University of Nebraska to Debut New Digital Archive of Willa Cather Letters

Willa CatherThe University of Nebraska has announced that an archive of more than 400 letters authored by Willa Cather will soon be available in digital form. The letters will be added to the existing Willa Cather Archive that contains a wide range of information on the journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author. There are now 3,074 letters known to be authored by Cather. The letters are held in more than 90 repositories around the world, and scholars historically have had to travel to access them. The largest collection is housed in the Archives and Special Collections at Love Library on the campus of the University of Nebraska.

Cather grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1895. She became world famous for her novels that, among other things, depict the rough but rich experiences of the pioneers of the American West.

Cather dictated in her will that her letters never be published. This ban was lifted when ownership of her estate was transferred after the 2011 death of her nephew.

Andrew Jewell, professor of University Libraries and co-director of the project to publish all of Cather’s letters online, stated that “there’s a wealth of knowledge in the letters about her life and her writing process and the characters in life that informed her books.”

The university hopes to have 1,500 letters available in the archive by the end of the year. Jewell has applied for additional grant funding that will allow them to publish the next group of 1,500-plus letters, but he expects the project will never be finished. “The team keeps finding new letters in various places around the world,” he said. “This project is something I expect to always be working on.”

Filed Under: Women's Studies


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