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“Toni Morrison: Sites of Memory”: The Making of an Exhibit

Autumn Womack, English and African American Studies; René Boatman, Princeton University Library; Jennifer Garcon, Princeton University Library; Andrew Schlager, English

April 24, 2023 · 6:00 pm7:00 pm · Princeton Public Library

Princeton University Library; Princeton Public Library; National Endowment for the Humanities

In 2016, Princeton University announced the opening of the Toni Morrison Papers. Comprised of manuscript drafts, editorial notes, correspondence, speeches, photographs, and research material, the collection registers the importance of the archive within Morrison’s decades-long career. In her writing practice, she gathered archival objects like popular photographs, advertisements, newspaper clippings, and historical documents as source material for her novels, essays, and speeches. These were the sites from which she began to “reconstruct the worlds” that her characters dwelled in, worlds that the dominant historical record had neglected or obscured. In this archive we can glimpse her own writing practice, professional interests, and changing creative investments. In its breadth, the collection invites us to consider how history, memory, and the literary imagination relate to one another anew.

Taking inspiration from her 1986 essay “The Site of Memory,” this exhibition brings together select objects from the Toni Morrison Papers—materials that illuminate how her creative process was a deeply archival one, and that reveal aspects of her writing life and practice. Members of the curatorial team will give a behind the scenes look at the research and work that went into making this special exhibition.

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