– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Austin 1


Leaving Waco 100 miles behind on the I-35, we drove south to Austin to meet Micah Erwin, a cataloguing archivist at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center. In addition to his regular duties, Micah curates the Medieval Fragments Project, and I wanted to hear more about how he has used digitisation and social media to add all kinds of value to what might otherwise have remained just an odd little collection of bits and pieces of binders’ waste.

Little did we know that we would get to look at a Gutenberg Bible and then have a grand tour and meet several of Micah’s colleagues and the Center’s Director! but we might have known – Texas hospitality again 🙂


L-R Fiona, Richard Oram, Liz Gushee, Micah Erwin

Librarians and archivists have so much fun on busmen’s holidays – here Richard Oram (2nd from left) is showing us some of his favourite highlights from the manuscript collections, such as Byron’s will and a huge series of caricatures by Robert Browning’s father. Particularly notable – or notorious – among the other amazing items he produced for us was the Victorian ‘Blood Book’ – Richard’s video about this weird and wonderful item is here.

Copy of DSCN9347

In addition to some of the HRC’s Browning letters, we also saw some of the Bronte siblings’ tiny childhood manuscript notebooks, full of poetry, fiction and the documentation of their imaginary countries – here, the holograph of Charlotte’s The Green Dwarf . Below, Fiona demonstrates its size.




 L-R Anna, Fiona, Olivia Primanis (Senior Conservator)

And we visited the conservation department, where Olivia showed us a clever drop-spine boxing solution and a book of watercolour travel sketches showing Roman-arena style tricks of the early 19th century bullring, including a man popping out of a trap-door in the floor and waving his plumed hat to distract the bull!

Thank you all for a brilliant day at the Harry Ransom Center! We started a lot of conversations that are far from finished…

 A few HRC-related places to keep an eye on:

Harry Ransom Center blog, YouTube channel and Flickr page

Micah Erwin’s blog

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