In July 2010, I began processing the collection of former B.C. English Professor, John McAleer. Professor McAleer was a well-known, well-respected, and well-loved member of our English Department for forty-eight years in addition to being Rex Stout’s biographer (Stout’s papers are also owned by the Burns Library and can be used in the Burns Library Reading Room) and an expert on Theodore Dreiser. As a doctoral student in English here at Boston College, I have a special affinity for this collection.
Professor McAleer’s papers include fascinating items that range from the expected (vast correspondence) to the unusual (strands of hair from Rex Stout’s beard). Processing it has been both captivating and frustrating as I struggle to understand Professor McAleer’s meticulous organizational system (he was a man who loved all things alphabetical). As provenance is such an important part of what we do here at the Burns when we process collections, I am working to maintain Professor McAleer’s original order whenever possible. While this may mean that I don’t always understand what Professor McAleer was thinking, I am able to honor his research methodology and the ways in which he approached both his academic and authorial work.
Most importantly, keeping track of and sticking to Professor McAleer’s order allows researchers a unique glimpse into the behind-the-scenes work that went into authoring Rex Stout’s Edgar Award-winning biography. This “peek behind the curtain” gives visitors to Professor McAleer’s collection a multidimensional understanding of the relationship between author and subject, one which ultimately resulted in a meaningful and lasting friendship.
The processing of this collection is endlessly appealing and I look forward to a time in the near future when the processing will be complete so that researchers from both the Boston College community and beyond can enjoy Professor John J. McAleer’s papers.
- Katie Daily-Bruckner, Graduate Research Assistant, Burns Library & Boston College Doctoral Candidate in the Department of English