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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goodbye Alice

Since December 2007, Emory has been home to Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker’s archives, and since April of this year much of it has been beautifully displayed in the Schatten Gallery of Woodruff Library.

The exhibition, A Keeping of the Records: the Art and Life of Alice Walker, contains 200 items, including manuscripts, letters, notebooks, photographs, and memorabilia. Saturday, September 26, I had the privilege of attending the Alice Walker presentation and guided tour as a part of Emory Homecoming Weekend.

I arrived a few minutes early, met the presenters and hosts, and soon learned that the Walker exhibit was actually coming down the next day, after having been on display for five months. I had not yet visited this exhibit, and felt very lucky to have this last opportunity to see it. The guided tour by exhibit curator Rudolph Byrd, Goodrich C. White Professor of English and founding director of the James Weldon Johnson Institute, Elizabeth Russey, manuscript archivist, Julie Delliquanti, associate curator, and Ginger Cain 77C 82G, director, library public programs, was a tremendous bonus.

Before entering the exhibition, Dr. Byrd gave the group some fascinating background on Walker, how her archives came to arrive at Emory, and what it has meant to the University. Russey told us about her experiences with Walker, packing up her archives and bringing them to Emory, as well as the process of organizing and preserving the materials. Delliquanti, director of the exhibit in the Schatten Gallery, provided some insight into the framework and creation of the exhibit.

After hearing the presentations, we made our way into the gallery. Our presenters explained the overall concept and took us around to some of the key displays. I learned so much, not only about Walker’s life, but things about art that I didn’t know before. Palimpsest (an image seen here) was one of the organizing principles for the exhibition and was beautifully done throughout the gallery to portray Walker’s work and life.

It wasn't easy to soak all of it in at once, especially in one afternoon, but even though the exhibit is coming down, guests are encouraged to visit the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library (MARBL) at Woodruff Library to see some of the archives. I highly recommend it, and here are some tips before you go.

-- Lindsay Topping, assistant director, Emory Annual Fund

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