The brightly coloured quilt Alice Walker made at her mother’s suggestion while she was writing The Color Purple, and the original handwritten manuscript of her Pulitzer prize-winning novel, have been put on display at a university in Georgia.
Spanning a period of 65 years and featuring 200 items, the first public exhibition of the archives of the Georgia-born Walker also includes the scrapbook she began to keep aged 14, photographs, letters, memorabilia and drafts of her early writings. A note written by Walker on a pad of paper reads: “People are known by the records they keep. If it isn’t in the records it will be said it didn’t happen. That is what history is: a keeping of records.”
“I knew that though I might never live in Georgia again, my first 17 years growing up Georgian made a powerful imprint on my spirit and that it was the beauty of the rural community into which I was born that accounts for much of my passion, optimism and faith in the goodness of others. Emory struck me, on visiting it, to have light, a compassionate and thoughtful light, that made even the buildings seem softer and more inviting than those I encountered in other places.”
(via Archive exhibition shows ‘history’ of The Color Purple | Books | guardian.co.uk)
If we see the archive as a convergence of space, place and practice, Taylor begins, it becomes clear how the web problematizes the notion of an archive.
… a physical, authorized place with a known (or at least knowable) set of institutional practices (i.e., “we will deposit this cultural object because it has some historical value”),
… the known “thingness” of, for instance, the book deposited in a university library. …
anyone who has spent even a small amount of time in rare book rooms has no doubt come across many, many examples of printer’s errors, pages out of order, upside-down illustrations and misplaced text, not to mention marginalia, owner’s signatures, underlining, dirty thumbmarks — all deposits that make any individual book a unique (not homogenous, not infinitely reproducible) bit of cultural production, situated historically. Bindings alone, done book-by-book for a large chunk of the history of print, can tell much about a text and its owner(s).
(Whitney Trettien, Diana Taylor, “The Digital as Anti-Archive”?: A Response | HASTAC)
Primary source as Beloved; researcher seeking to touch what colonizers touched and made: an image of her when they admitted they knew her. Human oils in paper dust. Archive and archivist as third body.