The Wittliff is dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the creative legacy of the Southwest’s literary, photographic, and musical arts, and to fostering the region’s “Spirit of Place” in the wider world. The Wittliff presents major exhibitions year-round; hosts readings, artist talks, lectures and other events; publishes significant books from its holdings; and makes its collections available to statewide, national, and international researchers. The Wittliff welcomes visitors, tours and classes. Admission is always free.
Bill Wittliff and his wife Sally founded the Southwestern Writers Collection at Texas State University in 1986 with the first of many gifts: papers from author and folklorist J. Frank Dobie, which included diaries, journals, manuscripts for published and unpublished books, personal correspondence, candid snapshots, and memorabilia.
The Southwestern Writers Collection moved into its permanent quarters on the seventh floor of the Albert B. Alkek Library when the new library building opened in 1990. It was formally dedicated during a week of activities in October 1991.
The Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection was established in 1996. To showcase this additional collection, The Wittliff’s physical space in the library was expanded, creating a specialized gallery for photography. The very first photograph to be hung on the new walls was Cosmos by Keith Carter.
In 2007, in recognition of the kinship of the two collections, and in appreciation of the generous contributions of the founding donors, the Southwestern Writers, and the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collections were formally joined as The Wittliff Collections.
The Lonesome Dove Collection permanent exhibition gallery opened in 2007 and was dedicated in a special ceremony attended by several members of the miniseries’ cast and crew.
2009 marked a major expansion of The Wittliff’s facilities. The expansion nearly tripled the exhibition areas, with the large photography gallery doubling as the venue for receptions, readings, panel discussions, and other special events. The expansion likewise doubled the size of the reading room, relocated and enlarged the main office, and provided much-needed space for continued growth.
In 2016 the reading room was dedicated as the Laura Walser Reading Room, in honor of Bill Wittliff’s mother.
The Texas Music Collection was established as a new major collecting area in 2017. When created, the collection already had an excellent foundation through a large number of materials and archives from songwriters and music journalists acquired as part of the Southwestern Writers Collection over the past 30 years.
After Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie’s death, his wife Bertha gave Bill Wittliff a keystone, which Dobie had saved from one of the arches of the old Bee County courthouse and kept at his Paisano ranch west of Austin for many years.
The limestone block, incised with a large Texas star, was set into the stucco of the Southwestern Writers Room when The Wittliff moved into the new library building in 1990. Its rustic beauty and symbolism as a joining and stabilizing force made it a natural choice as the emblem for The Wittliff.