Briscoe Center

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced on Monday he has donated his political and professional papers to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American Studies at UT. The donation will help the Briscoe Center continue to expand their political collection.

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson announced Monday he has donated his political and professional papers to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American Studies. 

Richardson’s papers — his letters, and press releases and news clippings from throughout his political career — will help the Briscoe Center expand its political collection, according to Ben Wright, public affairs officer for the Center.

“The Richardson collection fits in with some of the other collections we have, [from] congressmen and even Texas governors,” Wright said. “Adding his collection helps us continue to grow.”

The collection coming to UT consists of 300 boxes of material currently being processed and catalogued at the Collections Deposit Library on campus.

Wright said Center officials began attempting to acquire Richardson’s collection about a year ago, and said they are happy to continue developing the center’s existing collections. 

According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, New Mexico State University began pursuing Richardson’s documents back in 2008. New Mexico State University spokesman Justin Bannister said at the time, Richardson told the university he would respond to their request for the documents, but he never did.

Cinnamon Blair, spokesperson for the University of New Mexico, said University officials did not try to acquire the collection.

“The University of New Mexico has never pursued those particular papers, and Gov. Richardson never contacted UNM to discuss leaving them to the Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections,” Blair said.

In accordance with New Mexico state law, papers from Richardson’s days as governor must go the New Mexico State Archives. Wright said he feels the items that should be in the archives according to state law are already there. 

Wright said he believes the Center is a better location for the documents because it has digital collections and allocates Smith Research Travel Awards, so that researchers outside of Austin can come see the collections.

“With these collections here at the Center, we are working to digitize collections, so students and other researchers can access this information across the country,” Wright said.   

During Richardson’s time as governor from 2003–2011, New Mexico improved in clean energy, education, transportation, healthcare and immigration and succeeded $1 billion in tax cuts for the citizens. 

Richardson also served as a U.S. congressman, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of Energy for President Bill Clinton.

The University’s Dolph Briscoe Center for American History will gain an endowment from the Flag Heritage Foundation’s Wednesday auction of a Revolutionary War era American flag, and its directors are also hoping the purchaser will donate the flag to the center to complete its flag collection.

The Forster Flag is currently owned by the Flag Heritage Foundation, which is not affiliated with the University. The flag was originally the centerpiece of the Whitney Smith Flag Research Collection, which was donated to the University without the Forster Flag. According to Lisa Avra, associate director of the Briscoe Center, the Heritage Foundation has decided to auction its flag in order to raise the funds for an endowment to gain a curator for the flag collection.

“As the flag was once on loan to the Whitney Smith Collection, before the collection was donated to the Briscoe Center, we are hoping that the buyer might also donate the flag to the Briscoe Center, where it would once again be the centerpiece of the collection,” Avra said.

Benjamin Wright, a public affairs officer for the Briscoe Center, said obtaining the flag would be an exciting opportunity for the University, as the flag is one of thirty surviving flags from the Revolutionary War era and the only one that has not yet been placed in a museum or institution.

“Everyone at the center is waiting in anticipation to see what happens at the auction,” Wright said. “It’s simply the nature of auctions that anything can happen.”

According to Wright, the Briscoe Center is a likely place for the flag to end up due to its possession of the Whitney Smith Collection, thus making the center an ideal institution to exhibit and study it. Wright called the auction, with proceeds going toward the endowment for curation of the collection, a “baseline scenario,” and said the center is hoping for more.

Maryam Amjadi, Plan II and history freshman, said she appreciates being at UT because it is a large research institution with the ability to access historical artifacts that might otherwise not be available to students.

“Gaining historical artifacts such as the Forster Flag is great because it provides opportunities for research but also preserves important parts of history and makes them available to a huge population of students who can appreciate them,” Amjadi said. “That access is really cool to me as a history major and as someone who generally appreciates preserving our history and culture.”

A $1 million gift from the Terry Foundation will allow a UT historical facility to renovate for the benefit students and visitors. The $1 million, which was a personal gift from UT alumnus Howard Terry and his wife Nancy, will go toward renovations and upgrades of student and visitor facilities at the Winedale Historical Complex in Round Top, Texas, said Don Carleton, executive director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Winedale is home to the University’s Shakespeare at Winedale program, a music program, special events and historical buildings. “We want to upgrade really anything that might be used by students and visitors,” Carleton said. “We’re going to try to bring facilities up to current standards. It’s going to make a much better facility for students to use.” The Briscoe Center plans to spend the money on new furniture and carpets, upgrading the bathrooms, painting, redoing the kitchen and anything else to improve the complex, Carleton said. Briscoe Center administration will rename the conference center and classrooms after the Terrys, he said. “It’s just a godsend, frankly,” he said. “It’s going to be incredibly important to Winedale. This is a very generous and timely gift that’s going to really enhance the visitation experience, not only for students but for everyone who comes.” Howard Terry grew up in the small town of Cameron, Texas, and attended UT on a football scholarship in the 1930s, said Ed Cotham, president of the Terry Foundation. Terry and his wife formed the foundation to give back to Texas by providing scholarships to needy students, he said. The Terry Foundation will provide about 700 students from eight different universities, including UT, with scholarships this year, Cotham said. Each year the Terry Foundation and its scholars have a picnic in the spring at the Winedale Historical Complex, he said. “Winedale is such a special place,” he said. “The students just love going there, and the Terrys just found the people there to be really special. They began thinking about something they could maybe do for Winedale and all the folks up there at the Briscoe Center.”