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Table of Contents
Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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Series I: Writings, 1977-2015
Series II: Correspondence, 1950s-2013
Series III: Professional Files, 1985-2010
Series IV: Personal and Biographical Files, 1930s-2009, undated
Series V: Audiovisual and Digital Materials, 1987-2010, undated
At a Glance
The collection is arranged in five series, and several subseries.
This collection documents Orlean's career as a writer and a journalist. The collection contains address books, appointment books, audio recordings, clippings, computer files, contracts, correspondence, drafts, interviews, notes, notebooks, photographs, proofs, publications, research materials, school records, and video recordings.
Documentation of the full process of Orlean's writing is most extensive for her book projects: Saturday Night (1990), The Orchid Thief (1998), and Rin Tin Tin (2011). The records for these projects include Orlean's notebooks, which she brings on research trips, and her research materials. The notes and research for Saturday Night are organized by chapter. For The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin, Orlean also used a system of numbered index cards to plot out her points and to prepare before beginning to write on a computer. These index cards, and related notes also organized by number, are included in the records.
Orlean also kept notebooks and research materials for her projects for The New Yorker and other magazines. Records are most extensive for articles written from the late 1980s to the present. The collection also include copies of many of Orlean's newspaper and magazine articles, including clippings scrapbooks of her early work in Portland, Oregon and Boston, Massachusetts that were created by Orlean's mother.
The collection includes personal, family, and professional correspondence. Most correspondence was only loosely organized, and remains in its original groupings. The personal correspondence files include correspondence, postcards, and greeting cards. Professional files include correspondence on various proposals, projects, and other professional matters, as well as personal messages. In addition to the professional correspondence, the collection includes other professional files that include agreements, contracts, event information, lecture notes, press passes, royalty statements, clippings, interviews, and reviews.
The papers also contain personal materials and school papers, including diaries, diplomas, journals, passports, postcards, and various mementos. Orlean's school records date primarily from middle school, high school and college, and include class notes, student newspapers, notebooks, and writing assignments. In addition, the papers include family correspondence, photographs, and postcards – some of the family correspondence includes Susan Orlean, but other pieces are between other family members, and do not involve her directly.
The collection includes both personal and professional photographs. The printed photographs include childhood photographs, family photographs, professional headshots and photographs from events, and photographs which appear to show Orlean on location at professional assignments.
The collection also includes audiocassettes and videocassettes, compact disks, DVDs, floppy disks, hard drives, and a personal digital assistant device. These materials document Orlean's writing, as well as her professional appearances. Many of these materials have not been reformatted; please contact the Rare Book & Manuscript Library in advance of your visit to discuss access options.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Some records with sensitive personal information, including social security numbers, are restricted at this time.
If you would like to use audiovisual or digital materials in Series V, please contact the library in advance of your visit to discuss access options.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Susan Orlean Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2015.2016.M071: Source of acquisition--Glenn Horowitz. Method of acquisition--Purchase; Date of acquisition--10/21/2015.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
This collection was processed by Catherine C. Ricciardi and Tiana Reid (GSAS 2019) in 2017-2018.
Finding aid written by Catherine C. Ricciardi and Tiana Reid in July 2018.
2018-08-22 File created.
2018-08-24 XML document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Susan Orlean was born on October 31, 1955 in Cleveland, Ohio, the daughter of Edith (nee Gross) and Arthur Orlean.
Orlean studied literature and history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, graduating in 1976. After graduating from college, Orlean moved to Portland, Oregon. Although she considered attending law school, Orlean began writing for local publications, including Paper Rose Magazine and Williamette Week. In 1982, Orlean moved to Boston, where she wrote for the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Globe. A collection of Orlean's Boston Globe columns on New England were collected and published as Red Sox and Bluefish: And Other Things That Make New England New England in 1987, around the time that she left Boston and moved to New York. Orlean began writing for The New Yorker in 1987, and became a staff writer in 1992. She has also contributed articles to many other magazines, including Rolling Stone, Vogue, Times Magazine, Spy, Esquire, and Outside.
Orlean published the first of her books, Saturday Night, in 1990. Other books followed, including The Orchid Thief (1998) and Rin Tin Tin: The Life and Legend (2011). Orlean's magazine articles have been collected in two anthologies: The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People (2001) and My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere (2004).
Two of Orlean's works have been adapted for film: Charlie Kaufman's film Adaptation (2002) was based on The Orchid Thief, and Blue Crush (2002) was based on Orlean's article "Life's Swell" for Women Outside.
Orlean was married to Peter Sistrom in 1983; they divorced after sixteen years of marriage. In 2001, she married John Gillepsie, and they had one son together, Austin, born in 2004.
Currently, Orlean continues to write for The New Yorker and other magazines, and to work on book projects, including The Library Book, due to be published in October 2018.