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Charles Olson Research Collection

Identifier: 1969-0001

Scope and Content

The Charles Olson Research Collection features a wide range of materials covering such diverse topics as the Life and Works of Herman Melville, Black Mountain College, the Beat Generation, the Office of Wartime Information, and the Literary and Cultural Revolution of the 1960's. Correspondents of note include T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsberg, LeRoi Jones, and Ezra Pound. The collection includes Olson's prose and poetry, correspondence with more than 1500 individuals, documents and ephemera from Olson's personal life, family papers, photographs, newspapers, atlases, books, journals and records from Black Mountain College. The bulk of the collection dates from Olson's lifetime, 1910-1970. However, as the Archives and Special Collections continued collecting donations from friends, acquaintances and family members after Olson's death, some items in the collection date from after Olson's death.


  • 1910-1970

Restrictions on Access

By stipulation of some donors, and due to fragility, some materials are restricted from research use. Five notebooks by Charles Olson in Box 67 dating from 1964-1966 are RESTRICTED, closed until January 1, 2041. Consult the finding aid for additional details regarding restricted boxes. Consult with the Archivist for further information.

Restrictions on Use

With the purchase of the Charles Olson papers in 1972, the University of Connecticut acquired the literary rights to Charles Olson’s writings that remained unpublished at the time of his death. For works by Charles Olson published during his lifetime, the University of Connecticut manages permissions on behalf of the heirs/Estate of Charles Olson.


Charles Olson was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on 27 December 1910, to Karl Joseph and Mary Hines Olson. He attended Wesleyan University where he received a B.A. in 1932 and a M.A. in 1933. He continued his graduate studies at Harvard University from 1936 to 1938. His daughter Katherine was born during his first marriage, to Constance Wilcock. His second marriage, to Elizabeth Kaiser, produced a son, Charles Peter. Elizabeth, or Betty as she was known to her friends, died tragically in a car accident in March 1964. Charles Olson received several prestigious awards during his long career, including two Guggenheim Fellowships, in 1939 and 1948; a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant in 1952; a Longview Foundation award for The Maximus Poems in 1961; and an Oscar Blumenthal Prize (Poetry magazine), 1965. Charles Olson died from cancer on 10 January 1970.


130 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Charles Olson Research Collection contains the literary works, correspondence, photographs, and personal, professional, and family papers of writer and poet Charles Olson. This collection also includes some administrative records of Black Mountain College.


Series I: Works (undated, 1927-1969) include manuscripts of poetry and essays, project notes, notebooks, diaries, subject files, and fragments. Manuscripts of published poetry are arranged according to the critical edition in which they are collected. Series II: Correspondence (undated, 1910-1970) encompasses over 10,000 items, including letters, postcards, telegrams, manuscripts, clippings, and manuscript envelopes. All items are filed alphabetically by last name of sender, including outgoing correspondence from Olson. Outgoing correspondence is subdivided and arranged alphabetically according to the last name of the recipient. Series III: Personal and Professional Papers (undated, 1910-1970) contain juvenilia, academic materials, financial documents, and ephemera. This series is arranged by topic, then chronologically. Series IV: Family Papers (undated) include documents relating to Olson's parents, wives and children, including his father's philatelic materials and Betty Kaiser's diaries. Series V: Photographs (undated) contains more than 200 photographs of Charles Olson and his family, friends and correspondents. The Collection includes original photographs owned by Charles Olson, original photographs or copies of original prints donated to the Archives, and reference prints (copies) made by the Archives for publication or preservation. Photographs are divided into eight sub-series: Photographs taken by Charles Olson; Photographs of Charles Olson (alone and in groups); Olson's family; Friends and associates; Black Mountain College; Gloucester; Miscellaneous photographs owned by Charles Olson; and Copy prints of manuscripts. Series VI: Black Mountain College Records contains some official records from Black Mountain College, including student applications and financial records. Series VII: Ephemera contains a wide range of items, including objects such as Olson's typewriter and tarot cards. Paper ephemera is arranged by year; other objects are simply listed according to their placement on the shelves. Series VIII: Related Materials contains materials related to Charles Olson that were donated to the University of Connecticut by individuals following Charles Olson's death. These materials may include correspondence (often between Olson and the donor), Olson manuscripts, and other items of interest. These materials are arranged by the last name of the donor.

Acquisition Information

The Charles Olson Papers were purchased by the University of Connecticut from the Estate of Charles Olson in 1972. The University also purchased from the Estate the literary rights to all of Olson's writing that remained unpublished at the time of his death. Since then, the original papers have been augmented by numerous additions through purchase and by gift. In 2003, the decision was made to rename the papers The Charles Olson Research Collection to better describe the scope and content of the collection. Researchers should consult with the Curator to establish the provenance of any particular document.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of materials in this collection may also be found in the Archives & Special Collections digital repository

Separated Material

Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Library also maintains Charles Olson's personal library. While the library is not described here as part of the papers, it should be regarded as an important primary source. A full listing of Olson's library is available in the UConn Library online catalog.

Charles Olson Research Collection
Sean Doherty, Patricia Triplett, Amy Albert, Melissa Watterworth Batt and additional Archives & Special Collections staff
2017 April
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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This finding aid was prepared with generous support from the Delmas Foundation.

Repository Details

Part of the Archives and Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library Repository

University of Connecticut Library
405 Babbidge Road Unit 1205
Storrs Connecticut 06269-1205 USA US