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: The Cather Family Library

February 6, 2024

The Cather Family Library, as it has come to be called in the last decade or more, is another part of the National Willa Cather Center’s collection of books associated with the extended Cather family. The Cather Family Library, however, provides especially rich insights into the mind and imagination of Willa Cather. A number of books in the collection contain personalization that denotes a book belonged to Willa Cather personally, who sometimes used "Willie" or "William" when marking her copies.

Annotations from the Archive: Association Copies

January 3, 2024

The National Willa Cather Center’s archives contain numerous book collections, and scattered throughout them are some of our most precious and valuable archival objects: our association copies. Coming from many different collections, our association copies help us—and by extension, Cather readers and researchers—understand Willa Cather’s relationships with her readers, her family and social networks, and the larger literary and publishing world.

Annotations from the Archive: The Willa Cather Childhood Home

December 5, 2023

The reopening of the Willa Cather Childhood Home this month is the culmination of more than two years of planning, research, and parallel work on both the house itself and the collections that have been housed within it since the 1960s. BVH Architecture assembled an excellent team to examine the long history of the home, which was built in 1879 and has undergone many changes in the past 145 years; the team utilized many resources from our archive to search for clues about how the house was constructed, updated, and used over the years.

Annotations from the Archives: Cather in Santa Fe

November 7, 2023

In the 1910s and 1920s, Willa Cather made several trips to New Mexico, sometimes staying for weeks as she visited friends and relatives, traveling both for pleasure and for research. In the spring of 1926, Cather was reviewing the proofs of My Mortal Enemy and at the same time, finishing the writing of Death Comes for the Archbishop; the novel was slated for serial publication in The Forum beginning in January 1927 and as a Knopf book the following September.

Annotations from the Archives: American Archives Month

October 3, 2023

Since 2006, the Society of American Archivists and archivists across the United States have celebrated American Archives Month, a collaborative effort by professional organizations and repositories around the nation to highlight the importance of preserving papers of lasting value. Archivists are professionals who assess, organize, preserve, and provide access to these papers—which might include letters, financial or political documents, photos, manuscripts, or publications of many types. The archives at the National Willa Cather Center contain all of these, and more! 

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.