Bringing authors, art and photography to The Wittliff Collections is made possible through funding from several different sources.
On the seventh floor of the Alkek Library is a nearly 6,600 square foot collection of Southwestern writers, Southwestern and Mexican photography and the Lonesome Dove production archive. Joan Heath, associate vice president and university librarian, said the Wittliff Collections’ costs are funded through a combination of dollars from the library’s acquisitions budget, a small piece of its operating funds and donations from outside sources.
Heath said of the library’s total $1.09 million operating budget, $257,692 is put toward the Wittliff Collections. The operating budget covers costs including supplies, rentals, machinery, marketing, speaker fees and travel, staff transportation, temporary employee wages and contract services.
Heath said a good part of the Wittliff Collections is funded through donations, such as the “Lonesome Dove” archive and the “Las Sombras/The Shadows” photography exhibition by Kate Breakey. David Coleman, director of the Wittliff Collections, said there are more than 200 images in the “Las Sombras/The Shadows” exhibit, all donated by Breakey. Heath said the materials acquired by the Wittliff Collections are kept, and some manuscripts and photographs are being digitized online.
“Now (we) have significantly increased the opportunity for people worldwide to learn about these materials,” Heath said. Coleman said The Wittliff Collections hosts anywhere between 10 and 12 authors, photographers and other guest speakers annually, and these events are usually free of charge to attendees.
Coleman said the Wittliff Collections invites speakers, but also collaborates with the Master of Fine Arts-Creative Writing program and hosts other sponsored events by different academic programs and centers on campus. Coleman said speakers who come for Wittliff sponsored events are funded through the library’s operating budget.
Tom Grimes, director of the MFA Creative Writing program, said it and the Department of English choose the writers who speak at the Wittliff Collections each year. The department and the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center in Kyle fund the visits.
Grime said an annual budget of $25,000 from the Therese Kayser Lindsey Endowment is set aside to bring in guest authors, along with additional funding from the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center.
Michele Miller, media relations and publications specialist at the Wittliff Collections, said she advertises events throughout the San Antonio/Austin corridor. Miller said the advertising portion of the Wittliff’s operating budget is not very large, so she instead relies on free press and interest in what is going on at the Collections.
“We try really hard to seduce the students to come in and see some great stuff,” Miller said.
Heath said founding donor Bill Wittliff’s original vision for the collections was to expose the writing processes to visitors. “The purpose of the collection is to help people, particularly students, who have an interest in writing but not the courage to do it yet to make that leap,” Heath said. “I think that is a great mission.”
Miller said the Wittliff Collections are a great place for students to come between classes.
“We are open, and we are free,” Coleman said. “We are a great escape from the busy hectic life of school.”