A room full of boxes. What could be exciting about that? Well, these boxes, almost sixty of them in Williams Hall, are exciting. Within these boxes are the collected papers of Gloria Naylor, known for her National Book Award-winning novel The Women of Brewster Place, later made into a mini-series by Oprah Winfrey. Naylor wrote about black women's lives at a time where depictions of topics like rape and homosexuality were shocking.
On loan to Lehigh from Sacred Heart University for digitization, the collection is the focus of a two-year $100,000 Accelerator Grant awarded from Lehigh’s Office of the Vice President and Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies.
The archive includes manuscripts, correspondence, research notes, photographs, and other ephemera, documenting the course of Naylor’s multifaceted career. Beyond her debut novel, Naylor's work includes essays, screenplays, and a stage adaptation, all of which chronicled the experience of black American women.
Although formal description, arrangement, and digitization of Naylor’s archive are two of the primary goals of the grant, Principal Investigators Suzanne Edwards and Mary Foltz of the English department expect a rich array of project possibilities to emerge from the digitization of and interaction with the archive’s materials. The interdisciplinary research team spans across the university and includes staff, faculty, and graduate students from English, History, Theatre, and the Lehigh University Art Galleries.
Four members of Library and Technology Services also serve as co-PIs on the grant: Lois Black, Curator of Special Collections; Julia Maserjian, manager of the Digital Scholarship team; Heather Simoneau, Humanities Librarian; and Jasmine Woodson, Education and Learning Design Librarian. This group of LTS staff members will provide their archival expertise, knowledge of content management platforms, and interest and enthusiasm in a wide variety of potential projects ranging from the development of open educational curricular content to the use of hypertext and digital storytelling as a mode of analysis and adaptation of Naylor’s work.
The archive project’s timeline currently includes a Fall Humanities Center seminar, as well as a symposium in Spring 2021.