This article appeared in the 2022 Spring edition of Acumen, Lehigh University's College of Arts & Sciences Magazine. Click on the link below to acess the oriinal article (p.3/4)
Gloria Naylor was one of America’s most highly acclaimed contemporary authors whose work addressed social issues including poverty, racism, sexism and homophobia. She left an extensive archive of her personal papers to Sacred Heart University, and a team of Lehigh researchers are leading a collaborative effort to make her collected papers more available to scholars and the general public. Funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Gloria Naylor Archive is making the papers ssociated with her life and works widely accessible. It is both a physical space, where visitors can view Naylor’s papers in person, and an online resource with select archival materials. The initial part of the project assessed 47 linear feet of material. “These papers really document a writer at work,” says project co-director Suzanne Edwards, associate professor of English.
“Naylor kept extensive correspondence contemporary writers, scholars and activists, drafts of her novels and nonfiction essays, research materials, information about her film production company and unpublished works.”
“The archives are a treasure trove of literary history, especially Black women’s literary history in the late 20th century and into the 21st century,” adds co-director Mary Foltz, associate professor of English. “Sacred Heart University had done a fantastic job preserving the material and yet could really use collaborative support to make the archive accessible through digitization, through the creation of a finding aid, which Suzanne developed in the first year. “In addition, our team has worked on digitization of key materials related to her first four novels and creating a webpage to highlight these materials. In this way, we hope to attract greater scholarly research in the archives and support public access to Naylor’s papers,” Foltz says. To date, approximately one-third of the documents have been digitized. The NEH support allows the team to expand its efforts, focusing on academic and public-facing writing. Archives of Black women writers have historically been less accessible and sequestered for a variety of reasons, Edwards notes.
“Long term, we hope that the project offers a collaborative, multi-institution model for access-oriented work with other Black women writers’ papers,” she says. With the NEH funding, Edwards and Foltz will work with Professor Maxine Lavon Montgomery of Florida State University to produce an edited volume of essays engaged with the archive. “To my knowledge, this is the first time that a group of scholars will be deeply engaging with the archives in an edited collection,” Foltz says