By Laura Streett
Vassar College Archivist
When Edna St. Vincent Millay arrived at Vassar College in the fall of 1913 she was already a published poet. Three or four years older than most of her classmates, she bristled at the strictness of the rules and struggled with her studies. But as Colton Johnson points out in his engaging article in this volume, Millay eventually harnessed her confidence and became a vital member of the college community. When she graduated in 1917 she left behind an enduring impression of her imagination, sense of mischief, and love of life.
The Millay Collection at Vassar is what archivists refer to as an “artificial collection.” The materials are original and genuine, but did not come directly from Millay or her heirs. Vassar librarians and archivists began assembling the collection as early as 1933, and continue to add letters, photographs, ephemera and biographical items by way of gifts, purchases and campus transfers. In 1998, Vassar's Archives & Special Collections Library received and additional cache of Millay material compiled by book dealer John E. Van S. Kohn.
Another artificial collection, kept by the New York Public Library, includes significant correspondence and notebooks, but most of the organic collection—the diaries, letters an manuscripts Millay kept herself—was bequeathed to her sister Norma Millay Ellis. Vassar entered negotiations with Ellis and her agent in the early 1980s, but an agreement was never reached. Those papers landed in good hands, though; they reside in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.
The Vassar College Libraries thank the many individuals who contributed to this exhibition. Special thanks go to Vassar College’s Colton Johnson (College Historian) and Gretchen Lieb (Research Librarian), as well as Holly Peppe (Literary Executor for Edna St. Vincent Millay), and Mark O’Berski (Vice President of the Millay Society). Gratitude is also extended to Vassar’s Andrew Ashton (Director of Libraries), Ronald Patkus (Associate Director for the Libraries for Special Collections), Dean Rogers (Special Collections Assistant), Sharyn Cadogan (Digital Production Manager), and George Laws (Director of Publications, Office of Communications).