The much-anticipated exhibition, “Sites of Memory: The Archival World of Toni Morrison,” is scheduled to open in Spring 2023, in Firestone Library’s Milberg Gallery. Conceived by Autumn Womack, Assistant Professor of African American Studies and English, the exhibition is a multi-faceted, immersive journey into the archives of Toni Morrison. Drawing upon drafts and outlines of published and unpublished writing, speeches, essays, and correspondence, the exhibition reveals previously unknown aspects of Toni Morrison’s creative life and practice.
As visitors move through the exhibition, they will encounter the complexity of Morrison’s intellectual worlds and the very way that she transcends the categories of artist, writer, teacher, or editor. “Rather than offer either a sweeping overview of her career or an in-depth look at her best-known works,” Womack described, “this exhibit follows the route mapped by the collection itself as it illuminates previously unknown aspects of Morrison’s life and practice, and reveals new ways of understanding seemingly familiar texts and events.”
Housed at Princeton University Library, the Papers of Toni Morrison include more than 50 linear feet of the Nobel laureate author’s manuscripts, drafts, and proofs for the novels “The Bluest Eye” (1970), “Sula” (1973), “Tar Baby” (1981), “Beloved” (1987), “Jazz” (1992), “Paradise” (1997), “Love” (2003), “A Mercy” (2008), “Home” (2012), and “God Help the Child” (2015). The papers also include drafts of plays and poems, speeches, editorial work, correspondence, photography, and research material.
“Rather than understanding this archive as fixed in time or institutionally bound,” Womack explained, “the exhibition, like Morrison, understands the archive to be flexible, contingent, ephemeral, and always open for negotiation. That is, as a site of active and collaborative memory-making.”
One important archival aspect of “Sites of Memory” that Womack emphasized is how the exhibition demonstrates the ways Morrison’s works operate as archives of Black life. “The exhibition,” Womack said, “celebrates an archive of Black life and history that was curated on its own terms, a project that has never been more urgent.”
Groundbreaking Princeton University Library Exhibition on Toni Morrison to Open Spring 2023
Filed by October 31, 2021on