Combining insights from literature, librarianship, and business, my forthcoming book Archival Bodies: The American Market for Literary Collections since 1944 tracks the rise of the multi-million dollar market for writers' papers through a mix of qualitative and quantiative methods. This snippet comes from chapter one:
Writers’ cultural capital, generated by public and scholarly interest, allows their papers to be more frequently sold than donated. While prices are not often shared publicly, they may range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars. The cost of these papers radically reshapes what institutions may compete on the literary collections marketplace, favoring American universities with high endowments. The relative monopoly universities enjoy does not mean that these schools, or their competitors, feel satisfied with the market’s current dynamics. Rather, archivists at institutions who can participate in the trade in literary manuscripts are joining their voices with those who work for institutions that cannot acquire these collections to take issue with the consequences of high prices. Many archivists and librarians feel that literary collections should be sold at all. This criticism cannot undo the market’s financial power, but it comes at the same time the amount of digital content in literary collections is challenging how papers are appraised.
My two most recent publications are: "'Possessing an Inner History': Curators, Donors, and Affective Stewardship," for Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals" and "Mentoring a Peer: A Feminist Ethic for Directing Undergraduate Humanities Research," Undergraduate Research and the Academic Librarian: Case Studies and Best Practices, to be published through the Association of College and Research Libraries in Fall 2017. The following is a selection from "Possessing an Inner History":
Acquisition histories reveal how relationships between repository curators and collection donors shape an institution’s holdings as well as the direction of future scholarship. However, researchers often overlook the significance of acquisition histories as cultural heritage organizations do not make this information readily available, for accession information either is considered private or is not presumed to be valuable. Therefore, tracing acquisition histories requires analyzing evidence across critical, artistic, and institutional records to see how curators recruit donors and then support the processing and promotion of their collections. The case study of curator Kevin Young and Lucille Clifton provides an example of the merit of acquisition histories. Clifton placed her literary collection at Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Book Library (Rose Library) rather than Duke’s David R. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Rubenstein Library) in 2006. Young currently is the curator for literary collections at Rose Library. While Clifton briefly taught at Duke and had no previous institutional connection to Emory, she chose Rose Library because she knew Young personally and trusted him, as they both belonged to the same community of African-American poets. I argue that Young advocated for Clifton’s papers out of respect for her legacy. The empathetic attention paid in her poetry to overlooked histories expanded the reach of the Black Arts Movement, and heavily influenced Young and his post-soul peers. Her mentorship, seen through her membership in Cave Canem-an organization dedicated to supporting African-American writers-and her selections as a poetry judge, reinforced her connection to these succeeding generations. This “inner history" between curator and writer, mentor and protégé, demonstrates the value of affective stewardship, or when a curator’s emotional connection to a writer generates a level of collection advocacy surpassing standard promotional practices.
I also serve as a Contributing Editor at Archive Journal, an interdisciplinary journal on the use and theory of archives and special collections in higher education. There, I recruit and edit pieces for the Notes and Queries section and maintain the Twitter account.