The Special Collections Research Center collects archival collections that focus on Washington, D.C. writers. This Washington Writers’ Archive possesses a particular strength in the D.C. poetry community. Collection efforts include personal papers, published and unpublished works, publishing house records, and papers belonging to other writer organizations.
The Washington Writers’ Archive began in 1984 as a partnership between the GW English Department, several local authors and academic institutions, and the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) at the Gelman Library. The goal of this important academic resource is to collect the literary papers of the writing community in D.C., especially those of artists who focus their work on issues of concern to residents of Washington. Donations from local writers, especially members of the D.C. poetry community, have resulted in the beginnings of a comprehensive community history that captures the intersections between members of a vibrant literary community of artists who interact both personally and artistically.
In 2011 members of the DC poetry community, concerned by the loss of history that was occurring with the passing of local poets started a Splendid Wake. This group of poets comes together once a year at an annual symposium honoring poets of the past and helping to preserve the remarkable literary history of Washington poets from 1900 through the present. In addition, the community created a, now dormant, encyclopedia that contains biographical articles for more than 500 poets, as well as information on reading series, conferences, and publishing houses in D.C. Through this active partnership with the D.C. poetry community, the GW Libraries celebrate this vibrant and enduring community through an ongoing series of events like “A Splendid Wake.”
Materials within the Washington Writers' Archive are made available to researchers in the Special Collections Research Center reading room in accordance with SCRC access policies.
Washington Writers' records that the SCRC holds can be found in the Washington Writers' Archive primary sources guide. The SCRC also maintains a large poetry book collection with an emphasis on local poets. The SCRC hosts literary events such as poetry readings and celebrations of the literary accomplishments of local writers.
The SCRC is actively seeking to collect and make available for research the personal papers of Washington Metropolitan Area writers, as well as the organizational records of publishing houses and other organizations associated with writers. The goal of these efforts is to uncover and explore the ways personal papers of writers and records of local organizations converge to tell a complete story of the community. The SCRC accepts donations of published works of local writers (especially those works published by local presses) as well as material that communicates the connections between writers in this community. Documents often included in donations include correspondence (especially with other writers and publishers), minutes and other records of writing groups, fliers from public performances, and audio and video of performances.
These donated collections will become a part of the community’s collective memory and enrich the available resources used for new discoveries. Special Collections stores archival collections in an environmentally controlled secure storage facility and oversees proper handling and use by researchers. If you have a collection you are considering donating to the SCRC please contact Jennifer King, Collections Coordinator and Manuscripts Librarian.