Don't Weaken

A blog by Director Terry Todd

Physical Culture

By Terry Todd
September 23, 2009

Twenty years ago, when we began publishing our journal, Iron Game History, we affixed a subtitle: “the Journal of Physical Culture.”  We did this because “Physical Culture” is an older and somewhat broader term than is “Physical Fitness,” although the latter is now much more widely used.  Sometimes people speak or write about “total fitness” or of becoming “totally fit,” which, when you think about it, is impossible.  In fact, it could be argued that the only time a person is totally fit is when that person is dead—at which point he/she is totally fit to be buried, cremated, or used for research.  Conversely, the term “Physical Culture” can’t be (mis)used in this way.  In other words, it would make no sense to refer to “total culture” or to talk about a person becoming “totally cultured.”

In any case, since “Physical Culture” was the term commonly used a hundred years ago we thought we’d try to do our part to revive it to its former glory. Hence, “Iron Game History: the Journal of Physical Culture.” I’m happy to report that even a casual reader of major newspapers and/or pop culture magazines would have noticed that the term “physical culture” is showing up more and more often.  In fact, not too long after Gina Kolata, a longtime writer at the New York Times, spent a number of days talking to us and doing research for her future book at the Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection —the precursor of The Stark Center—Jan and I saw to our great pleasure that the “paper of record” had initiated a weekly column entitled, “Physical Culture.”


Filled with Power

By Terry Todd
September 21, 2009

My first message dealt with one aspect of the practical side of the Stark Center—the two miles of compacting shelves that are now being installed in our Archives area.  Today I’d like to touch on the aesthetic side of the Center—the side that speaks to beauty.  As most of you probably know, considerations of beauty, broadly defined, have been a part of physical culture for millennia, and as we’ve worked with the people who are helping with the design of our space we’ve done our best to make the Center beautiful as well as practically useful.

For this reason, I began a quiet campaign on the campus some years ago to convince the caretakers the Battle Casts to allow us to display some of them as part of our collection of physical culture material.  A brief history.  Beginning in the early years of the 20th century, the Battle Casts—exact copies made of plaster of famous ancient statuary–were assembled over time at the University of Texas by William Battle.  Dr. Battle was a professor in the Department of Classical Languages here before going on to become the department’s chairman, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and finally President of the University.  For many years the Battle Casts were the property of the Classics Department, but they were later owned and displayed by the Humanities Research Center here on the campus.  For the last several years, however, they’ve been under the care of UT’s Blanton Museum of Art, and some are on display there.

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