University of Maryland!
On June 28, 1966 Katherine Anne was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland. Unable to attend the official commencement ceremony, Porter was presented the degree in her home. She wore full graduation regalia and celebrated with champagne! Porter was enamored by the attention and deference shown to her from UMD and by October of the same year she had agreed to donate her papers to the Libraries.
While Porter lived in nearby Washington, D.C in the 1960s, and later relocated to a College Park suburb, she did not have an strong ties to the University of Maryland. She was born in Texas, and spent much of her life traveling. writing, and teching classes at a variety of colleges and universities. She was, however, a well known and respected Modernist author and literary woman. UMD was not the first university to inquire about Porter’s papers. University of Texas, Howard Payne, Library of Congress and a few others asked, but it never happened for one reason or another.
“Its all pure feeling,” Porter said of the decision in a press conference. “[UMD] is a very beautiful, active, and effective kind of university. It grows and keeps growing.”
As part of the agreement to accept her literary archive, the University of Maryland agreed to set up a room dedicated to Katherine Anne Porter. Porter hand picked what she wished to donate and sent the items to the university a few boxes at a time over a period of years. She was inspired by her time at the University of Virginia where she saw clothing and household items that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson and chose to similarly donate personal items that would be displayed in the Katherine Anne Porter room, along with her expansive literary archive and personal papers that would be housed in the Literary Manuscripts division of the Special Collections Library.
The accessioning process for the new collection was complex and sometimes frustrating for those involved, but through hard work and patience, the Katherine Anne Porter Room was officially opened on May 15, 1968 and her literary archive was opened to researchers. Porter herself would serve as a docent of the Katherine Anne Porter room in its original location in McKeldin so she could be close to her papers and chat with anyone who dropped. She wanted to share her knowledge and for her collection to be used and enjoyed by students.
The Katherine Anne Porter papers continues to be used be researchers and students visiting Special Collections and University Archives in Hornbake Library. The Katherine Anne Porter Room is open by appointment for visitors looking to explore Porter’s book collection and artifacts.
You can view digitized letters from Katherine Anne Porter in the online exhibit Katherine Anne Porter: Correspondence from the Archives, 1912-1977.
Browse the finding aids to the Katherine Anne Porter papers and visit us in person to learn more about the partnership between University of Maryland and Katherine Anne Porter. Contact us to learn more!
Mattie Lewis is a student in the Masters of Library and Information Sciences program and Graduate Assistant with the Katherine Anne Porter Collection at UMD.