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About the Partnership
West Virginia was a special place to Pearl S. Buck. As a child growing up in China, Hillsboro was the only America that she knew and she cherished her visits to the homeplace and the stories her mother, Caroline, told her about the home they left behind.
Her mother's house was an extremely vivid avatar to Pearl during her formative years in a chaotic China, torn by cultural upheaval and the Boxer Rebellion. According to Pearl, "The years passed. My mother's house became more than the house in which I was born. It became the symbol of security and peace in a world where there was neither security nor peace." In her later years, she became interested in preserving the house.
Similarly, Buck, who died just shy of her 8lst birthday in 1973, wanted her literary manuscripts to reside forever in her home state. In order to promote the preservation of the homeplace and her vision that her mother's house become "a gateway to new thoughts and dreams and ways of life," she sold her original manuscript collection to the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation. Through the leadership of President John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Wesleyan College was chosen to serve as the initial custodian of the collection in 1974, an agreement which was meant to be temporary, but which lasted for nearly 45 years in partnership with the Birthplace Foundation. In 2014, West Virginia Wesleyan College, the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, and West Virginia University mutually agreed to move the collection to West Virginia University in the interest of promoting greater accessibility to the manuscripts and to place Pearl Buck's work in the context of collections of other Appalachian authors of note located at WVU.
Together, the three institutions have developed a robust plan to promote the collection, open it to the public for learning and research, and provide ambitious programming to stimulate Buck studies in West Virginia and beyond.
- WVU and West Virginia Wesleyan will establish an undergraduate studies program for students across the state while creative writing graduate students at both schools will have the opportunity to learn more about Buck's writings through access to the archives and the birthplace.
- A conference will be established consistent with the mission of the Birthplace Foundation - that the birthplace should be a "living gateway to new thoughts and dreams and ways of life." The conference will explore and apply the ways in which Buck's life and writings can be used as "gateways" for cultural expression, international awareness, intercultural understanding and humanitarian aid.
- The WVU Press will work with scholars to identify materials that may be suitable for publication in book form and in scholarly journals.
- There will be opportunities for students to engage in internships and gain field experience at the birthplace site. WVU's Extension Service office in Pocahontas County will assist with the site's maintenance, marketing and development.
- The birthplace was a significant part of Buck's life and it will play an equally important role in in outreach and scholarship. Graduate students in WVU's public history and cultural resource management programs could engage in internships at the birthplace and undergraduate students in WVU's hospitality and tourism management program could gain field experience at the site. Students in both the tourism and strategic communications programs at WVU could also gain real-world experience through the design of promotional materials including websites and brochures, as well as social media, for the birthplace.
- A new finding aid to the collection will be developed and will immediately bring the collection to the attention of the world.
- The WVRHC will collaborate with West Virginia Wesleyan and the Birthplace Foundation to develop a website for the collection that will feature an illustrated biography and an online guide to Pearl S. Buck holdings at the WVRHC including both archival collections and books - which currently number well in excess of 200 volumes.
From her writing achievements to her humanitarian efforts, Pearl S. Buck has historical and cultural significance on a global level. Now through the partnership of WVU, West Virginia Wesleyan College and the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation, her collected works will continue to provide inspiration for generations to come.