Updated Post November 11, 2020: University Of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS) is Seeking a Candidate For the Position of the August Wilson Project Archivist
Updated Post November 10, 2020 How Pitt’s Library Acquired the August Wilson Archive and What it Means For Pittsburgh (Interview with University Librarian Kornelia Tancheva, Hillman University Librarian (via Next Pittsburgh)
From the University of Pittsburgh:
The University Library System (ULS) at the University of Pittsburgh has acquired the archive of the late playwright and Pittsburgh native son August Wilson, best known for his unprecedented American Century Cycle—10 plays that convey the Black experience in each decade of the 20th century. All 10 of the plays have had Broadway productions and two earned Wilson the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Wilson, a master storyteller, honed his craft by walking the streets of his Hill District neighborhood as a young man, observing and immersing himself in Black street life, listening to old-timers talk about their daily lives. It inspired what would become his plays’ vibrant characters and lyrical language.
The ULS has acquired the August Wilson Archive through the help of Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero, executor of the playwright’s estate.
“This acquisition is about more than bringing August Wilson back home to Pittsburgh,” said Pitt Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “This archive deftly puts the experiences of Black Americans beneath an intimate magnifying glass and unpacks themes of injustice and inequity that are just as relevant today as when Wilson’s first play debuted. The University of Pittsburgh is proud to do our part in keeping August Wilson’s brilliance—for those in Pittsburgh and far beyond—alive, and we are deeply grateful to Constanza for entrusting us with this task.”
The August Wilson Archive will reside in a state-of-the-art home in Hillman Library’s renovated Archives & Special Collections. It contains significant physical and digital exhibition space, an expansive reading room and a large classroom, allowing for hands-on interaction with these and other materials.
Processing of the collection—more than 450 boxes of materials—will commence in early 2021.
The items document a wide array of Wilson’s career and interests from the 1960s to 2010s. Included are scripts and production materials of his American Century Cycle plays, Wilson’s personal library and music collection, artwork, poetry, unpublished work including non-Cycle plays, speeches, essays and interviews. Materials range from audio recordings, awards and degrees, books, correspondence, newspapers and magazines to notebooks, writing tablets, photographs, posters, production designs, props, scripts and video recordings.
- Hundreds of writing tablets and notebooks which contain drafts of dialogue from all of Wilson’s plays along with poetry, artwork and other writing;
- Draft scripts of all the American Century Cycle plays and also unpublished material, including a Malcolm X play;
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh diploma, given to Wilson in 1989 for using the Carnegie Libraries to educate himself after dropping out of high school;
- A number of objects, including the guitar and guitar case used in a production of “Seven Guitars” and a plaque congratulating Wilson on the success of “Fences”—given to Wilson by his brothers and sisters;
- Awards and degrees, including his Pulitzer Prize certificates; and
Correspondence with friends and collaborators including director Lloyd Richards and Claude Purdy, a close friend and colleague who was crucial to Wilson’s later success.
The ULS intends to make the August Wilson Archive available for research, programming and engagement to local, national and international audiences. It plans deep and productive collaboration with faculty at Pitt, sharing the collection materials through compelling displays and working with Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers, one of which is located in the Hill District, to develop community-based programming.