In the 1940s, UT alumna Jan Roberts spent her time in the Hall of Texas studying with her future husband. More than 70 years later, she spoke fondly of her memories at the opening of the newly-renovated Hall of Texas on Tuesday, which was intentionally redesigned to look as it was 70 years ago.
“Look, it’s Texas,” she said, pointing to the newly-painted Alamo artwork on the roof beams. “It’s my Texas.”
The Hall of Texas reading room in the Main Building has been renovated from an office space to a reading room that mimics the one many alumni recall studying in the early to mid-20th century.
“The room had been used for different purposes over many decades,” said Lorraine Haricombe, vice provost and libraries director. “And the purpose of restoring this room to its former glory was to provide a space for library users, students who need this kind of environment to study and to reflect.”
The idea began when executive vice president and provost Maurie McInnis joined the library administration and suggested the restoration a few years ago. After funding was approved, the administration pursued the renovations throughout 2018.
“We had a very good idea of how this room was used when it was originally built … we just went in to bring it back to what it was meant to be … with the nicer aspects of the 21st century,” Haricombe said.
Along with redoing the physical layout of the room, the library administration replaced the electric cable system from the ‘30s, added the original tables from the former reading room and painted the ceiling beams to depict different eras of Texas history.
“Wi-fi and electricity were important for us … we didn’t want them to be noticed, but we wanted them to be easily accessible,” said Jennifer Lee, director of discovery and access for UT libraries.
The renovated reading room strongly resembles the room back in the ’60s, said UT alumnus Greg Lipscomb.
“(My friends and I) used to spend 30 to 40 hours a week in a corner here, except for sleeping,” Lipscomb said. “I think (the renovations) are very faithful. And if anything, they are more polished because they’re newer but very similar to what we had.”
The library administration doesn’t have any concrete plans for future renovations. However, Haricombe said they may complete similar renovations to the room adjacent to the Hall of Texas in the future.