Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Sylvia Boone Papers, 1925-2007, bulk 1965-1993

Summary Information


This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Sylvia Ardyn Boone, a scholar of Art History with a focus on African art, and the first African-American woman to receive tenure at Yale University. The collection includes manuscripts, correspondence, course materials and syllabi, research notes, photographs, and papers relating to professional projects. Also included are dissertation manuscripts for recipients of the Sylvia Ardyn Boone Memorial Prize at Yale.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1659
Bib ID 11711968 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Boone, Sylvia Ardyn
Title Sylvia Boone Papers, 1925-2007, bulk 1965-1993
Physical Description 37 linear feet (32 record cartons, 2 manuscript boxes, 1 tall manuscript box (box 37))
Language(s) English , French , Mende .

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.

Folder-level restrictions are marked in the container list if apply.



This collection is arranged in six series.


Scope and Contents

Contents of the collection include professional papers such as manuscripts from Boone's graduate studies and from her several book projects, research journals, correspondence, course materials and syllabi, and lecture notes. The collection also contains many personal papers, including correspondence, photographs, notebooks, calendars and datebooks, and magazine and newspaper clippings. Finally, the collection 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 VHS tapes and cassette recordings of interviews with Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks, and "Mrs. DuBois" (Yolande?).

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 her academic community. Letters, memos, and course materials explicitly speak about these challenges, while many personal papers such as guidebooks for black businesses in New Haven imply a search for connection within the community. The collection also includes many papers related to Boone's work on the commemoration events for the 150 th anniversary of the Amistad affair.

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.

  • Series I: Manuscripts and Publications

    Includes chapter drafts, revisions, and related papers for Boone's Master's thesis, doctoral dissertation, and three books. It also contains some drafts of work by others.

  • Series II: Correspondence

    This series contains professional and personal correspondence from throughout Boone's adult life. Correspondence labeled by recipient has been filed intellectually in alphabetical order. Other correspondence is designated either "personal" (letters, greeting cards, postcards) or "professional" (letters to publishers, Yale faculty members, museum curators, etc.) where possible.

  • Series III: Teaching and Professional Work

    This series contains papers relating to Sylvia Boone's extensive teaching career in the department of African and Afro-American Studies and department of Art History at Yale, as well as papers relating to other professional projects such as fellowships, lectures, and committees.

  • Series IV: Research Materials and Notebooks

    Includes spiral-bound notebooks from field work, as well as loose undated pages with notes. Also includes a wide range of articles, notes, museum information, and many other documents on African art.

  • Series V: Personal Papers

    Series includes personal files of Sylvia Boone, containing newspaper and magazine clippings, personal notebooks and calendars, and financial records.

  • Series VI: Sylvia Ardyn Boone Prize

    Manuscripts of dissertations that have been awarded the Sylvia Ardyn Boone Prize at Yale, as well as correspondence to Vera Wells regarding this award.

  • Series VII: Media

    This series contains VHS tapes, film reels, and audiocassettes of events and interviews. It is unclear how many are commercial or if any are original.

  • Series VIII: Slides

    This series contains a large number of slides, mainly professionally shot images of African art in museums. It also contains many images of African women with a focus on hairstyles and clothing, and some images of African architecture.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

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.

Folder-level restrictions are marked in the container list if apply.

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.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Sylvia Boone Papers; Box and Folder (if known); Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative.

This collection was 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.

Note that an additional unprocessed accession of Boone's papers is held by the RBML. Please email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Personal papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Video cassettes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Africa -- Art Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
African American women Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Art -- History Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Art historians Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Art, Mende Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Arts -- Sierra Leone Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
College professors Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dance -- Africa Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sande Society Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Women in art Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

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. She graduated from Brooklyn College and received a Master's from Columbia before completing her Ph.D. in Art History at Yale. She taught at the University of Ghana before joining the faculty at Yale in 1979, ultimately becoming the first African-American woman to receive tenure at Yale in 1988.