Had an informal meeting today with John Waide, the University Archivist. We discussed some of the work I'll be doing over the next year, the history of the project and its relations to other Ong-related projects on campus, the kinds of materials involved, what the library currently has, and Fr. Ong himself.
It all started some 10 years ago when Fr. Ong wanted to put his auto-bibliography online. Fr. Ong used note cards to keep an extensive record of everything he published including editions, translations, and reprints. He also kept an extensive record of works which cited him or were related to his work. I'm told the later collection is based on information told to him rather than from his own research. The cards, or some part of them, were entered into an Access database years ago by ITS, and that work is being corrected and updated (?) by Dr. Walsh and SLU graduate student Bob Early. (I need to talk to Dr. Walsh and Bob about what they've done/are doing. Their project and my project are both part of the larger Walter J. Ong Project, and I have agreed to write an article on memory and databases. I've got a good theoretical conception of the article, but could really use some databases as examples and this project might be interesting.) John Waide showed me photocopies of the note cards, just to see them. One that sticks out in my mind are some 20 (21?) travelogues Ong wrote while in Europe as a boy scout. He was 16 at the time and wrote them for the Kansas City Star (or at least a Kansas City Paper).
The archivists, John Waide and Chris Harper, will handle most of the archival end of things, though I'll do some of that. Mostly my job will be to identify what we have and identify its importance and make connections between the various material and between the material and Ong's work. Included in the collection are letters to and from Ong, class and lecture notes, book and article manuscripts with annotations, Ong's personal library (I'm to look for annotations), off-prints, and a mint condition collection of all of his published books. Currently, most of it is still over in Jesuit Hall, but there are some 12 boxes of material Fr. Ong personally brought over to the library over the years. I have been told by various people that the letters include correspondence either to or from Kenneth Burke and T.S. Eliot, and a series of letters between Ong and McLuhan in which they discuss possible dissertation topics for Ong.
The job formally begins Thursday, July 1.