Annotations from the Archive

The National Willa Cather Center houses one of the nation’s largest collections of materials related to the life and works of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Willa Cather. Our museum and archival collections, housed in Cather's home town of Red Cloud, Nebraska, contain memorabilia, artifacts, historic photographs, art and decorative arts, journals, and rare book collections, as well as items belonging to Willa Cather like letters, clothing, jewelry, artwork, manuscripts, address books, journals, and sales ledgers for her novels, as well as hundreds of objects that belonged to the Cather family. Click here to Explore the Collection!

Our collections include:

  • Over 400 personal letters written by Willa Cather
  • Approximately 2000 images of Willa Cather, Cather family and friends, historic Red Cloud and Webster County
  • Articles and reviews of Cather's work, contemporaneous with their publication
  • The Cather Family Library, comprised of hundreds of volumes of books and magazines belonging to the Cather family, from the 1880s to the 1940s
  • McClure's magazines, 1896–1912, and other serials in which Cather published 
  • Newspapers from Red Cloud (on microfilm)
    • Commercial Advertiser: May 1908 to October 1968 (64 reels)
    • Golden Belt: 1893 to 1896 (1 reel)
    • The Nation: 1892 to 1908 (4 reels)
    • Red Cloud Chief: November 1878 to November 1923 (15 reels)
  • Other Newspapers (on microfilm)
    • Pittsburgh Leader: December 1896 to December 1900 (47 reels)
    • Pittsburgh Gazette: October 1901 to January 1904 (24 reels)
  • The Mildred Bennett Collection, which houses research notes and first-person source materials for early Cather studies
  • The Blanche Cather Ray Collection, which contains hundreds of documents and objects related to historical Webster County and the William Cather and George Cather families
  • The Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial Collection, the earliest collection of Cather materials on offer

Annotations from the Archives: Homesteading and Home-Building in the Archives

August 22, 2023

While Willa Cather was the member of the Cather family who shared life in early Nebraska with a reading public, she arrived with her parents a full decade after the first of her relatives settled down in the newly-formed Webster County. Several of our earliest collections feature museum objects and papers related to the lives of those early homesteaders, and we've talked about them in this series before.

Annotations from the Archives: Cather Press Clippings

August 1, 2023

As has been noted so often before, there exists within Willa Cather so many interesting dualities. She was intensely engaged with her small hometown, even as she became a traveler of the world; she was down-to-earth and plain spoken, but she enjoyed the niceties that her career afforded her—the fine clothes, the fascinating company. The Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial Collection contains even more evidence of these dichotomies in Cather's nature.

Annotations from the Archives: The Library

July 11, 2023

Creating a culture of reading on the frontier wasn't easy! With days-long travel between towns, getting supplies of any kind—food, lumber, clothing, medicine—could be difficult and costly; it only stands to reason that reading materials like books and magazines might be considered a luxury. 

Annotations from the Archive: April Twilights

April 3, 2023

 Though Willa Cather is well-known around the world as a novelist, her first published work was a collection of poems, April Twilights. For both researchers and Cather fans, our archival collections provide amazing insights into Cather’s early work.

Annotations from the Archive: Red Cloud's Founding

December 16, 2022

As we conclude restoration work on the Farmers and Merchants Bank building, we now undertake the work of reinterpreting the space to tell more of Red Cloud’s—and the National Willa Cather Center’s—story. The bank has always been a part of our guided town tour, but the renovated spaces will soon allow our guests to explore topics related to Lyra and Silas Garber, their lives and legacy in Red Cloud, and the broader history of the community.