August Wilson
August Wilson. Photo by David Cooper.

To celebrate the opening of the August Wilson Archive, the University of Pittsburgh Library System will host a special event on Friday, March 3. The grand opening will feature displays of archival material, such as drafts of dialogue from all of Wilson’s plays as well as his original poetry and artwork.

Librarian Ed Galloway says the university acquired the August Wilson Archive in the fall of 2020 and was compelled to open it as soon as possible based on the demand from scholars, historians, teachers and students. Appointments are recommended to view the archives.

“It’s an amazing collection that primarily documents Wilson’s creative process of writing his ten American Century Cycle plays, from multiple drafts of scripts to hundreds of notebooks filled with dialogue, character development, plot lines, to-do lists, etc.,” says Galloway. 

The archive also shows a more personal side of Wilson — it contains multiple self-portrait sketches and other doodles and drawings.

The grand opening will feature an interactive digital map called August Wilson in Place, which connects his plays with their locations through annotations ranging from student projects, archival objects and media materials. 

Diael Thomas, August Wilson outreach and engagement curator, says the digital map allows visitors to explore the connections between archival objects, Wilson’s writing and physical locations. 

“Wilson’s work is richly centered in real locations in Pittsburgh and around the country. The archive contains many fragments and pieces of dialogue scribbled on found objects in his environment,” says Thomas.

Staff and students organized more than 450 boxes of materials to make the collection accessible to the public.

Visitors also can preview an in-progress film, “The Hill District: Resilience & Revival,” created by students in collaboration with director Jumoke Davis.

“I hope that we can celebrate the history of the Hill District and continue to confront the topics Wilson addressed in his plays,” says Thomas. “This is an amazing resource for teaching, learning, inspiration and creativity.”

August Wilson
August Wilson. Photo by Joseph Mehling.

Wilson’s life and work can also be explored at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center in Downtown Pittsburgh and at the August Wilson House in the Hill District.

Constanza Romero, August Wilson’s widow, will share remarks on the opening of the new archive. Music will be provided by the University of Pittsburgh’s Jazz Studies program. 

The grand opening takes place on Friday, March 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Hillman Library at 3960 Forbes Ave. in Oakland. Registration is required.

Jason Phox is a journalist in the Pittsburgh area sharing important information with the people of the Steel City. He enjoys writing, photography, and mostly comic books.