The new MARBL is a “researcher’s heaven”

photo of three men in a library

Matthew Strandmark (right) teaches researchers Eric Lansing and Joe Cravens about the MARBL procedures for handling documents.

As you stand in the sparkling, new Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) space on the 10th floor of the Woodruff Library, many words come to mind.

“Oh my stars,” said Joe Cravens, an attorney from Richmond, VA, “This is a researcher’s heaven.”

“Most impressive,” said Bruce Cauthen, a researcher and former Emory professor.

“It’s a relief,” said Courtney Chartier, head of MARBL’s research services. “We’ve been working so hard for so long to get this place ready.”

According to a recent article about the reopening by Maureen McGavin (, “MARBL’s renovated space features an expanded reading room, dramatic vistas of Emory University and the Atlanta city skyline, interactive exhibit spaces, technologically-advanced classrooms, and beautiful gathering spaces. These enhancements will allow scholars, students, and the Atlanta community to rediscover MARBL in new and exciting ways.”

Photo of researcher

Bruce Cauthen examining a 175-year old book in the reading room.

McGavin added that the space was enlarged by enclosing a portion of the Woodruff balcony, which was redesigned to provide panoramic views of the Atlanta skyline from inside MARBL via floor-to-ceiling windows. Visitors will be able to step outside to one of two separate terraces for iconic views of the Emory community.

MARBL has already hosted over 500 visitors in its first week of reopening. “So far this week, we’ve had 30 scheduled appointments,” said Chartier, “but each day we have had at least one “walk in” researcher. Our farthest flung visitor is here from the University of York.”

Chartier added, “We’ve enjoyed visits from family members of two of our collections, diplomat/activist Morris Abram and novelist/activist Sarah Wright. We’ve pulled everything this week from the papers of poet Paul Muldoon and author Flannery O’Connor, to Emory University catalogs and artist books from Nexxus Press.”

Cravens was the first researcher to use the new MARBL space for his research. “Usually you are seven stories down in a musty basement,” he said. “This place is exquisite.”


The G. Murray Branch document.

Cravens came to MARBL, with colleague Eric Lansing, to look at the papers of the pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL for a book he has been writing about the Civil Rights movement. This pastor, G. Murray Branch, gave the eulogy at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s funeral.

“I began this book as a college student 30 years ago,” said Cravens, “and after spending my career in law (Cravens and Noll), I wanted to take time to revisit this chapter in my life.”

Cauthen is doing a study on the construction of race in colonial South Carolina. “MARBL has a number of volumes that I needed to consult.”


The view from MARBL’s new staff room.

“I’d never visited the MARBL location previously, but this is a major improvement,” said Cauthen, who taught international relations at Emory from 2002-2005 and now works as an independent scholar. “I cannot believe the condition of these volumes from 1841.”

“It is wonderful to access this work, continued Cauthen. “So many of these historical sources are online but I always like to see the original, especially when citing sources. Mistakes can often be made when digitizing materials. I am skeptical about fully digitizing a library.”

The first week back has led to a few new discoveries as well. “We’ve found that the view from the staff room attracts young lovers,” laughed Chartier. “The best question we’ve gotten (from a freshman): ‘Is it true that you have the Harry Potter papers?'”

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