West Virginia Wesleyan College, West Virginia University, and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation have announced a partnership that will preserve the legacy and works of Nobel Prize in Literature winner Pearl S. Buck.
Buck, born in Hillsboro, WV to missionary parents, was one of only 13 Americans and one of only two women to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She was also the first American woman to be awarded both the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize.
Although Buck grew up in China, her birthplace of West Virginia was recounted in stories by her mother, Caroline. Buck fell in love with the stories of her old stomping ground and became adamant to restore and preserve those memories and the family home. After her death in 1973, the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation took possession of the manuscripts and brought them to the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library at Wesleyan to be stored and preserved. Although the agreement was meant to be temporary, it was nearly 45 years before the collection was moved to another location. Although West Virginia University now houses the collection, the participation of both Wesleyan and the Foundation remains intact.
“The basic functions of libraries include collecting, organizing, preserving, and sharing information and cultural heritage,” commented Paula McGrew, Wesleyan’s director of library services. “For nearly 45 years, the Pearl S. Buck manuscripts have been preserved at the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library. Now a new partnership has been formed which will make it possible for great sharing to occur.”
The institutions are now joining forces to share the Pearl S. Buck Collection and to stimulate studies on Buck and her work in West Virginia and beyond. The collection moved to West Virginia University in early October, and a ceremony was held on Thursday, October 30 at the Charles C. Wise Library to celebrate the collection and the new partnership.
Goals of this partnership include archival preservation, the creation of a Pearl S. Buck Collection website, and the development of education and outreach initiatives including research grants, a biennial conference and award, and a new publication series through the WVU Press.
“West Virginia Wesleyan understands the importance of these papers,” said Barry Pritts, vice president for finance at Wesleyan. “This partnership opens up opportunity. We are appreciative that we are participating in the sharing of these manuscripts and the development of activities surrounding it.”
The activities will focus both on scholarly outreach and programs for faculty, students, and the community to broaden academic programming around Buck’s collection, as well as archival preservation and access services. Faculty initiatives are to include the prospect of travel grants and other support for visiting researchers and scholars, and growing the collection and sharing it with the world.
Maintaining the mission of the Birthplace Foundation, a biennial “Living Gateway” conference will be created as a “living gateway to new thoughts and dreams and ways of life.” During the conference, the Pearl S. Buck Memorial Award will be given to a person who illustrates Buck’s artistic and/or humanitarian legacies.
“We can learn so much from these manuscripts,” stated David H. Corcoran, Sr., the Birthplace Foundations’ first executive director and now publisher-editor of The Glenville Newspapers.
Furthermore, the WVU Press will be working with advisory committee members and scholars to determine which materials are suitable for publication in book form and in scholarly journals.
“The manuscripts came to the Library just as I arrived at West Virginia Wesleyan College as a Library Science major in the fall of 1974,” stated McGrew. “Librarians Keith Burns and Benjamin Crutchfield were instrumental in this process and passed along their enthusiasm as they helped us to understand the importance of the materials and their importance to our cultural heritage.”
Cutline: (l to r) Kirk Judd, acting president, Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation; Jon Cawthorne, dean, West Virginia University Libraries; David Corcoran, Sr., past executive directior, Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation and the publisher-editor of The Glenville Newspapers; John Cuthbert, director and curartor of the West Virginia Regional History Center and University librarian; Melanie Page, associate vice president for creative and scholarly activity, West Virginia University; Barry Pritts, vice president for finance, West Virginia Wesleyan College; and Teri Mandic, vice president of programs, Pearl S. Buck International look over some of Buck’s manuscripts after their move to West Virginia University. Photo courtesy of MG Ellis WVU UR/Photo.