Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers hosts Sue Hodson, retired curator of Literary Collections at The Huntington Library

 The UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers hosts Sue Hodson, retired curator of Literary Collections at The Huntington Library

Sue Hodson, retired curator of Literary Collections at The Huntington Library

(April 27, 2018) -- Retired literary curator Sara S. “Sue” Hodson has been invited to speak by the UTSA Academy of Distinguished Researchers, an organization of accomplished faculty scholars who share a commitment to research excellence. UTSA faculty, staff and students are invited to the free lecture today at 4 p.m. in the John Peace Library (JPL 4.04.22) on the UTSA Main Campus. A faculty and staff reception will follow the lecture from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the Faculty Center Casual Seating Area (JPL 4.04.16).

This lecture was organized by Jeanne C. Reesman, UTSA professor of English and the Jack & Laura Richmond Endowed Faculty Fellow.

“Sue [Hodson] will give our UTSA community insight into how a leading institution fosters the highest quality of primary research and scholarly activity, and how we can apply the principles we learn from an author's papers. Not only does she have endless anecdotes of celebrated authors, she is truly a scholar and emphasizes how essential primary research is, and how students need to learn how to master it to further and strengthen their research,” said Reesman.

When a research library announces the acquisition of the archive of a major literary figure, the press release is not likely to tell the story behind the acquisition – how the author and library met and developed their relationship, why the author decided to entrust his/her papers to the library, and what setbacks might have occurred in the process. Hodson will tell some of these hidden tales from behind the scenes, focusing on her acquisition of the archives of such modern authors as Charles Bukowski, Hilary Mantel, Octavia E. Butler, Christopher Isherwood and Paul Theroux. She will also discuss another kind of secret from the stacks: the handling of private or confidential documents contained in the archives of modern authors. For example, what does the curator do about diaries or correspondence that could reveal personal or sensitive information about people still living? This lecture will relate some of the challenges faced by the curator in handling sensitive personal papers.

One celebrated author with whom Hodson worked was Octavia E. Butler, connecting at her first lecture at the Huntington. Butler was the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, along with several Hugo and Nebula awards. She brought elements of African and African-American spiritualism, mysticism, and mythology into her work1. Hodson cultivated a relationship with the author throughout the years. When she passed away in 2006, Butler subsequently left her papers to the Huntington. In four short years, her collection became the most accessed in the research institution.

“When working with authors, particularly when they, or their families, are deciding how to preserve their body of work, one has to tread carefully, be open, honest, completely ethical and considerate,” explains Hodson.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens is a venerated collections-based educational and research institution serving scholars and the public, located in San Marino, CA. It is one of the world’s great independent research libraries in the fields of British and American history, literature, art, and the history of science, stretching from the 11th century to the present. Through a partnership with the University of Southern California, The Huntington has two research centers: the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute supporting advanced research and scholarship on human societies between 1450 and 1850; and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West.

Sara S. “Sue” Hodson retired in August 2017, as the curator of literary collections for The Huntington Library, where she oversaw all British and American literary manuscripts, from the Renaissance to the present, and all modern literary rare books. With a M.A. degree in English from Whittier College and her M.L.S. from UCLA, she has spoken and published widely on literary and archival topics, especially privacy and confidentiality in modern manuscript collections. Her articles have appeared in The American Archivist, California History, the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, and numerous other publications.

Her essay, “Freeing the Dead Sea Scrolls: A Question of Access,” recounted and analyzed the Huntington Library’s historic opening of the scrolls for universal, unfettered access. A past president of the Society of California Archivists, Sue is also active in the Society of American Archivists, including service on the Council and as chair of the Publications Board.

Sarah Hada

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