Poet Laureate Lee Pennington went in search of a nice, sturdy, fireproof filing cabinet to house his quirky collection of Kentucky literary artifacts. What he ended up with was a new archival wing in the University of Louisville's Ekstrom Library.
The Lee and Joy Pennington Cultural Heritage Gallery opened on Thursday, June 12, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by as many as 200 of Lee and his late wife's former students and colleagues.
"I can't describe how I feel at this moment," said a teary eyed Pennington, who may be best known as the founder of the long running Corn Island Storytelling Festival. "I've certainly never felt this way before."
The evolving exhibit is built around Pennington's extensive letters and thorough Jesse Stuart collection. The Stuart portion includes first editions of all of the Greenup County author's works, including "Harvest Youth" of which only seven known copies exist.
Other items include manuscripts, photographs, sketches, paintings, and quilts. One of Pennington 's most treasured inclusions is his 1966 Royal typewriter on which he hammered out more than one million words, rendering the roller useless. "During most of that time it didn't have a functioning question mark," Pennington said. "Everyone knows you can't be a writer without a question mark."