HCC receives 10,000 books from late art historian David Brauer

Dec 4, 2020

Houston Community College (HCC) is now home to the David E. Brauer collection of art and art history books. The well-known historian, lecturer and collector of British Pop Art, made the decision to bequeath his collection of approximately 10,000 books to HCC before his death last fall.

Erica Hubbard, director of Library Services for HCC Central, assisted in the arrangements for the HCC gift and has spearheaded the project since Brauer asked her last summer if HCC would be interested in receiving the books.

She explained why Brauer selected HCC as the recipient for his generous donation, even though he taught for decades at the University of Houston (UH), Rice University and the Women’s Institute of Houston, but never HCC. Born in Dundee, Scotland, and raised in London, his family had little means, so he “sought refuge in libraries,” says Hubbard, where he developed a passion for books and the arts.

“He grew up poor, so he said he did not want the books to go a library that had a ‘billion-dollar endowment,’” says Hubbard. “He also knew fellow students who did not have access to or a connection with such rare books, so he wanted others to have his.”

When Hubbard met with Brauer to discuss the gift, she told him that, while she appreciated his generosity and his candor about his background, she wasn’t sure she wanted the entire collection because it was not all about art and art history.

“He said, ‘It’s all or none,’” she smiles. So, Hubbard’s team planned to receive the books over a period of years, but they did not know he was ill. When Brauer died in September, his estate notified them that the home was being sold, and the collection had to be removed, in its entirety, in just three days.

Fortunately, Jill Sanders Assir, director of development for the HCC Foundation, stepped in to help. She offered the Foundation’s assistance with the pack and move of about 10,000 books. Hubbard calls the Foundation a “godsend.”

The collection, which has now been appraised at $175,000, is being categorized and shelved at HCC Central Library. As HCC’s largest library, it is the only one that can house such a remarkable accumulation of actual books since the college, like the world, is going digital.

“We are in the trenches, going through 234 boxes, so it will be a multi-year project,” says Hubbard, adding that it is worth it. Once HCC Libraries has completed the categorization, it will host an open house. In fact, she hopes that this gift to HCC Libraries will inspire students to enroll in art classes because it is so vast.

“Mr. Brauer has real jewels in Pop, Modern and European art books, but we will be keeping those in our Special Collections section, so they won’t leave the library,” she says.

Brauer worked at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford and taught at North Oxfordshire College of Art and Technology before coming to the United States in the 1970s. Besides art, he was also a space enthusiast and traveled here to witness a space launch in Florida and visit NASA’s Johnson Space Center Houston, deciding then to make Houston his home.

Here, Brauer was appointed the head of the History of Art Department of the Glassell School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, while also teaching at local universities. During that 40-year period, he curated and co-curated several exhibitions, including at the Menil Collection and, just this year, he presented his own work at the Mobile Museum of Art.

“We want our students and staff to be aware of this amazing gift, and that we now have access to these books,” says Assir. “We also want to honor the legacy of David Brauer and thank his friends and family.”

For more information on HCC Libraries, visit library.hccs.edu.

Spring Registration has begun for HCC’s Art program. Contact the Visual and Performing Arts Center of Excellence to discuss programs for those seeking a career in the arts. To learn more, email Katherine.fields@hccs.edu or enroll today at hccs.edu/apply.

For information on the HCC Foundation, visit hccfoundation.org

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