Katherine Anne Porter correspondence now available online
Posted: Feb 04, 2019
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The correspondence of writer Katherine Anne Porter forms the basis of a new online resource that not only provides access to nearly 4,000 of the author’s personal letters but also offers context about her colorful life.
A 20th-century American author best known for her short stories and novel Ship of Fools, Porter won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1966. Her papers, manuscripts and personal library housed at the University of Maryland form the largest such literary collection in the country.
Porter’s correspondence is now available to researchers around the world thanks to ongoing efforts of the University of Maryland Libraries to digitize and make unique or rare collections widely accessible online. Librarians have digitized more than 1.2 million images and text pages and 7,400 audiovisual hours in the last six years.
The Porter archives are particularly valuable because of the author’s celebrated position in American literature. “Her letters reveal her thoughts on writing, travel, politics, and world events,” says Amber Kohl, curator of literature and rare book collections for the University Libraries.
“Porter lived and traveled around the world, writing candidly to her family and close circle of artistic and literary friends,” Kohl says. “ The goal of the website is to provide access to the letters as well as this rich contextual background so we can place her life and work in a broader historical framework”
As the website outlines, Porter was born in Texas and traveled extensively across the United States and abroad. She lived in New York City throughout the 1920s, in Mexico during the retrenchment after the Revolution ended in 1920, in Germany during the rise of the Nazi Party in the early 1930s, and in Paris during the mid-1930s. Porter lived in Washington, D.C., during World War II and throughout the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations. Her friends and acquaintances included fellow writers, artists, publishers, authors, cultural figures, and politicians.
Porter also lived for a time in College Park, Md., during the 1970s, in part to be near her archive and other personal effects which she donated to the University of Maryland between 1966 and 1969. She was awarded an honorary degree by the university in 1966.
Hornbake Library, home to the university’s Special Collections and University Archives, features a room dedicated to Porter’s life. The Katherine Anne Porter Room, established by the university in appreciation of Porter’s gift, houses over 3,000 volumes from Porter’s personal library, including first editions of all of her works and copies inscribed by friends and fellow writers. Many of the volumes are annotated with notes and commentary by Porter herself. The room also displays furnishings from Porter’s home, personal photographs, and other items selected for display by the author herself.
The online resource Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977 remains a work in progress, and future upgrades—including the incorporation of thousands of additional digitized letters from the archive and the ability to search the correspondence text for keywords—will be introduced in the coming year.
A grant from the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Trust provided funds for the project, led by the Special Collections and University Archives and Digital Systems Stewardship units of the University Libraries.