate goal is to remind not only the UT community, but also the Austin and national community of the value of these collections, and that they are used in a multitude of ways,” said Victoria Davis, program coordinator of the humanities media project.
Nobel thinks the artistry of The Collections makes it appealing to anyone who flips through its 720 pages.
“The photography is absolutely gorgeous, so you may not look at a seashell or a piece of algae or a vacuum tube the way you would look at it in this particular book.” Nobel said. “I think that all the collections have a certain aesthetic value to them that a lot of people would appreciate.”
With an overwhelming amount of art, historical artifacts and scientific specimens, the University is not able to put all of its artifacts on display, Nobel said. The Collections is able to document the entirety of the University’s artifacts into one central location.
“Smaller universities often will have a central location or unit that manages all of or a portion of their collections,” Nobel said. “UT doesn’t have that luxury because it’s so large. And that’s kind of the advantage of it. There are so many great collections just because of the sheer size and austere nature of the University.”