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Three of the twenty-three Dictabelts donated by John Steinbeck, which were digitized with the support of the Young Fellows. Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts; MA 2518. The Morgan Library & Museum. Photography by Schecter Lee.
The Steinbeck Project
In 2007, the Young Fellows' Steering Committee established the Young Fellows' Special Projects Fund with the purpose of supporting a variety of initiatives at the Morgan. Through this Fund, the Young Fellows aid the institution with critical financial support beyond their membership dues.
The inaugural initiative of the Fund was the Steinbeck Project, undertaken between the fall of 2007 and the summer of 2008. John Steinbeck's extensive audio notes for America and Americans, the final work published in his lifetime, offer a wide-reaching commentary on twentieth-century America and insights into the mind of this great writer. Steinbeck used Dictaphone belts ("Dictabelts"), a technology popular in the 1960s but now obsolete; this rendered his audio recordings unplayable and thus inaccessible to curators, scholars, and the general public. The Dictabelts were the gift of John Steinbeck, winner of the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature and friend of the Morgan's second director, Frederick B. Adams, Jr. Along with the author's autograph and typewritten manuscripts, the recordings form a complete set of working materials for the published book.
The Young Fellows provided the funds necessary to digitize these extremely rare recordings, thereby preserving these treasures—unique to the Morgan—and unlocking Steinbeck's own voice and thoughts. Once the initiative was completed, the recordings were revealed for the first time on July 24, 2008 at the Young Fellows' annual Summer Cocktail Party and are now available at a computer terminal in the Morgan's Reading Room. The Young Fellows enabled John Steinbeck's voice to be heard again in the twenty-first century!
A recently acquired Steinbeck cache of autograph and typed letters, cables, and a postcard from John Steinbeck to Pare Lorentz, 1938–1939. The digitized recordings supplement the Morgan's holdings of rare Steinbeck materials. Purchased on the John F. Fleming Fund, 2007. Photography courtesy of Bonhams, New York.