It’s April at the Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, and that means that the Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World is about to host its annual conference! Created through the support of former TTU Regent James Sowell, the Collection provides to researchers the archival papers of some of the country’s most prominent writers on the natural world. Writing with a profound respect for the grandeur and fierceness of the land, these writers are deeply engaged with questions of land use and the nature of community, the conjunction of scientific and spiritual values, and the fragility of wilderness. From Thursday, April 19, through Saturday, April 21, scholars and authors whose works explore these themes will be presenting in the Southwest Collection/Special Collection Library’s Formby Room.
One presenter at the conference will be discussing the work of David Quammen, whose papers the Sowell Collection holds. Quammen is known for writing concise and highly accessible articles and monographs on scientific topics. In The Kiwi’s Egg, for example, he uses the personal letters and notebooks of Charles Darwin to explore the scientist’s biography with a focus on the history of the Darwin’s most famous theory. So it should come as no surprise that Quammen served as the general editor of an illustrated edition of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, the cover of which is above.
Every year, it seems, a contributor to Orion Magazine speaks at this year’s Conference. That’s probably because the Sowell Collection preserves the records of the Orion Society, of which Orion Magazine is the official publication. A group of writers, environmentalists, and activists, the Orion Society believes that “humans are morally responsible for the world in which we live, and that the individual comes to sense this responsibility as he or she develops a personal bond with nature.” Through a variety of methods, not the least of which is the magazine, they strive to find ways through which nature and communities might be healed.
While marine biologist, nature author, and passionate environmental advocate Rachel Carson’s papers aren’t in the Sowell Collection, it does own first-edition, signed copies of all her works such as the one seen here.. One presenter at the conference is slated to speak about Carson’s Silent Spring, a book foundational to the environmental movement (and one that you should go read right now!)
Many other presenters will be sharing their scholarship at this year’s event. But if you’d like to use one of the Sowell Collection’s many other archival collections, contact the SWC’s Reference Department and they can get those into your hands.