The nationally renowned Dolph Briscoe Center for American History reopened to the public last week after an 18-month renovation period that added nearly 4,000 square feet of exhibit spaces.
The Briscoe Center, located in Sid Richardson Hall on campus, hosts the majority of UT’s historical collections from the last three centuries. Assistant director of communications Ben Wright said the Briscoe Center is tasked with fostering exploration in American history, and the renovations aim to advance this goal.
“The whole ground floor of Sid Richardson Hall was gutted and renovated, creating a reading room double in size of what it previously was,” Wright said. “Students are able to come to the
reading room and draw their own historical conclusions about the past.”
The renovations installed new meeting rooms where classes and public programs could take place along with three exhibit spaces.
Penne Restad, a distinguished senior lecturer of history, took her introductory history class to view the renovated Briscoe Center before its official reopening last Monday and said she appreciated the increased hands-on experience. The exhibits allow students to actually hold artifacts from significant moments in history.
“It’s like a brand-new place,” Restad said. “It’s not just like there’s new carpeting and they gave everyone new utensils; it’s completely upended with increased exhibition space.”
Over 300 donors from 18 cities in the U.S. funded the renovations that took more than a year to complete. During this time, the Center’s public services were moved next door to the LLILAS Benson Latin
“We never stopped at any point working on our books, documentaries, exhibits or digital projects,” Wright said. “We still kept going to make history available to the widest amount of folks, and we also continued to acquire the historical collections. We had a very busy time at the Center.”
Chemical engineering freshman Jamie Abraham visited the Center last week and said it helped her realize the importance of American history on a personal level.
“Pretty much everyone needs to take a U.S. history class at UT,” Abraham said. “But having a resource like the Briscoe Center lets you experience history physically, and I think at a time like this, it is important for students to understand their past in order to improve their future.”