How do archives collect girl authors? In this interview series, we welcome curators and archivists to share how their institutions collect and utilize materials by girls who were or became published authors in their youth. Today, we look at the papers of Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), best known as the author of three children’s novels: Little Lord Fauntleroy (1885–1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911). Special thanks to Laura Romans of Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
What kinds of records do you keep relating to the author?
In addition to published works by Burnett, we hold the following material related to the author: letters from Burnett, largely related to her writings; a few small notes, including a short undated note describing the varieties of roses in her garden; and two screenplays based on Burnett’s works, The Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Lastly, there are also appearances of Burnett’s work in a range of historical periodicals in our collection.
Do you have physical objects in the archives from the author?
We do not have any physical objects related to Burnett.
How are the records utilized? Do researchers use items for books/articles or for historical research for movies or tv shows?
We regularly host researchers coming to us for a variety of projects, from our university students and faculty to the general public. The Burnett material is regularly used in instruction sessions for students learning about women authors, and it has been used in various exhibits. Our holdings are also helpful in showing the life cycle of an author’s work, with different editions showing how her novels have been marketed over time. Locally, there is a lot of mystique surrounding Burnett’s time in Knoxville, and how it might have informed her writing. It’s a lot of fun for visitors to absorb remnants of her legacy and conjecture!
What is your favourite object/document/record in the collections related to this author?
Mentioned above, a favorite piece is often the note regarding her rose varieties in her garden. People often [enjoy] seeing a person’s hobbies outside of their profession or their ‘claim to fame,’ plus it is always interesting to see things that document the more mundane, everyday aspects of life.