Radford University Archives Receive Two Major Collections

Gene Hyde

Gene Hyde, Radford University archivist.

A sizable collection of Appalachian literature and hundreds of works about sacred themes in theatre and cinema have been donated to Radford University's McConnell Library.

"These collections will be a great resource for students and scholars for years to come," said Gene Hyde, the university's archivist and special collections librarian. The donors, Professors Emeriti Parks Lanier and Charles L. Hayes, "have both been extremely influential in shaping academics and culture at Radford."

Lanier, who helped to establish the university's acclaimed Highland Summer Conference in 1978, gave his Appalachian literature collection comprising 380 books of Appalachian fiction, poetry, history, culture, folklore and literary criticism.

His collection also contains nearly complete runs of three regional journals—Appalachian Journal, Journal of Appalachian Studies and Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine—as well as materials on renowned Cherokee writer Marilou Awiakta and related resources.

Lanier, a retired English professor, was honored in 1998 by the Appalachian Writers' Association (AWA) for his outstanding contributions to Appalachian literature. Founded at East Tennessee State University, the AWA was a group of writers interested in improving their work and supporting others in the region.

His collection evolved through his work with the Highland Summer Conference, an annual credit-based, two-week writing workshop at Radford University. "When the conference began to videotape visiting writers and I did 30-minute studio interviews in addition to the writers' evening readings, I would buy their books and read them in preparation for the interviews," Lanier said. "They were my tools. Like a farmer's implements, they are worn from use, but they are, I hope, still useful."

Lanier said his personal favorite is "a small dog-eared paperback copy of Wilma Dykeman's 'The Tall Woman.' It has a somewhat sensational cover illustration of a bold Lydia McQueen with a rifle in her hand, fending off a hostile world." The book's publication in 1962 "virtually marked the beginning of a second Appalachian literary renaissance," he said.

Lanier's collection includes works by well-known writers including James Agee, George Ella Lyon, Thomas Wolfe, Sharyn McCrumb, Robert Morgan, Cratis D. Williams, Harriette Simpson Arnow and Jim Wayne Miller. His videotaped interviews with many novelists, poets and scholars were already in the university library's Appalachian collection. The document collection complements the video archive.

The second donation to McConnell Library is Hayes' theatre and religion collection of nearly 350 plays, critical studies and essays exploring drama from medieval morality plays through 20th century cinema.

"All theatre started out as a worship service," Hayes said, adding that not until the reign of England's Elizabeth I did the focus begin to shift to the secular. The tradition lives on in such practices as the Corpus Christi plays performed as processionals across Europe and nativity pageants staged by children in churches around the world at Christmas.

Hayes, who taught acting, directing, voice and speech, theatre history and literature during his 40-year career at Radford, also directed for theatre, opera, film, radio and television, judged theatre festivals and served as director of the Virginia Governor's School for the Arts.

Hayes said that throughout his life he has "scoured little bookshops across this country, England and France" in search of items that would enhance his collection. "I really wanted to retain this group of books that somehow touch the idea that theatre can be transcendent. That it can touch our spirits. That it may just allow for the ‘purgation of pity and fear,' " he said, quoting from Aristotle’s "Poetics."

Housed in Special Collections at McConnell Library, the Lanier and Hayes gifts "reflect the knowledge and curatorial vision of both men," Hyde said. The materials have been catalogued and are available by appointment for use within the library. Finding aids are online at the library's website. No interlibrary loan is available, but certain items may be checked out.

To learn more or to make an appointment to use these collections, contact Hyde at (540) 831-5692, wehyde@radford.edu, or visit the McConnell Library Archives and Special Collections website.

Apr 2, 2012
Elizabeth Oakes
(540) 831-6121