Mansfield treasure trove of papers donated to library

By Mark Taylor of the Independent Herald

A collection of Katherine Mansfield material has been donated to Alexander Turnbull Library. Photo / File
A collection of Katherine Mansfield material has been donated to Alexander Turnbull Library. Photo / File

The last-known private collection of Katherine Mansfield material has arrived at Alexander Turnbull Library to the delight of curators and fans of the celebrated Kiwi short story writer.

The six-carton collection of Mansfield papers and related material had been held by the family of Mansfield's second husband, John Middleton Murry, and was discovered by biographer Kathleen Jones.

Alexander Turnbull Library's curator of New Zealand and Pacific publications, Dr Fiona Oliver, said the library already contained the world's leading collection of Katherine Mansfield papers, pictures, artefacts and publications.

"This latest acquisition offers very personal insights into Mansfield, John Middleton Murry, and their relationship."

Turnbull manuscripts curator David Colquhoun said the acquisition was one of the most significant in his 20-year career.

"While there are sure to be other Mansfield letters out there, we are certain this is the last big clump."

Mr Colquhoun said a display would be made early this week in the library's newly reopened reading room with the rest of the material open to researchers by October.

Digitising the material would also be undertaken for the benefit of Mansfield's large international following.

Katherine Mansfield Birthplace director Mary Morris said the arrival of the new material at Alexander Turnbull Library was hugely exciting.

"It's absolutely amazing. Some of these letters and items may shed light on aspects of her life that we don't know much about.

"The letters give us her world, the context she was living in and having that helps our understanding of who she was and that is significant for the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace.

"She has a particular place in New Zealand's cultural history and heritage and the more we can know about her the better."

Ms Morris said the Birthplace had a long-standing relationship with the Alexander Turnbull Library. Whether some of the items made their way into the Tinakori Rd house depended on future programming.

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