The center was founded by UT faculty members Terry and Jan Todd who began collecting materials about physical culture and sports well before their arrival at The University of Texas in 1983. Their collection, known as the Todd-McLean Collection, while housed at UT for many years, was open to researchers only on a limited basis because of their lack of space and staff support. A desire to see this major research collection housed in more suitable quarters, and to utilize the resources of the collection for museum exhibits about the history and benefits of exercise and sports, resulted in a search for funding to build a world-class facility dedicated to scholarship in the fields of physical culture and sports. Major gifts from the Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, and Joe and Betty Weider, have covered the costs of the Stark Center construction and allowed us to open the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center. Additional funding is currently being sought to further the Center’s joint mission of preservation and education.
For many decades, traditional libraries purchased very few journals and books published in the field of physical culture and alternative health care. Furthermore, few private individuals involved in these fields deposited their books, personal papers, and photography collections in public libraries. By establishing their collection at The University of Texas in 1983, Terry and Jan Todd hoped to: 1) create a permanent home at a major research institution for these culturally significant documents and, 2) find the means to make these documents available for research. The opening of the Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports is the fulfillment of their long-held dream. Further, by establishing—with the support of Professor Roy McLean—the Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection, they hoped to encourage academic scholarship in such fields as the history of physical fitness, weightlifting, bodybuilding, naturopathy, athletic training, and alternative medicine.
Over the past twenty-five years, the Todd-McLean Collection has been used in just this way. Scholars from the United States as well as such countries as Canada, Italy, Bulgaria, Iceland, Germany, Scotland, Australia, England, and Norway have used the Collection for a wide variety of books and other academic projects. In recent years, for example, the Collection has served as a major research site for such books as: Dr. Carolyn de la Pena’s The Body Electric: How Strange Machines Built the Modern American [New York University Press, 2003]; Dr. James Whorton’s Inner Hygiene: Constipation and the Pursuit of Health in Modern Society [Oxford University Press, 2000]; Dr. John Fair’s Muscletown USA, a biography of Bob Hoffman and the York Barbell Company [Penn State Press, 1998]; Dr. Jan Todd ‘s Physical Culture and the Body Beautiful: Women’s Exercise in the Nineteenth Century [Mercer University Press, 1998]; Dr. James Whorton’s most recent book, Nature Cures, The History of Alternative Medicine in America [Oxford University Press, 2002]; Maria Lowe’s Women of Steel: Female Bodybuilders and the Struggle for Self-Definition [New York: New York University Press, 1998]; and Charles Kupfer’s We Felt the Flames: Hitler’s Blitzkrieg, America’s Story [Sergeant’s Kirkland Press, 2003]. In addition, Kim Beckwith’s dissertation, “Building Strength: Alan Calvert, the Milo Bar-bell Company, and the Modernization of American Weight Training” and Nick Bourne’s dissertation, “Fast Science: A History of Training Theory and Methods for Elite Runners Through 1975” were both largely based on resources found in the Todd-McLean Physical Culture Collection.