New Scholarship: Mary Catherine Kinniburgh on Archival Processing

November 12, 2020

By Nancy Kuhl

Scholar, poet and bookseller Mary Catherine Kinniburgh explores archival practice through the etymology of the word “messy” in this chapbook published in 2020 by TKS.

Processing an archive means taking out every folder in a box that an author has put together (or not), describing what’s inside it, and putting it back in place. Most author archives are longer than a semi-tractor trailer these days. It is important historical work.

Sometimes, it is like being possessed by spirits. Sometimes, it’s like eavesdropping on the most fascinating conversation at the coolest party you never got invited to.  And sometimes, because we are talking about the papers of people here, it is  so  boring  that  it  will  reduce  you  to  tears.  I want to qualify this, but I can’t. It’s just the truth.” from Messy Archivist, Section IV.

Kinniburgh consulted the Gerrit Lansing Papers (YCAL MSS 469) and materials from the recently acquired Anselm Hollo collection (currently uncataloged, contact the curator).

Mary Catherine Kinniburgh researches, teaches, and consults on the intersections of literary studies and libraries. She received her Ph.D. in English from The Graduate Center, CUNY, and continues to participate in Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative and programming at The Center for the Humanities. She is rare books and archives associate at Granary Books; Fine Books and Collecting recenlty honored Kinniburgh in its “Bright Young Booksellers” series.