Amazing Archives

38. Amazing Archives

Ride the elevator to the 10th floor of Woodruff Library, and you’ll step off into a vast treasure trove of archival riches. Emory’s Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) holdings span six centuries, most of the globe, and virtually every academic interest and discipline. Particular strengths, though, lie in African American history and culture, the history of Atlanta and the South, and Irish literature and poetry.

36. Rushdie Relations

Curators in the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library found themselves at the edge of a new frontier when Emory acquired the archives—not only paper, but digital, including cast-off computers—of Indian-born author Salman Rushdie. Soon after, the author accepted an appointment as Distinguished Writer in Residence for five years and recently took a more permanent position as University Distinguished Professor. Since 2006, Rushdie has spent time each year on campus lecturing, teaching, and writing. The Booker Prize–winner is perhaps best known for his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, which brought Rushdie both critical acclaim and an Iranian fatwa that sent him into hiding for a decade. He completed large portions of his latest novels, The Enchantress of Florence and Luka and the Fire of Life, at Emory, and mingled with guests at the opening gala of the 2010 exhibition A World Mapped by Stories: The Salman Rushdie Archive. Rushdie’s hybrid archive—which includes a Mac desktop, three Mac laptops, and an external hard drive—signifies two literary trends of our times, says Vice Provost and Library Director Rick Luce: “The globalization of arts and letters, and the digital world in which contemporary writers and artists, such as Mr. Rushdie, are now composing their masterpieces.”

37. Pure Poetry

A first edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, printed by Whitman and published on July 4, 1855, only hints at the breadth and depth of MARBL’s Raymond Danowski Poetry Library. With 75,000 volumes of rare editions of modern poetry—as well as a wealth of other materials—the collection is thought to have been the largest privately held poetry library until its arrival at Emory in 2004.

39. The Complete Works

MARBL’s archive of British Poet Laureate Ted Hughes spans his entire life and career, including his seven-year marriage to American poet Sylvia Plath.

40. African American Arts

Rough drafts of the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Color Purple may offer scholars a glimpse into the prolific mind of Alice Walker, whose papers were acquired by MARBL in 2007. The collection includes letters, unpublished writings, and a scrapbook made by Walker when she was 15. “The papers give you a sense of the process for creating fiction, and for creating poetry,” says Rudolph Byrd, Emory professor and friend of Walker, as well as founding director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute. “Everything that she’s ever written, she has a record of. It’s very exciting.” Walker’s papers join those of Johnson, an accomplished lawyer, writer, and composer; Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes; the sweeping collection of African American research materials donated by Camille Billops and James Hatch; and the library of African American historian Carter Woodson, among many other prominent African American figures.

41. Chronicling Civil Rights

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), founded in 1957 by civil rights leaders including its first president, Martin Luther King Jr., is one of the most powerful and influential organizations of the African American civil rights movement. The records of the SCLC—more than 1,000 boxes of correspondence, newsletters, posters, transcripts, minutes, and even audio and video recordings—were acquired by MARBL in 2007. They are expected to be open to scholars next year.

42. Literary Letters

Between 1955 and 1964, Southern writer Flannery O’Connor wrote frequently to her friend Betty Hester, a file clerk living in Atlanta. More than 250 of those letters—colorful expressions of O’Connor’s thoughts and ideas—are available in MARBL’s Southern literary collections, which also include the papers of James Dickey of Deliverance fame.

44. Dead Calm

A death mask of James Joyce is on display in Emory’s main Woodruff library—a rare, numbered bronze cast from Paul Speck’s original plaster and purchased as a gift to Joyce scholar William Chace upon the end of his tenure as Emory’s president. The mask was cast when Joyce died on January 13, 1941, after emergency surgery for a perforated duodenal ulcer.

43. Soul of the Poet

Irish poet Seamus Heaney once called Emory “a home away from home,” and no wonder—he first visited the campus in 1981, delivered the inaugural Ellmann Lectures in 1988, and gave the Commencement speech in 2003. Later that year, the Nobel Prize–winning poet placed his archive here, partly as a tribute to his longstanding friendship with former President William Chace. His poem “Comet at Lullwater” recalls a night he spent with the Chaces in 1997. Heaney’s papers are part of MARBL’s extensive collections in Irish literature.

45. Got That Swing

A golf club used by the legend himself is part of MARBL’s quirky Bobby Jones Collection. The Grand Slam winner attended law school at Emory, but passed the bar before he finished.

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Our next category of note: Where the Art Is.

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