Skip to Content

News Release — July 9, 2008

Treasures from The Wittliff Collections


Travelers passing through the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) now have another chance to view the cultural treasures housed at The Wittliff Collections, the distinguished literary and photographic archives founded by Austin screenwriter and photographer Bill Wittliff and his wife Sally at Texas State University-San Marcos.

Newly installed, Treasures from The Wittliff Collections is the fourth Texas State exhibit featured at the ABIA, offering airline customers an interesting way to fill their time before or between flights. The pylon display cases are located on the concourse between gates 7 and 12, an area past security checkpoints only accessible to ticketed passengers, an audience of thousands per day. Treasures from The Wittliff Collections will be on display through October 5, 2008.

Nine of the ten cases focus on a writer or major archive from the Wittliff’s holdings, which speak to the “spirit of place” evoked by the Southwest and Mexico: Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Austin City Limits, the Molly Ivins Library, King of the Hill, Russell Lee, Cormac McCarthy, Willie Nelson, Texas Monthly, and the CBS miniseries Lonesome Dove. The tenth case highlights the Wittliff’s two award-winning book series—from the Southwestern Writers Collection and the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection—published primarily by Austin’s University of Texas Press.


The Wittliff’s Southwestern Writers Collection recently acquired the major literary papers of author Cormac McCarthy, and this ABIA exhibit features never-before-seen manuscript pages from McCarthy’s 2005 novel, No Country for Old Men, which was adapted into an Oscar-winning movie by Joel and Ethan Coen, and from his 2006 novel, The Road, which won the Pulitzer Prize and is now being filmed with Viggo Mortensen in the lead role.

Among the other exhibit highlights is a look inside the Wittliff Collections’ rare 1555 edition of Cabeza de Vaca’s La relación y comentarios, the first written account of travels in the region that is now Texas and northern Mexico. Behind-the-scenes photos at Austin City Limits and other materials from creator Bill Arhos’s archives offer an inside look at the ground-breaking PBS concert program. Books with inscriptions from Molly Ivins’s personal library show the mark the Austin columnist made in culture and politics. Drawings and script pages from Fox Television’s King of the Hill archives illuminate the making of this animated series with Texas roots.

Also on view: a vintage camera used by Great Depression documentarian Russell Lee; pages from a songbook made by Willie Nelson when he was eleven years old; special-edition materials from Texas Monthly’s major production archives; and Lonesome Dove set designs, memorabilia, and the shooting script signed by all principal cast and crew from the Emmy Award-winning miniseries based on the novel by Larry McMurtry.

Accompanying the exhibit displays are posters of images by some of The Wittliff’s most accomplished photographers: Willie Nelson by Annie Leibovitz; Coal Miner’s Child by Russell Lee; Deets (played by Danny Glover) taken on the set of Lonesome Dove by Bill Wittliff; and Levitation by Keith Carter, from the cover of Carter’s upcoming book, A Certain Alchemy, due out this October in the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection series. Graciela Iturbide and Mariana Yampolsky are also represented, from the Wittliff’s world-class holdings of modern and contemporary Mexican photography, one of the largest such collection in the United States.


In the summer of 2005, Gringos in Mexico focused on ten American authors and photographers from The Wittliff Collections who journeyed south of the border in search of insight and inspiration. The line-up of Pulitzer Prize winners and stellar notables emphasized Texans, who share a common history and border with Mexico: Keith Carter, J. Frank Dobie, John Graves, Elithe Hamilton Kirkland, Cormac McCarthy, Katherine Anne Porter, Dick J. Reavis, Sam Shepard, Bud Shrake, and Bill Wittliff.

In the spring of 2004, The Wittliff’s Southwestern Writers Collection presented Texas Music Archives, a variety of displays that included Jerry Jeff Walker’s cowboy boots, a fiddle played by Bob Wills, a Light Crust Doughboys performance shirt, materials from the archives of Rolling Stone music critic Grover Lewis, and items related to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Selena.

In the fall of 2001, travelers enjoyed a special show of costumes, props, set designs, and photographs from the making of Lonesome Dove, courtesy of The Wittliff Collections’ major production archives of the CBS miniseries. Most of these materials are now on permanent display at The Wittliff, on the seventh floor of Texas State’s Alkek Library.


An exhibition of photographs drawn from last year’s popular Southwestern & Mexican Photography Collection exhibit, Little Heroes: Photographs of Children, will be on view in the ABIA’s 40-foot window gallery July 31 through October 20, 2008. This show features work from The Wittliff’s permanent collection by such world-renowned photographers as Lázaro Blanco, Keith Carter, James Evans, Héctor García, Graciela Iturbide, Robb Kendrick, Russell Lee, and Mariana Yampolsky. The original exhibition is online.

The Treasures from The Wittliff Collections exhibit was created by Wittliff staff members Steve Davis, Carla Ellard, Mary García, Michele Miller, Joel Minor, Connie Todd, and Katie Salzmann, with the support of Matt Coldwell, City of Austin Arts Coordinator for the Aviation Department.

The Wittliff Collections are undergoing construction to expand their public spaces this July through October. For updates, and more about the archives, photographs, exhibits, and events at The Wittliff Collections, call 512-245-2313, or visit our website.