There’s a Rose Library Collection and a Taylor Swift Album For YOU

by Gaby Hale, Outreach Archivist

Taylor Swift’s “Time Person of the Year” Cover, 2023

 Taylor Swift is a household name, and for good reason – over the last 18 years she has written and recorded over 300 songs, changed genres multiple times, headlined sold out stadium tours, and shattered record after record. She has recorded eleven studio albums, each with their own feel and themes. At Rose Library, we hold over 2,000 manuscript collections. People come from all over the world to view our items, and there is truly something for everyone. If you don’t know where to start with our collections and you also like Taylor Swift, continue reading for ten collection recommendations! 



1) DebutBertha Durham papers  

Bertha Durham’s Diary, Bertha Durham papers

Oh, I’m just a girl, trying to find a place in this world (A Place in This World) 

Taylor Swift’s first album was written and released when she was in high school. It’s her most country album, and its major themes are youth and uncertainty about the future and her place in it. Bertha Durham was born in Cobb County in 1888 and lived until 1976. The Bertha Durham papers includes records created when Bertha was a teenager, such as letters, gift books, diaries, and photographs. Most significantly, there are two diaries written beginning in 1903, when Bertha was 15 – the same age that Taylor began writing many of the songs on the Taylor Swift album. The diary is a day-to-day account of Bertha’s life, from the activities she was doing to the people she was interacting with.  


2) FearlessLucille Clifton papers 

Cover of Lucille Clifton's children's book, "Don't You Remember". The cover is pink with a young black girl laying down with her legs kicked up behind her.

“Don’t You Remember?” cover, Lucille Clifton papers

This is a big world, that was a small town, there in my rear-view mirror disappearing now (White Horse) 

Fearless embodies several of the same themes as Taylor’s first album, including growing up but doing it without worrying about what others might think. Fearless is slightly more mature, as it is about a teenager on the precipice of adulthood. Songs like “Fifteen” and “White Horse” are standouts on the album for their realizations that life isnt a fairy tale, nor does it end at high school. Lucille Clifton (1936-2010) was many things, including a highly respected poet, teacher, and children’s book author. Lucille’s children’s books explore how kids grow older and their understanding of these life changes. The Lucille Clifton papers contains examples of the poet’s writings for children.  


3) Speak NowMari Evans papers 

Mari Evans papers

I said remember this feeling, I passed the pictures around, of all the years that we stood there on the sidelines, Wishing for right now (Long Live) 

Speak Now is the only album (so far) that Taylor wrote entirely by herself, in response to criticism about her songwriting ability. The album contains touches of fairy tale imagery (e.g. “Long Live” and “Enchanted”) while also addressing issues that Taylor was personally going through (e.g. “Castles Crumbling” and “Mean”).  Mari Evans (1919-2017) was a prolific author – during her lifetime she created poems, plays, children’s books, music, and television shows. While perhaps best known for her poems, she also created the educational program, “The Black Experience”, which intended to inform Black viewers of current events while also providing relief from the tense political and social climate by sharing Black musical history. The Mari Evans papers includes slides, notes, and recordings from the tv show.  


4) RedJuanita L. Richardson papers 

Juanita and Charles, Juanita L. Richardson papers

Remembering him comes in flashbacks and echoes (Red) 

Red is the quintessential heartbreak in autumn album. The album explores the life cycle of a break-up from questioning the end (“All Too Well”) to joyous relief (“22”) to trusting yourself to try love again (“Begin Again”). Love and heartbreak can be found in many of our collections, including the Juanita L. Richardson papers. Juanita “Nyta” Richardson was born in 1937 and her collection largely centers around her marriage, divorce, and subsequent off and on love affairs with her second husband, Charles L. Weltner. Nyta married Charles in 1970, and her collection includes love letters, notes and doodles from Charles for Nyta, photographs, and newspaper clippings. It also documents Charles’ political career in Georgia, as well as his affairs during his marriage to Nyta. The Juanita L. Richardson papers shows how difficult and complicated romantic relationships can be.  


5) 1989Jack Stewart papers 

Jack Stewart papers

 Walkin’ through a crowd, the village is aglow, Kaleidoscope of loud heartbeats under coats, everybody here wanted somethin‘ more, Searchin‘ for a sound we hadn’t heard before (Welcome to New York) 

1989 is Taylor’s first pure pop album, and it transformed her career from “America’s Sweetheart” to pop icon. During this era, she moved from Nashville to New York City and this shift can be heard both lyrically and sonically on the album. Many of our artists in Rose Library had a big geographical move during their career – many to New York City specifically, in fact! Benny Andrews, Alice Walker, and Toby Old just to name a few. Another artist whose work was directly impacted by his move to New York City is Jack Stewart (1926-2005). Jack moved to New York City in 1949 at 23, and the year after he had his first solo exhibit of his art at the George Binet Gallery. While living in NYC, Jack became interested in the city’s graffiti culture, which he began photographing in the early 1970s. His collection includes photographs and slides of graffiti, drawings, and paintings.  


6) Reputation – Kali Archibald Papers 

I’m sorry, but the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh! ‘Cuz she’s DEAD. (Look What You Made Me Do) 

Kali Archibald papers

 On Reputation, Taylor experimented with new sounds and styles, bringing her further away from her country roots. The album’s themes include public images and personas, media scrutiny, finding love in dark times, and reinvention. The Kali Archibald papers share many of the same sentiments. Kali (1932-2019) was born Joan Marie Yarusso in Islip, New York. She married Bob Archibald and lived with him and their two kids until sometime around 1962. At age 30, she left her family on Long Island and ended up in Malibu, California. There, she went blond, met celebrities, changed her name to Kali, and began experimenting with her photography. Kali called her art style “Artography”, and it blended her already stunning portraits with artistic elements ranging from light to splashes of color to florals. Kali’s collection at Rose Library paints a stunning portrait of someone who chose to shed her previous persona (as a Long Island housewife) to become the artist she wanted to be.  


7) LoverMartha Wren Gaines papers 

Martha Wren Gaines papers

 I’m so sick of running as fast as I can, wondering if I’d get there quicker, if I was a man, and I’m so sick of them coming at me again (The Man) 

About the Lover album, Taylor has said that it is a “love letter to love, in all of its maddening, passionate, exciting, enchanting, horrific, tragic, wonderful glory”. In addition to its themes of romantic and familial love, the album is heavily influenced by the politics of the late 2010s. “You Need to Calm Down” advocates for LGBTQIA+ rights, while the song “The Man” discusses the double standards for women. Rose Library contains numerous collections from individuals and groups that were fighting for the rights of women, LGBTQIA+ communities, the environment, education, and more. The Martha Wren Gaines papers specifically is strong in its representation of the women’s movement from the late 1960s to late 1980s. Martha Gaines (1939-1987) was a human rights and civil liberties activist based in Atlanta. Martha held many leadership positions in organizations across the nation, including the National Organization for Women (NOW), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Georgians for the ERA, and the State Democratic Executive Committee. The Martha Wren Gaines papers include subject files, scrapbooks, professional papers, and organizational activities records.  


8 & 9) Folklore & EvermoreStories during the Coronavirus Pandemic oral history collection 

Stories during the Coronavirus Pandemic oral history collection

 I know they said the end is near, But I’m still on my tallest tiptoes, Spinning in my highest heels, love, Shining just for you (mirrorball) 

There is a lot one can say about Taylor Swift’s pandemic albums folklore and evermore. They are yet another change for Taylor musically and lyrically. She wrote these albums during lockdown in 2020, writing and recording the songs in a temporary studio she made in her home. The songs comment on the pandemic (“mirrorball), but also tells stories of love triangles, her grandparents (“marjorie and “epiphany”), and the music industry (“it’s time to go”, “mad woman”, and “my tears ricochet”). During the height of the pandemic and since, the Emory Oral History Program (EOHP) has conducted interviews with Emory community members about their experiences during COVID-19. The Stories during the Coronavirus Pandemic oral history collection includes recordings of students, staff, healthcare workers, and more, taken in their own homes.  


10) MidnightsBricktop (Ada Beatrice Smith) papers 

Midnights become my afternoons. (Anti-Hero)

Bricktop papers

 In her official announcement for Midnights, Taylor wrote that this album is made up of “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout my life”. Several of the songs on the album (“Bejeweled”, “Mastermind” & “Vigilante Sh*t” to name a few) are about a woman who is distinctly aware of her power, sparkling along the way. Ada “Bricktop” Smith (1894-1984) was also a woman in charge. Born in West Virginia to mixed race parents, Bricktop spent much of her youth in Chicago, where she became enamored with saloon life and performing cabaret. In her thirties, she moved to Paris and eventually began operating the clubs where she performed. During her life, she operated nightclubs in Paris, Mexico City, and Rome. She eventually closed her Rome club in 1961 to move back to the United States, saying in her autobiography that “I’m tired, honey. Tired of staying up all night.” The Bricktop (Ada Beatrice Smith) papers include letters to and from Bricktop’s family & admirers, financial records, photographs, and newspaper clippings.


11) The Tortured Poets DepartmentFlannery O’Connor papers 

Flannery O’Connor papers

 I guess a lesser woman would’ve lost hope, a greater woman wouldn’t beg, but I looked to the sky and said, “Please” (The Prophecy) 

Hot off the press, The Tortured Poets Department is Taylor’s newest album, released in April 2024. This 31-track behemoth comments on the horrors of fame, childhood and adulthood, escapism, mania, and the complexity of relationships. Tortured Poets also has several mentions to religion throughout (“I Can Fix Him (No Really I Can)”, “But Daddy, I Love Him”), including commentary on self-righteousness, pleas for help, cursed women, and hero-worship. Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was a Southern short story writer, novelist, and artist. Flannery spent most of her short life in Milledgeville, GA, partially due to her lupus diagnosis in her early twenties that ended her travels. Flannery wrote that “I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” Her often-unnerving stories depict the immediate world around her, including her family’s Catholicism, the Civil Rights movement, and her complicated relationship with her mother. The Flannery O’Connor papers contain many letters, writings, childhood art, and photographs. 


There you go! I hope this has given you some inspiration for your next visit to Rose Library!