Finding Treasures in the Arthur C. Clarke Collection

Posted on Wed, May 27 2015
  • by: Patti Williams is the acquisition archivist for the National Air and Space Museum.
Arthur C. Clarke with Aleksei Leonov
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Earlier this month, I wrote about some of the behind-the-scenes work it took to survey and pack the Arthur C. Clarke Collection for transfer to the National Air and Space Museum. In this post, I wanted to highlight the types of material that make up this wonderful collection. These were all found during my cursory survey of the material; who knows what wonderful items we will uncover as we start the in-depth processing!

We found 27 linear feet of correspondence dating from the 1950s until the 2000s with the preponderance from the late 1960s on. Correspondents varied greatly and included family and friends, literary agents, editors, fellow science fiction writers, scientists, and even teenage fans. You can read one of Clarke's letters from Stanley Kubrick about the Dawn of Man sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Clarke Box of Correspondence

Just one box of Clarke’s saved correspondence. NASM2014-06985

There are also Clarke’s diaries and address books as well as videotapes and film, including footage relating to Clarke’s scuba diving interests and interviews about space topics. We also found albums of photographs, including one of Clarke as a baby and one of the author with cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov. And, of course, there were manuscript materials for all of his works including page proofstyped manuscripts, and handwritten notes and outlines.

Arthur C. Clarke with Aleksei Leonov

Arthur C. Clarke with cosmonaut Aleksei Leonov.

One of my absolute favorite finds was the handwritten notes and outline of one of my favorite Clarke books, The Fountains of Paradise. I read this book, set in a fictionalized Sri Lanka, while I was in Sri Lanka packing up the collection. To have the pleasure of reading the published book and then to be able to hold Clarke’s original notes and outline while in his home was almost overwhelming and one of the most rewarding moments of my professional life.

Clarke Notes

Clarke’s handwritten notes for The Fountains of Paradise. NASM2014-07009