UO purchases Ken Kesey Papers and prepares collection for academic use

EUGENE, Ore. -- (Oct. 23, 2013) – Research and educational opportunities in the humanities at the University of Oregon just got markedly better, thanks to the university’s recent purchase of the Ken Kesey Papers.

Acquisition of the much-sought-after archive of the author’s manuscripts, artwork, collages and correspondence dating back to 1960 will provide a wealth of new material for studying one of America’s pre-eminent writers and the literary, social and cultural trends he reflected in his life and work.

“This collection belongs at the University of Oregon, without question,” said UO President Michael Gottfredson, who authorized the purchase of the collection to ensure it remained intact and available to students and scholars. “I can’t imagine a more fitting location for this archive.”

“Owning this collection will strengthen the UO’s reputation for fostering research at all levels,” said Deborah Carver, dean of the UO Libraries. “Ken Kesey is more than a well-known author—he represents the state’s literary heritage and culture and is considered a founding father of the 1960s counterculture. His legacy tells us much about Oregon and the university.”

After securing professional appraisals, the collection was purchased for $1.4 million from the Kesey family, who offered the UO Libraries exclusive first rights to purchase the collection. Fundraising efforts for processing and administering the collection continue, in part with the help of Oregon partners including Voodoo Doughnut, Rogue Ales and Townshend’s Tea Company, all of which have created or will create specialty products featuring Kesey and donate a portion of sales to the UO Libraries project. Also, Newman’s Seafood and Oakshire Brewing have both donated products to support recent fundraising events. To commemorate Kesey, Ninkasi Brewing Company is considering making a custom beer.

The UO Libraries will host an open house to showcase the Ken Kesey Papers on Thursday, Jan, 9, 2014, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Knight Library.

Kesey’s international reputation as the embodiment of literary and cultural life in the American west in the 1960s was well established during his lifetime, and has continued to grow since his death in 2001.

Noted American literary scholar Robert Faggen has said that the papers provide “a remarkable window” into Kesey’s creative process and are an invaluable record of one of the key voices of the 1960s.

“We’re delighted to be the permanent home of the Ken Kesey Papers,” said James Fox, head of the UO Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives, where the collection is housed. “We anticipate that seasoned scholars and budding undergraduate researchers alike will discover important new facets of Kesey’s world as they mine the origins of his work.”

Some materials in the collection are available for research and educational use now; other items will undergo an extensive cataloging and preservation process before being made available. Efforts to preserve, digitize, catalog and create outreach programs are longer term objectives for the UO Libraries.  

Kesey was raised in Springfield, Ore., and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the UO in 1957 before enrolling in the creative writing program at Stanford University and beginning what would be his first novel, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

For more information or to contribute to the Ken Kesey fund, visit http://library.uoregon.edu/giving/kesey.html.

About the University of Oregon

The University of Oregon is among the 108 institutions chosen from 4,633 U.S. universities for top-tier designation of "Very High Research Activity" in the 2010 Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. The UO also is one of two Pacific Northwest members of the Association of American Universities.

MEDIA CONTACT: Julie Brown, UO communication, 541-346-3185, julbrown@uoregon.edu