Stephen Enniss

Stephen Enniss, the director of the Harry Ransom Center speaks in a meeting Friday about the museum’s history and his goals for the center’s future. His presentation included going through some of the museum’s recent acquisitions including letters of JD Salinger and papers of British novelist Ian McEwan.

Photo Credit: Sarah Montgomery | Daily Texan Staff

Stephen Enniss, director of the Harry Ransom Center, discussed the future of the on-campus museum and archive center Friday.

Enniss, who previously worked as the head librarian of the Folger Shakespeare Library located in Washington D.C., said he has three objectives to further the mission of the Ransom Center: to continue to augment its already extensive research collection, to lead into the future through digital innovation and to attract and invest in the professional development of its staff.

Outlining his vision for the center’s future, Enniss believes all students would enjoy viewing the collections. 

“I want the Ransom Center to become the archive of choice for the most coveted research collections,” Enniss said. “The Ransom Center’s best days are ahead of it.”

Enniss said the Ransom Center needs to catalog its backlog of acquisitions, transition its collection to digital archives and integrate digital content into reading rooms. Enniss stated that more space is needed to accommodate the growth of the center’s collections.

“We have acute space needs, but we also have space that is not being used efficiently,” Enniss said.

According to Enniss, the backlog was large in scope, but he was unsure of its exact size. 

Emphasizing the existing strength of its research collections, Enniss spoke about some of the recent acquisitions the Ransom Center has made, including the original papers of British novelist Ian McEwan and a collection of Magnum photographs. 

“[McEwan] wanted us to take good care of his work,” Enniss said. “I believe we will be good stewards of his papers.”

Enniss also spoke briefly about the ongoing need for competitive research institute staff. 

“Research colleagues provide an efficient and productive working environment,” Enniss said. “To attract and retain staff, we have to support their professional development.”

History graduate student Joe Parrett found the lecture helpful for understanding the Ransom Center’s future and was excited about the digital expansion of the center. 

“I never knew the vision of the previous director, Thomas Staley,” Parrett said. “I thought [Enniss] did a great job of setting the agenda for the research center.”

Ian McEwan

Photo Credit: Annalena McAfee | Daily Texan Staff

The Harry Ransom Center acquired the archives of English author Ian McEwan, and visitors to the center will be able to interact with them after they are processed.

Because of the Ransom Center’s interest in contemporary literature, center director Stephen Enniss said he believes McEwan’s archive will be a long-lasting resource to the community.

“Scholars engaged in original research will work with the archive in our reading room, and students who may be studying McEwan’s writing can work with the archive in one of the Ransom Center’s classrooms,” Enniss said. “In time, selected materials will be incorporated in future exhibitions that are open to all.”

Before the University announced the acquisition in May, the center had been in talks with McEwan to acquire the archive for over a year, according to Enniss. McEwan’s archives include journals, manuscript drafts, letters and other personal papers, which Enniss said would serve as the primary resource for future studies of McEwan’s work.

While McEwan’s work does contain handwritten materials, his collection also contains a large amount of digital content.

“McEwan himself embraced technology from an early date, and we’re delighted that he has systematically saved his extensive email correspondence with fellow writers and others,” Enniss said.

McEwan, whose works include "Atonement," a novel adapted into an Oscar-winning film, will speak on campus Sept. 10 to read from his most recent novel, "The Children Act."

“I’ve admired Ian McEwan’s writing for a long time,” Enniss said. “And when I saw the notebooks in which he worked out the plots of his novels, I knew this would be an extraordinarily rich resource for students and scholars for years to come.”

Two-term U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins didn’t start publishing poetry until he was already in his 40s — but now, even writings from his early childhood will be available at the Harry Ransom Center. 

Collins, now 72 years old, is one of the most widely read poets in America. Stephen Enniss, director of the Ransom Center, said Collins’ agent offered to add the expansive archive to its collection. The archive contains photos and compositions from Collins’ childhood, as well as diaries, datebooks, recordings and drafts of poems. 

Enniss said the Collins archive will be a worthy addition to the center’s poetry holdings.

“Billy Collins is a rare poet whose work has attracted a wide popular audience, and, at the same time, he has been recognized with some of the highest honors a poet in this country can earn,” Enniss said. 

Collins’ popularity has not made him immune to criticism. English professor William Scheick, who disagrees with Collins’ approach to poetry, said he still finds his work engaging.

“Collins is simply wrong about the nature of language, especially in narrative forms,” Scheick said. “Even so, Collins is clever, invitingly readable and, so, a delight to accompany into the experiences he celebrates.” 

English professor Kurt Heinzelman said he believes Collins’ work is important to the world of poetry.

“Billy Collins has given poetry a popularity and a performative stature that has been lacking since the time of Dylan Thomas and Robert Frost,” Heinzelman said.

Enniss said Collins’ collection of notebooks would be one of the more engaging features of the archive once it were to become available to patrons of the center.

“Certainly Collins’ manuscript notebooks, in which he works out the shape of a new poem, are some of the most fascinating things in the archive,” Enniss said.

The archive will be available at the Ransom Center once all the documents have been processed and catalogued.

Twenty one personal letters written by J.D. Salinger, author of “The Catcher in the Rye,” have been added to the Salinger collection at the Harry Ransom Center. In the letters, Salinger, who was known for keeping out of the public eye, directly addresses his reservations about the publishing process.

The letters, which were sent over a 40-year period, were nearly all addressed to Ruth Maier, a classmate of Salinger at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania until Salinger dropped out in 1938. After purchasing the letters from Maier’s family for $25,000, the Ransom Center added them to their already large Salinger collection, which also includes short stories, galley proofs, typescripts, and other writings — both published and unpublished. 

In November, an unknown source pirated two unpublished works from the Ransom Center and sold them for publication online.

According to Stephen Enniss, director of the Ransom Center, the letters will provide researchers with a candid insight into the life of the famous author.

“[The letters] will amplify what we know about Salinger and provide a fuller picture of his life. The correspondence is remarkable for its duration — 40 years — and for the open and unguarded way Salinger confided his thoughts to his friend,” Enniss said.

Enniss said the letters also reveal the rigor with which Salinger approached his work.

“I was most taken with what the correspondence reveals about Salinger’s high and exacting standards: He was unable to release new work into the world until he felt it was perfect in every way,” Enniss said.

Enniss said the new letters, and the Salinger collection overall, are important because they make famous authors accessible to today’s readers.

“This certainly opens up Salinger’s work to a new generation of students and scholars and [is] an important way the University fulfills its service to a research community,” Enniss said.

Salinger wrote candidly in many of the 40 letters, discussing Maier’s love life and marital status. In a letter from 1941, he wrote, “I hope you’re happy, Ruthie. You’re probably in love with the big handsome boy who kicks you in the stomach three times daily.”

In a 1978 letter to Maier, Salinger used a more jovial tone: “Ruth Smith Maier Pendergast Walker Snapperstein Combs (you do have a lot of names), Author of “Sheila’s Kid,” cabaret singer, mother of eighteen, Channel swimmer, etc.”

With the letters now available for viewing at the Ransom Center, psychology freshman Logan Hailey said she thinks the letters allow a rare look into Salinger’s personal life.

“Considering the profound literary influence of Salinger, releasing recently discovered letters, though personal, would be incredibly beneficial to both readers and scholars in understanding Salinger’s life and works,” Hailey said.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, the original version of this story incorrectly named J.D. Salinger's collection of work. Additionally, the story misstated the research restrictions placed upon the new letters. They are available through the Ransom Center's standard patron application.

Three previously unpublished short stories by author J.D. Salinger surfaced on the Internet Thanksgiving day after an unauthorized duplication of the works were uploaded to file-sharing sites including Imgur and MediaFire.

Someone — who has not yet been identified — duplicated Salinger’s short stories “Birthday Boy” and “Paula,” which were accessed from the Harry Ransom Center’s reading room, and “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” which resides at Princeton University. 

The mysterious uploader violated copyright laws, as well as the wishes of the now-deceased author when bounding the duplicated works together and selling them on eBay.

Links to file-sharing websites hosting the three unauthorized works appeared on numerous threads on Reddit, a social content gathering site. The files have since been removed. 

Salinger, the notoriously reclusive author of “The Catcher in the Rye,” had wished the short stories remain unpublished up until 2060.

Stephen Enniss, director of the Ransom Center, said it is important not to confuse privacy with copyright. 

“While we go to great lengths to protect the privacy of living figures, it is difficult to know the wishes of the dead,” Enniss said. “As a research institution, it is important that we be attentive as well to the needs of students and scholars engaged in academic study and in the production of new scholarship.”

Manuscripts of both “Birthday Boy” and “Paula,” remain available in the Ransom Center both to view and copy for research purposes.  

“Our research libraries are filled with unpublished materials that remain in copyright, and researchers visit our reading rooms daily to consult primary source materials that are not yet available in print,” Enniss said.

Law professor Oren Bracha said the center did not violate any laws regarding intellectual property because there was no outright encouragement to duplicate the works. 

“If you go to a public library and there’s a photocopier on the premises, and you photocopy a whole book, the library, specifically under the Copyright Act, is not liable for that,” Bracha said. “Now if they encourage people to make copies and help them specifically to engage in infringing activities, that’s something else. But just by virtue of not monitoring people who use their equipment on the site to make copies, even infringing copies, that doesn’t make the library liable.” 

Enniss said the Ransom Center has a responsibility to inform researchers of the copyright status of collections of authors’ work.  

“The Ransom Center’s responsibility is to inform researchers of the copyright status of works in the collection — as we do through our policies and through the database we maintain of writers, artists and their copyright holders — and to make sure we have assurances that any copies are being supplied for research only,” Enniss said. “We have done so.”

Melody Valadez, physics junior and author of young adult suspense novel, “Those Who Trespass,” said unpublished works being available for research purposes are helpful to other writers. 

“As another writer, you can go and see their entire process and how much work they’ve put into it before the final product that you [see],” Valadez said. “And that’s helpful.” 

Valadez said she can fathom Salinger’s hesitation toward allowing the public to view his earlier work. 

“I can understand not wanting anyone to ever see early drafts because they’re usually pretty terrible,” Valadez said. “I think authors are usually scared of being judged by their drafts when they’re very aware of the problems they already have.”

Valadez said she believes the manuscripts help the reader better understand the author.

“To me, it’s the same as being able to read letters of famous authors or famous mathematicians or famous historians because you get to look at the things going on around why they did what they did,” Valadez said. “You get a broader perspective on the final product.”

English professor Janine Barchas said she believes material an author may deem private has the potential to expand public knowledge about the author’s history, comparing the Salinger manuscripts to the hundreds of Jane Austen letters burned by her sister Cassandra.

“Thanks to Cassandra’s censorship, we will never know what Jane wrote that was so ‘scandalous’ that it deserved the flame,” Barchas said. “Times and opinions change. Together, scholars and caretakers should always try to take the long view. Content that may seem “inappropriate” or “too private” today may prove benign — or even central — with a little time.” 

Enniss said he was unaware of the Ransom Center dealing with similar incidents of copyright infringement in the past, but said the center follows standard professional practices of similar research libraries around the country.

“As the center’s materials use policy expresses it, the aim of these policies is to balance the needs of patrons, the exclusive right of the copyright holder and the center’s own rights and responsibilities toward its collections,” Enniss said.

Bracha said copyright infringement is a little more complicated in the case of companies such as Imgur or MediaFire. 

“The moment they either get a notice from the copyright owner or otherwise acquire specific knowledge that there’s some infringing activity going on and that they facilitated it, they have to do something about it or at which point they do risk legal liability,” Bracha said.

Enniss said the copyright infringement occurring in the Salinger case is currently a matter between the Salinger Estate and the individual responsible for uploading the unauthorized duplications to file-sharing sites.

Editor's note: Kelsey McKinney worked as an intern in the Department of Public Affairs during the 2011-2012 academic year.

After 25 years as the Director of the Harry Ransom Center, Thomas Staley will hand over the responsibility of leading the staff and acquiring collections to Stephen Enniss. 

While at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C., Enniss was responsible for the world’s largest Shakespeare collection and the largest collection of early English printed books in North America. Enniss worked as curator and director of Emory University’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library before joining the staff at the Folger. Enniss will start at the Ransom Center on August 1 and assume all responsibilities upon Staley’s retirement August 31. The Daily Texan interviewed Enniss about his expectations and motivations for his future tenure at the Ransom Center. 

The Daily Texan: How do you expect your new job as Director of the Ransom Center to differ from your current position?

Stephen Enniss: Well, I think that the Folger and my previous experience at Emory University have been perfect preparation for the Ransom Center’s very broad and deep collections, spanning from the Renaissance to the most contemporary writers and artists. Really, the past experience I’ve had touches on each period of history that the Ransom Center has documented. Coming to the Folger, I was at Emory University for 16 years, and it was while at Emory that I was very active in acquiring major literary archives, which of course is a special strength of the Ransom Center. 

To elaborate, I was always aware when I was building collections at Emory how I was engaged in an activity that paralleled the works that Tom Staley and the staff at the Ransom Center were doing. So, in that way, I think the transition should be an easy one.

DT: What led you to want to lead these large literary institutions? 

Enniss: I certainly have been a literary creature from a very young age and a consumer of poems, and novels, and short stories and plays. So that’s primary. But I also respond very much to the artifact, the object itself and what these objects say about the past and what they contain about the past. So working in research libraries that are known from their acquisitiveness has been a perfect fit for me. I’ve always had an acquisitive streak myself, whether it was natural history artifacts that I would pick up as a child or later books that I would collect. In some ways, I feel like the act of collecting is really the first act of scholarship and certainly a foundation of what the Ransom Center is engaged in. 

DT: Do you have a favorite author, or an area you’ve studied extensively?

Enniss: That’s something like asking someone to pick your favorite child. I presume that [Staley] can say that he prefers “Ulysses” because Joyce is safely dead. But I’m involved in collecting so many contemporary and living authors at this point that I wouldn’t want to pick among them. My own research interest is focused on contemporary Irish poetry, but my own graduate work was in the American novel. I should be equally at home in developing the collections of major novelists and short story writers as well. 

DT: Looking forward to your time as director of the Ransom Center, do you have any personal goals? 

Enniss: I think the first task is really to sustain the program of excellence that’s been achieved there and that’s not necessarily a new initiative. In terms of things that might be purely new, I think all of us in the research library community that collect major archives know that the nature of modern archives changed in the mid 1980s. We have to plot a smart path forward for managing and making digital archives available for research. 

DT:  Do you have any coveted collections you dream of acquiring?

Enniss: The most important acquisition is always the next one. What often focuses one’s attention is the next opportunity. I can’t tell you at this point what that will be, but we have to be oriented very much to the future. Certainly, literature is a personal research interest and a personal passion of mine, but the Ransom Center collections extend far beyond modern literary figures. Things that have been acquired over the years create a kind of DNA record. When you look at the collection strengths that are there and map that DNA, you find that those strands lead you to other collections that are complemented by the existing holdings. I will very much be using my sense of that genetic map to further the Ransom Center’s collection activities. 

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According to a recent press release from the University of Texas' Office of the Provost, the new director of the Ransom Center has been chosen. 

Stephen Enniss, the head libraran of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., will be joining the Ransom Center in the fall to serve as the successor to Director Thomas Staley. 

Dr. Enniss received his Bachelor of Arts in English from Davidson College in 1982, a master’s degree in librarianship from Emory in 1983 and a doctorate in English from the University of Georgia in 1996. 

"The Ransom Center is among the finest research libraries in the country with unparalleled holdings and a storied past,” Enniss said in the press release. "I am honored to join my new colleagues there in helping to extend further its important and ongoing cultural work.”

Enniss will begin at the Ransom Center on Aug. 1, and take over full responsibility upon director Staley's retirement on Aug. 31. 

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