This Man Made Austin Home for a World-Class Literary Archive

As the director of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, Thomas Staley turned the archive into the repository for some of literature's greatest giants. Now he's passing the baton to Stephen Enniss, who hopes to continue that legacy.
Tue September 3, 2013 2:30 pm

In late July, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin acquired the archives of McSweeney’s, the often cheeky journal and publisher founded in 1998 by the writer and editor Dave Eggers.

It was an unusual acquisition for the Ransom Center, which has gained international renown as an institution by buying the archives of literary stalwarts like Isaac Bashevis Singer, Norman Mailer, and Don DeLillo, whose reputations had been established for decades.

But in the twenty-first century, a shift to younger writers makes sense. “With the digital age, we’ll see relationships happening between the Ransom Center and writers earlier in their lives, before they’ve entered the canon in any fixed way,” said Stephen Enniss, who will became the center’s director on September 1, replacing Thomas F. Staley. “This is particularly important when trying to capture digital material, since one can’t wait until someone is in their eighties to hope to recover a record of what they were doing in their thirties.”

High-profile acquisitions like the McSweeney’s archive were a hallmark of Staley, who during his 25-year tenure transformed the center, routinely securing collections that might have

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