Looking Back: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting, A Photo Exhibit

This was originally published several months ago, so it may be out of date.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Looking Back: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting, A Photo Exhibit

On August 1, 1966, University of Texas student Charles Joseph Whitman climbed to the top of the iconic University of Texas Tower building and went on a shooting spree, killing 16 people and wounding at least 33 others. At the time, this seemingly senseless massacre of civilians was unprecedented and considered the worst mass murder in modern U.S. history.

The Austin History Center’s newest photo exhibit, Looking Back: 50 Years After the UT Tower Shooting, seeks to better our understanding of this tragic event, both in the context of its time and impact locally as well as how we can learn from the experience today as our country continues to experience mass shootings on campuses and other public areas. The exhibit is on display from July 26 through November 20, 2016 in the David Earl Holt Photo Gallery at the Austin History Center, 810 Guadalupe St. Gallery hours are Thursday through Saturday from 2 to 6 PM. It is is free and open to the public. For more information please call 512-974-7480 or visit austinhistorycenter.org.
August 1, 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the UT Tower shootings. It is also the day that Senate Bill 11, the concealed “campus carry” law goes into effect, allowing those with concealed handgun licenses to carry concealed handguns on public university campuses across the state of Texas. According to the FBI, mass shootings are on the rise in the United States. In 2015 alone, there were 372 such shootings, 64 of which took place on school campuses. Given these sobering statistics, this exhibit asks the viewer to explore what the UT Tower shooting means for us today as a society. Was this tragedy and others like it preventable? What role does mental health play in such tragedies? By preserving the memory of this horrific event, it is our hope that we as a people can better understand why it happened in the first place in order to prevent more tragedies like this one from happening in the future.

The exhibit draws heavily on the records of the Austin Police Department’s (APD) Charles Whitman investigation, which came to the Austin History Center in 2000 and 2002. Since that time, materials from this collection have been among the most frequently requested and cited in the Austin History Center’s Archives and Manuscripts Collection. The vast majority of the collection is comprised of reports filed by APD. A smaller yet highly significant part of this collection includes the diaries, writings, photographs, and personal effects belonging to Charles J. Whitman. Gathered during the investigation as evidence, they have since been used by researchers worldwide and those affected by the tragedy to try to make sense of this senseless act.

About the Austin History Center
As the local history collection of the Austin Public Library, the Austin History Center provides the public with information about the history, current events and activities of Austin and Travis County. The Center collects and preserves information about local governments, businesses, residents, institutions and neighborhoods so that generations to come will have access to their history.