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WELDON KEES PAPERS AND ARCHIVES


 


Biographical Sketch

H. Weldon Kees (1914-1955?), writer, poet, composer, musician, filmmaker and artist, was born in Beatrice, Nebraska. Educated at Doane College, the University of Missouri, and the University of Chicago, he finally received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nebraska in 1935. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in library science from the University of Denver in 1939. While in Nebraska, Kees worked for the Federal Writers’ Project, contributing short stories and articles. In the late 1930s, Kees married Ann Swan and moved to Denver, Colorado. There he worked for the Denver Public Library and as Acting Director of the Bibliographic Center for Research, Rocky Mountain Region. In 1943 Kees moved to New York, where he wrote for Paramount News, Time Magazine, and for six months served as Art Critic for The Nation.

In 1949 Kees founded Forum 49 in Provincetown, Massachusetts. This group sought to bring together all the arts with artists such as Hans Hoffman, Robert Motherwell, Adolph Gottlieb and Elaine de Kooning. At the same time, Kees’ paintings were included in a series of shows at the Peridot Gallery in New York City, and his poetry appeared in respected literary journals and magazines, most notably the Robinson poems in the New Yorker. Eventually the Kees tired of New York and the couple moved to San Francisco, where Weldon entered the film and music scene. He composed the music for James Broughton’s film "The Adventures of Jimmy" (1951). He collaborated on films with anthropologist Gregory Bateson, and produced his own experimental films, such as "Hotel Apex." With associate and friend Michael Grieg, Kees co-produced both "Behind the Movie Camera," a weekly radio program for KPFA, Berkeley; and "The Poet’s Follies," (1955) a vaudeville program. In July 1955, Kees disappeared, leaving his car on the Golden Gate Bridge.

History of the Collection

Mrs. Sarah Kees, Weldon Kees’ mother, gave the Weldon Kees Papers to Lincoln City Libraries in 1963. The Papers include letters, manuscripts, photographs, audiotape, and films. Since 1963 the Kees Papers have been joined by two closely related collections, the Kees-Getty Correspondence, donated in 1978 by Norris Getty, and the Robert Knoll Research Files, given to the Heritage Room by Robert Knoll in 1986. The three collections, while physically separate, have come to be known together as the Kees Archives.

Kees Archives Summary    (Component collections are listed separately):

 

The Weldon Kees Papers

Collection Summary

Origin of Collection: The collection originated in materials collected from Weldon Kees apartment by his parents, John and Sarah Kees, after Kees’ death or disappearance in 1955. The parents added their own collection of photographs and other materials and Sarah Kees donated the collection to Lincoln City Libraries in 1963.

Collection Name: The Weldon Kees Papers.

Extent of Collection: Two linear feet of files and scrapbooks. In addition: Film reels of many sizes, including unedited film for the unpublished Point Reyes project, and audio recordings.

Storage: Except for photographs, all original file folders and contents have been retained as donated (folders have Weldon Kees’ and Sarah Kees’ writing and labels), but have been placed in an acid free container. Scrapbooks are shelved above the papers. Photographs are in a cased album. Audio and film materials are stored in darkness. Humidity and temperature are monitored and controlled.

Abstract: Contains correspondence, draft correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, scrapbooks, raw and edited film, audio recordings and ephemera comprising the estate of Weldon Kees, an important figure in the literary and art world from the early 1940s into the pre-beat scene of the 1950s.

Dates: Inclusive dates are 1916-1961, however the bulk of the collection dates from 1942-1955.

Repository: The Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors, Bennett Martin Public Library, 136 South 14th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska 68508-1899. Phone: (402) 441-8516.

Rights: Lincoln City Libraries holds the copyrights to all original unpublished Kees materials in this collection. Collaborative materials and all other materials may have other copyholders. Researchers are expected to follow all applicable copyright laws.

Restrictions: Researchers may view the materials and take notes in pencil only. These materials may not be photocopied. Items in the accordion file may be viewed item by item only. Lincoln City Libraries retains all publication rights to previously unpublished materials. The use of unpublished materials from this collection will be considered on a case by case basis, and requires written application. Permission to publish must be obtained in writing from the Library Director, and researchers may expect that the review period for permission may be a month or more. Researchers are expected to follow all applicable copyright laws.

Finding Aids: A paper finding aid is available from Heritage Room staff.

Publications: The following publications have drawn on this collection:
Robert E. Knoll, ed. Weldon Kees and the Midcentury Generation. Letters, 1935-1955. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986.
James Reidel Vanished Act: The Life and Art of Weldon Kees. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003
Daniel A. Siedell, ed. Weldon Kees and the Arts at Midcentury. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003

 

The Weldon Kees—Norris Getty Correspondence.

Collection Summary

Origin of Collection: Norris Getty saved his correspondence with Weldon Kees and donated it to Bennett Martin Public Library in 1978.

Collection Name: The Weldon Kees—Norris Getty Correspondence.

Extent of Collection: One linear foot of files.

Storage: Acid free box, materials were left in original folders because of notations on the folders themselves. Humidity and temperature are monitored and controlled.

Abstract: Norris Getty and Weldon Kees met when both worked for the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project in Nebraska in the mid 1930s. The friendship lasted until Kees death and the two corresponded regularly. Getty taught classics at the Groton School while Kees established himself as an important figure in the literary and art world from the early 1940s into the pre-beat scene of the 1950s. Most of the collection is correspondence, however there are a few published items or third party items that postdate Kees death/disappearance in 1955.

Dates: Inclusive dates are 1937 to 1961.

Repository: The Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors, Bennett Martin Public Library, 136 South 14th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska 68508-1899. Phone: (402) 441-8516.

Rights: Norris Getty transferred both ownership and his own copyrights to the Libraries when he donated the collection in 1978. Acting for Lincoln City Libraries, the City Attorney obtained releases from the Kees heirs. Lincoln City Libraries owns all copyrights in this correspondence.

Restrictions: Researchers may view the materials and take notes in pencil only. These materials may not be photocopied. Lincoln City Libraries retains all publication rights to previously unpublished materials. The use of unpublished materials from this collection will be considered on a case by case basis, and requires written application. Permission to publish must be obtained in writing from the Library Director, and researchers may expect that the review period for permission may be a month or more. Researchers are expected to follow all applicable copyright laws.

Finding Aids: A paper finding aid is available from Heritage Room staff.

Publications: The following publications have drawn on this collection:
Robert E. Knoll, ed. Weldon Kees and the Midcentury Generation. Letters, 1935-1955. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986..
James Reidel Vanished Act: The Life and Art of Weldon Kees. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003
Daniel A. Siedell, ed. Weldon Kees and the Arts at Midcentury. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003

 

The Robert Knoll Research Files

 

Collection Summary

Origin of Collection: Robert Knoll collected these files in the Heritage Room during his writing of Weldon Kees and the Midcentury Generation. Letters, 1935-1955 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986). In 1993 Knoll transferred all ownership and authority over the collection to Lincoln City Libraries. Original materials in these files were donated to Lincoln City Libraries by Bernice Wells, Margaret Smith, Anton Myrer, Robert and Kay Helm, and Nancy Johnson.

Collection Name: The Robert Knoll Research Files.

Extent of Collection: Approximately 3.5 linear feet of files, boxed manuscripts, and publications.

Storage: In acid free folders, original folders or original containers. Fragile materials in mylar sleeves. Humidity and temperature are monitored and controlled.

Abstract: The bulk of this collection consists of published materials, Knoll’s notes, and his files on Kees’ correspondents, and Knoll’s own correspondence with people in Kees’ circle. Some files contain original Kees correspondence and ephemera.

Dates: Inclusive dates are 1914-1987, the bulk of the materials date from 1937-1984.

Repository: The Jane Pope Geske Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors, Bennett Martin Public Library, 136 South 14th Street, Lincoln, Nebraska 68508-1899. Phone: (402) 441-8516.

Rights: No brief, comprehensive statement about rights can be made for this collection. Lincoln City Libraries owns literary rights to many of the unpublished materials in the collection.

Restrictions: Researchers may view the materials and take notes in pencil only. These materials may not be photocopied. Lincoln City Libraries retains all publication rights to previously unpublished materials. The use of unpublished materials from this collection will be considered on a case by case basis, and requires written application. Permission to publish must be obtained in writing from the Library Director, and researchers may expect that the review period for permission may be a month or more. Researchers are expected to follow all applicable copyright laws.

Finding Aids: A paper finding aid is available from Heritage Room staff.

Publications: The following publications have drawn on this collection:
Robert E. Knoll, ed. Weldon Kees and the Midcentury Generation. Letters, 1935-1955. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1986.
James Reidel Vanished Act: The Life and Art of Weldon Kees. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003
Daniel A. Siedell, ed. Weldon Kees and the Arts at Midcentury. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003

 

dsc: 7-9-2006