Rose Library offers a treasure trove
To shape the future, you must first understand the past.
In Emory's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, professors and students alike gain access to historical documents and other primary sources dating from 1475 to recent decades, offering unique opportunities for hands-on research.
In 2016, its first full year in its renovated home atop Woodruff Library, the Rose Library opened or acquired important collections related to literature, civil rights, and American culture, adding to its treasure trove of more than 150,000 print titles and nearly 1,350 collections measuring more than 15,000 linear feet of material (that’s nearly three miles worth of boxes).
There was little doubt that the gleaming glass halls of Emory's archival library would lure professional researchers and academics. But the Rose Library has also proven to be an important resource for undergraduates to sharpen their intellect by tapping into history.
Each year, more than 300 Emory College students spend time researching information and discovering stories in the library's collections. Only visiting scholars, about 500 per year, outnumber the undergraduates who work in this unique resource.
A growing number of professors have embraced the enhanced space by crafting course work using more of the library's holdings. The classes provide students with the opportunity to draw upon primary materials in five key areas — literary collections, modern poetry, African American history and culture, Southern historical and political materials, and the Emory University archives — to develop more sophisticated information literacy and research skills.
"The Rose Library is another way for Emory to emphasize how important it is for undergraduates to do primary-source research here," says Rosemary Magee, Rose Library director. "It's long been a guiding principle that our materials are open and accessible to everyone."
The letters of
a literary icon
Hundreds of students conduct research in the Rose Library each year.
In February 2016, more than 40 years of Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney's rich correspondence opened to the public in the Rose Library.
With the blessing of the Heaney family, hundreds of letters from the late author, dating from 1963 to the early 2000s, collected by the Rose Library through the years, are now fully available to researchers and visitors.
"Heaney's papers at the Rose Library, totaling more than 50 linear feet, represent the largest research holdings of Heaney material in the world. The collection provides an intimate look at Heaney's work and life, as well as insight into several generations of Irish, British, and American writers he corresponded with over four decades," says Magee.
Heaney's correspondence is complemented by a near-complete holding of his publications, numbering nearly 500 items. Items range from his earliest pamphlets to his poem "Awake," a broadside printed by Emory's Raymond Danowski Poetry Reading Series and one of his last publications before his death in 2013. Also included is a collection of handwritten essays and poems, as well as audiovisual materials.
"Heaney's placement of his papers at Emory, starting with his gift of the manuscript of his 1988 Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature, helped cement Emory's place as a center for Irish literature, especially poetry," says Ronald Schuchard, Goodrich C. White Professor of English Emeritus and founder of the Ellmann Lectures.
Since then, the Rose Library's collections have expanded from its wide-ranging W. B. Yeats holdings to a comprehensive collection of the Belfast Group of writers. The collection includes the archives of Belfast writers Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, and Pulitzer Prize–winner Paul Muldoon. Also included are Irish writers Edna O'Brien, Thomas Kinsella, poet-publisher Peter Fallon, Rita Ann Higgins, and Eamon Grennan, who coined the phrase for the collection, an "Irish Village at Emory."
Early days of an epidemic
Beginning in 1987, Atlanta-based photographer Billy Howard shot people with HIV/AIDS and asked them to write a note on the prints about living with disease. In July 2016, a collection of work from his Epitaphs for the Living: Words and Images in the Time of AIDS project opened to researchers in the Rose Library.
“This collection adds significantly to the wide range of stories told by the Rose Library as we seek to document the vicissitudes of human experience, through all of its depth, struggles, and artistry,” Magee notes.
The collection contains photographs with the handwritten messages, correspondence, negatives, printed material, subject files, and audiovisual material related to the Epitaphs project. Also included are two exhibition guest books containing viewers’ written reactions to seeing the photographs.
“I was bowled over the first time I saw Billy’s photographs. They were so powerful,” says Randy Gue, curator of the Rose Library’s modern political and historical collections. “The combination of words and images put a face and story to an epidemic that is often described with statistics.”
Howard was the director of photographic services at Emory University during the time he worked on the project, and he says the support and encouragement he received, from then-Emory President James Laney to his direct supervisor and coworkers, was invaluable to the completion of the work.
"When I heard that Randy Gue was gathering materials to document Atlanta’s response to AIDS in the early years of the pandemic, I felt it was the perfect place. It’s like they are going home," says Howard.
Gue says Howard’s collection represents an important addition to the Rose Library’s materials that document the HIV/AIDS crisis in Atlanta and the South. These collections include the personal papers of Jesse R. Peel, David A. Lowe, and Rebecca Ranson; and the records of AID Atlanta; the Atlanta Gay Men’s Chorus; Positive Impact; and the Southeastern Arts, Media, and Education Project (SAME).
“There were few treatment options in the early days of the epidemic; AIDS was a death sentence,” Gue says. “Billy started working on this project in 1987, and by the time the book was published in 1989, 18 of the people he photographed had died. The photographs and notes provide a valuable perspective on the history and evolution of an epidemic that is still with us today.”
for civil rights
Gene Patterson (right) talks with Ralph McGill at the Atlanta Constitution in 1960, the year Patterson succeeded McGill as editor. Image from the Gene Patterson papers, Rose Library at Emory University.
In November, the Rose Library acquired the papers of the late Eugene Patterson, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, editor of the Atlanta Constitution and the Washington Post, and a significant voice for civil rights in the 1960s.
Patterson’s papers include correspondence, photographs, subject files, and six large scrapbooks filled with his daily columns. As editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Patterson received widespread national attention for his column “A Flower for the Graves,” about the Birmingham church bombing that killed four young girls on September 15, 1963. The column, published the next day, was so moving that Patterson was invited to read it aloud that night on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite.
The year 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the year Patterson was writing the columns that won him the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for editorial columns.
“This collection covers so many rich moments in history,” says Hank Klibanoff, professor of practice in Emory’s English and Creative Writing program, who teaches a course on Georgia civil rights cold cases.
Magee says the library is honored to house Patterson's work. "Mr. Patterson’s life, his work, and his legacy connect to so many of our collections in the search for deeper understanding of a historical moment, providing insight into our own time," she says. "Students and scholars alike will find his journey one of truth and inspiration.”