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Using the Collection
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Series I: Manuscripts and Publications, 1970-1986
Series III: Professional Work, 1961-1995
Series VIII: Printed Materials, 1951-1975
At a Glance
This collection is arranged in 9 series.
Scope and Contents
The Sylvia Ardyn Boone Papers consist of manuscripts from Boone's graduate studies and from her several book projects, as well as research journals, correspondence, course materials and syllabi, and lecture notes. The collection also contains personal papers, including correspondence, photographs, notebooks, calendars and datebooks, and magazines and newspaper clippings. The collection also contains materials collected by Vera Wells after Boone's death, including dissertation manuscripts from the recipients of Yale's Sylvia Ardyn Boone Prize. Audiovisual materials are also present in the collection, including slides from research trips as well as video and sound recordings of interviews with Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, and "Mrs. Du Bois" (Yolande Du Bois).
The collection as a whole presents a complex and intimate picture of Sylvia Boone's intellectual life and personality. In particular, it illuminates the challenges she faced and connections she forged as one of the few scholars of color in the academic community. Letters, memoranda, conference and research materials, as well as course materials explicitly speak about these challenges, while the papers from her work in West Africa in the early 1960s and other collected materials imply a search for deeper understanding of African culture and connection within the Pan-African and African-American community. The collection also includes papers related to Boone's work on the commemoration events for the 150th anniversary of the Amistad affair in 1989.
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.
Box 34 (student records and privacy matters) is restricted until 2061. Additional folder-level restrictions are marked in the container list.
All original copies of audio / moving image media are closed until reformatting. Please contact RBML regarding special-formats digital reproduction service.
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); Sylvia Ardyn Boone Papers; Box and Folder (if known); 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
2012.2013.M145: Source of acquisition--Vera Wells. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--5/17/2013.
2014.2015.M140: Source of acquisition--Vera Wells. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--6/8/2015.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Box 1-37: Processed by Rachel Finn, Pratt Institute '13 (MLS) and Emily Hawk, Columbia University (PhD student), under supervision of Carolyn Smith, archivist. Finding aid written by Emily Hawk in June 2019. Whenever possible, folders created and labeled by Sylvia Boone have been maintained with Boone's handwritten title. The titles of these folders are preceded with "Personal File," "Office File," or "File." Though the contents of these particular folders usually match Boone's title, in some cases the contents do not match. Most of the materials from Box 1-37 are bulk dated from 1970s to 2000s.
Box 38-65: Processed by Yingwen Huang, 2021. Some original folders are retained due to notes written on them. In the case where materials were not in folders before processing, archivist grouped materials and files with same and/or similar contents together, and devised a chronological folder-level arrangement. Some duplicative materials found in the boxes were interfiled in the previously processed boxes. Most of the materials in Box 38-65 are the early materials bulk dated from 1950s to 1970s, as well as materials related to the Amistad Commemoration from 1989 to 1990s. Small amount of printed materials were sent to mold remediation after processing.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Sylvia Ardyn Boone (1940-1993) was an African-American art historian specializing in African art, particularly focusing on the Mende people of Sierra Leone, female imagery, standards of beauty, and masks.
Sylvia Ardyn Boone was born on September 30, 1940, in New York City to John Russell Boone and Alice Mabel Boone. Her parents were from North Carolina and she had three siblings: John Daniel Boone, J. Herbert Boone, and Edgar Strauss Boone. Sylvia graduated from the A.B. Davis High School. She later studied social science and English at Brooklyn College and received her bachelors in 1960. After graduating from college, she joined the work camp at Operation Crossroads Africa. She later went on to study at the Columbia School of Social Work and received her M.S.W. in 1962. She worked at several social welfare institutions in New York dedicated to social causes, community needs and services. She also studied, worked, and traveled in Europe, Central America, and West Africa.
After her graduation from Columbia, she began working in Conakry, Guinea, at the Ministries of Education and Information, the Office of the President, and Radio Guinea. In 1963, she became the Research fellow at the Ghana Academy of Sciences for the Ford Foundation-sponsored research project "Survey of Contemporary Ghana." She also studied and taught at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana and received a Certificate in African Studies in 1965. It was during this time her interests in anti-imperialism, neocolonialism, African nationalism, and Pan-Africanism grew. She also actively participated in various organizations and conferences in West Africa at the time, such as the Fourth Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Conference, Summit Conference of the Organization of African Unity, Seminar for Youth Leaders of Africa, Council of African Organizations, Ghana Young Pioneers, and the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY).
In 1966, she returned to New York and began working with the Women's Africa Committee at the African-American Institute where she was a lecturer and a consultant with the Community Service Program teaching Congolese women about leadership. At the same time, she was also teaching African American Studies and African literature courses at various colleges such as CUNY Richmond College and Hunter College, Mary Rogers College, NYU, New School for Social Research, University of California Berkeley, Hamilton College, and Timothy Dwight College.
In 1970, she started as a visiting lecturer with the African-American Studies Program at Yale University. She also began studying Art History in 1971 and received her M.A. in 1973, upon the completion of her thesis, The Sande Society Mask "Bundu". She completed her Ph.D. in Art History, and her doctoral dissertation, Sowo Art in Sierra Leone: The Mind and Power of Woman on the Plane of the Aesthetic Disciplines, received the Blanshard Prize in 1979. Subsequently, Boone was appointed to the Department of History of Art and was promoted in 1988, becoming the first African-American woman to receive tenure at Yale.
Boone was also an author and activist. She published West African travels: a guide to people and places (1974), Radiance from the Waters: Ideals of Feminine Beauty in Mende Art (1986), and Images of women in African art in Artist and influence (1988), among other works.
Her other professional activities included participating in the United Nations Institute for Training and Research in 1979 and the corresponding UN Seminar on Creative Women in Changing Societies in Oslo, Norway, 1980. She also contributed to the organization of the 150th commemoration anniversary of the 1839 Amistad Affair, which included a series of celebration and educational events held in Connecticut in 1989.
Boone died in Connecticut at the age of 52, on April 27, 1993.