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0 0 k The archivist as treasure seeker: Bill Wittliff photographed by Keith Carter 1r he Southwestern Writers Collection is located on the top floor of the Alkek Library on the Texas State University campus in San Marcos. White walls, wooden doors, Saltillo tile floors and Indian rugs give its exhibit halls and conference rooms the feel of an adobe church. The collection’s archive houses the papers and artifacts of regional writers, filmmakers, musicians, and photographers. Robert Duvall’s Lonesome Dove costumes and Willie Nelson song lyrics jotted on restaurant napkins are among the treasures in its temperaturecontrolled vault, as are the collection’s newest gems: Cormac McCarthy’s manuscripts and working papers. At the entrance stands political cartoonist Pat Oliphant’s larger-than-life, full-body bronze sculpture of Glen Rose writer John Graves. The piece was commissioned by collection co-founders Bill and Sally Wittliff, and Bill took the photo on which the sculpture is based. “The collection was set up so writers could be seen as human beings, not as stick figures:’ Wittliff says. “J. Frank Dobie’s collection is what essentially started it. We’ve got his pipes, his Stetson, his funny shoes. We’ve got his white suit. We’ve got his typewriter. We’ve got his fountain pen that he used to write the morning he died. But all of those things, I think, add up to an image of the full guy:’ Wittliff’s Austin office is a microcosm of the Texas State collection itself. One of John Graves’ paddles from his Goodbye to a River canoe trip hangs on the wall. Crammed bookshelves jostle with soonto-be-hung paintings for floor space. Wittliff’s black standard poodle and his assistant Amanda’s labrador navigate piles of photographs, manuscripts, and letters. “There’s all kinds of stuff’ Wittliff says, rummaging in a corner. “My mother said I was a ‘pilot.’ I’d pile it here and then I’d pile it over ther’ Abandoning a search for some hidden treasure, Wittliff sits behind his desk and smiles. With his gray hair, beard, and The Serendipity Wrangler Bill Wittliff and the Southwestern Writers Collection By STAYTON BONNER 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 18, 2008