The Beinecke Library opens the “Road Show” exhibition on the journeys of writers

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The Beinecke Library exhibit “Road Show: Travel Papers in American Literature” shows how travel was documented by writers and how it influenced American literature. The exhibition opened on September 1 and will remain on view until January 10, 2022.

Audrey kim

11:14 PM, Sep 27, 2021

Contributing journalist


Audrey Kim, collaborating photographer

On September 1, an exhibit titled “Road Show: Travel Papers in American Literature” opened at the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. The exhibit examines how journeys were marked and documented by figures from the American literary landscape, including Langston Hughes, Annie Dillard, and Gertrude Stein, among others.

Because it was originally planned to be installed during the summer, when the Beinecke Library typically welcomes its largest number of tourists and off-campus visitors, the exhibit includes a diverse range of materials that can be enjoyed both by academics and casual viewers. Students may see items such as photographs, sections of notebooks, telegrams, and letters from writers and artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe and Joe Brainard.

“There are all kinds of ways to think about travel,” said Nancy Kuhl, curator of poetry at the Yale Collection of American Literature, in a video covering the exhibit. “Sure, we were thinking about tourism and pleasure travel, but the Yale Collection of American Literature archives also document writers in exile, refugee writers, many of whom then turn these experiences into literary works.

According to Kuhl, the project began as a conversation between fellow curators Timothy Young and Melissa Barton about how writers’ records might document trips of different types, and what people today might learn from literary records about them. trips of artists, expatriates, journalists, migrants, translators and tourists, among others.

The exhibition featured a series of vignettes, with each section devoted to a particular journey, medium or literary work. Each sticker is enclosed in separate displays at the Beinecke for visitors to browse, including a section on Truman Capote’s 1959 trip to Holcomb, Kansas, inspiring his novel “In Cold Blood” and the 1957 trip that the writer and novelist James Baldwin made it to Georgia and Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement.

Kerri Sancomb, exhibition production manager, oversaw the entire production and layout process, making sure that “all the pieces speak and agree with each other”, along with the Megan Czekaj exhibition.

“One thing that’s interesting and unique about Nancy is that she loves telling the whole story. For example, instead of just showing one side of a postcard, we’ll show both the front and back, ”Sancomb said. “There are over 400 objects in the exhibit, so having these thumbnails allows visitors to come to a new section and have a new experience every time.”

Timothy Young, curator of modern books and manuscripts at Beinecke, also curated a companion exhibit currently on view titled “Imaginary Voyages,” which focuses on how writers have used the theme of travel to lands and planets. newly discovered to create fantastic tales. The companion exhibit includes material from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales and Mark Twain’s latest work published during his lifetime, “From Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”.

“Many of these novels and stories focus on meeting the ‘other’, whether they are terrestrial neighbors whose existence was unknown to explorers or imaginary alien races who serve as allegorical characters for discussions about the difference and for comments on politics and human behavior, ”Young mentioned. “Other works are pure fantasy, presaging the genre of science fiction.

In addition to co-curators Kuhl and Young, student curators Raffaella Donatich ’20, Isabelle Laurenzi GRD ’24 and Rachel Kaufman ’19 also helped with the exhibition.

“Road Show: Travel Papers in American Literature” will remain on view until January 10, 2022.

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