The year 2021 marks the centennial of the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, bringing promise of a triumphant future and cause for celebration today. Former head librarian Ann Hartness, renowned for her 38-year career at the Benson and her contributions to Brazilian studies, is being honored by her son and daughter-in-law Jonathan Graham and Elizabeth Ulmer, who have made a remarkable donation to the collection in homage to their mother. In recognition of their generosity, the Benson’s main reading room will be named the Ann Hartness Reading Room.
A specialist in Brazil, Hartness is credited with increasing the depth and breadth of the library’s holdings in Brazilian materials during her tenure. “Ann Hartness is synonymous with Brazilian collections at the Benson,” said Benson director Melissa Guy. “It was through her tenacity, in-depth knowledge, and personal relationships that the library built a strong foundation for the study of Brazil at UT Austin.”
To continue the family legacy, the couple have directed a portion of their gift to establish the Jonathan Graham and Elizabeth Ulmer Fund for Library Materials on Brazil, an endowment to enhance the collection in the field of Brazilian studies. Graham and Ulmer have dedicated the remaining portion of their gift to create the Ann Hartness Benson Collection Matching Fund. Through this fund, Graham and Ulmer will match other donors’ gifts to new or established endowments in any area at the Benson, dollar for dollar. Graham and Ulmer’s philanthropic contribution is the most outstanding of its kind in the 100-year history of the Latin American Collection at UT Austin.
Grand Opening of the Ann Hartness Reading Room, Spring 2022
The gift honoring Hartness comes at an auspicious moment. To honor the Benson Centennial, UT Austin has invested in an interior redesign of the Benson’s main reading room—the first since its construction in 1971. The 6,734-square-foot room is the main entrance to the library and the heart of a space frequented by students, faculty, and scholars from around the world. After renovations are complete, this beloved place will reopen as the Ann Hartness Reading Room in spring 2022.
“Elizabeth and I are pleased to support the Benson and, in particular, to help ensure that its collection of Brazilian materials will continue to grow and be well curated for years to come,” said Jonathan Graham. “For many decades, our family has delighted in the incredibly varied intellectual and cultural life of Brazil. We hope many generations of scholars will benefit from access to the materials my mother, Ann Hartness, collected over the course of dozens of trips to Brazil and the many more collection trips that our gift will make possible in the future.”
“This generous gift to honor Ann Hartness recognizes her vast contributions to Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, and to the development of one of the world’s foremost repositories of history and culture in the Americas,” said Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries Lorraine J. Haricombe. “That this comes amidst our celebration of the Benson’s centennial year is fitting given Ann’s abiding connection to the library and her commitment to its future growth and preservation as the premiere resource for a greater understanding of Latin America.”
Guy couldn’t agree more. “All of us at the Benson are humbled by and grateful for this transformative gift, which will allow us to showcase Brazil through continued partnerships with local communities, acquisitions, exhibitions, and so much more. I am thrilled to celebrate and honor my friend by naming our primary public gathering space in her honor—a worthy tribute to Ann’s legacy.”