Pat Conroy’s writings and bigger-than-life personality have been in the headlines this week, as many remembered one of the state’s most iconic authors.
Conroy, who sold 20 million copies of his works, died last week at age 70 following a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
If you’re a fan, head to the University of South Carolina before the end of the month to catch an intimate exhibit that showcases his legacy.
“Pat Conroy: A Retrospective” is an exhibit of the author’s papers, which came to the University Libraries in May 2014. The exhibit is in the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Gallery in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at USC.
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“This is just a snapshot of what we have from the Pat Conroy Collection,” said Jessica Crouch, the archivist who curated the exhibit.
The exhibit runs through March 31. After that, the part of the collection on display returns to its permanent home in the archives with the rest of Conroy’s papers, where it remains available for researchers and students. It will be rotated as an exhibit in the future with other collections.
The exhibit includes items pertaining to Conroy’s 11 books, photographs taken on the sets of movies made from his books, letters, book art, and other items that delve deeper than the author’s life.
The materials give a peek into family psychology, the Civil War, Southern literature and the relationship between Southern authors, military history, and South Carolina history.
So while Conroy fans will be enthralled to relive scenes from “The Great Santini” or “The Prince of Tides,” even those who haven’t read one of his books can enjoy the exhibit.
“You may not think you are a Pat Conroy fan, but when you get to the exhibit you’ll realize you are,” Crouch said. “You see he lived the Southern experience, you know the history he’s talking about.”
Here, five things not to miss at “Pat Conroy: A Retrospective”:
All 11 handwritten manuscripts are displayed. Conroy hand wrote each word because he didn’t know how to type.
“His dad wouldn’t let him learn,” Crouch said. “He said it was woman’s work.”
Conroy’s father, Donald, took it upon himself to become his son’s first archivist.
Without Pat Conroy’s knowledge, he would intercept fan mail and correspondence and pilfer items for the scrapbooks.
“Pat told the story that he once got a letter from (President) Jimmy Carter,” Crouch said. “He didn’t know he had received it until he looked at the scrapbooks after his father died.”
Photographs of Conroy teaching at Daufuskie Island
Billy Keyserling, the mayor of Beaufort, took the photos as a class project.
Conroy wrote about his experience on Daufuskie in “The Water is Wide.”
Conroy was a dedicated journal writer and had no qualms sharing those with the rest of his papers.
“Pat had the attitude, ‘I put it all in my books anyway,’” Crouch said.
Family letters and photographs
So many of his books were based on his life and family. Among the letters are those he wrote home during his years at The Citadel, which inspired “The Lords of Discipline.”
“You don’t have to have read all his books to enjoy this exhibit,” Crouch said. “You can see why he resonates with so many people with insights to his family, personal life and history.
“There is something for everyone.”
The Associated Press contributed.
“Pat Conroy: A Retrospective”
The exhibit runs through March 31.
WHERE: Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library at USC’s Thomas Cooper Library.
WHEN: 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday
WORTH NOTING: SATURDAY HOURS: There is a one-time weekend opportunity to see the exhibit this weekend, from 1-4 p.m. Saturday. March 12 from 1 p.m.- 4 p.m.