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National Willa Cather Center to Offer New Opportunities

National Willa Cather Center to Offer New Opportunities

Friday, August 12, 2016

As redevelopment of the Moon Block progresses to become the National Willa Cather Center and we prepare for its fall completion, there’s also a lot happening behind the scenes to ensure patrons visiting the Center will have new and exciting opportunities to engage with Cather and her work.

Our rich and varied collection of archive and museum pieces is being inventoried, re-boxed for optimal storage and efficient retrieval, and in some cases, backlogged collections are being catalogued for the first time. Coordinating this essential work is the Foundation’s Education Director and Archivist, Tracy Tucker, who says the most intriguing new discovery was a collection of over 100 photos of the George and Franc Cather family, Willa Cather’s uncle and aunt, the first Cathers to settle in Nebraska in 1873.

The Willa Cather Foundation’s collection also includes letters written by Cather to her friends and family; rare books she inscribed and gifted to loved ones; photographs of the Cathers and early day Red Cloud; and even Confederate currency and land records dating back to the Cather family’s residency in Virginia. When the National Willa Cather Center opens, these precious materials will be preserved in a climate controlled environment, and the Cather scholarly community will have an opportunity to research and examine them in a private and professional study area.

Another prominent aspect of the Center will be the addition of a permanent exhibit, American Bittersweet: The Life & Writing of Willa Cather. This interpretive experience will enable visitors to examine the life and legacy of Willa Cather by exploring and embracing the complexities of her life and art. The exhibit will allow the Foundation to rotationally display a number of Cather’s personal possessions, including her writing desk, clothing, accessories, and steamer trunk. Other unique pieces on display from the museum collection will include original illustrations by W. T. Benda that appeared in My Ántonia, Cather family quilts, and Red Cloud Opera House playbills, and much more.

When asked recently what excites her most about the project, Executive Director Ashley Olson noted, “Everything. It’s hard to pinpoint a particular component, because every aspect of the project is meaningful to enhancing our ability to deliver programming and meet our mission.” She continues, “Visitors and students will encounter Cather more comprehensively than ever before; scholars will have opportunities to research materials that haven’t been readily known or available in the past; and functional spaces like a classroom, greenroom, and expanded art gallery will enable us to deliver arts and educational programming in new and innovative ways.”

To support this celebrated endeavor, please contact Ashley Olson, Executive Director, at 866-731-7304 or aolson@willacather.org. Donations of various sizes will be recognized on a donor wall and within a commemorative book.