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Pitt’s University Library System received its largest-ever grant in support of the August Wilson Archive

Wilson seated at a table

Following Denzel Washington’s weekend visit to the Hill District to assist with the grand opening of the August Wilson House, the University of Pittsburgh Library System announced today a $1 million grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation to support the opening of and the public’s engagement with its August Wilson Archive.

This grant, the largest in the history of the University of Pittsburgh Library System (ULS), follows two years of support and other charitable donations toward in-depth public engagement with the archive, which is scheduled to open to the public in January.

In 2020, the ULS acquired the archive of the acclaimed Pittsburgh native, considered one of the greatest American playwrights. All 10 plays in his American Century Cycle were produced on Broadway — two earning Wilson the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. 

“Pittsburgh was such a formative influence on August Wilson’s work and shaping his worldview,” said David K. Roger, president of Henry L. Hillman Foundation. “The ability to preserve the archive here in Pittsburgh where it will be accessible to audiences who grew up in the neighborhoods featured in Wilson’s storytelling is gratifying. This opportunity would not have been possible without Constanza Romero’s generous collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, helping to create an unprecedented view into the creative process of a singular American playwright.”

The ULS is partnering with other local cultural organizations to provide a week-long celebration of the legacy of August Wilson in March 2023. 

Funding from the Hillman Foundation will support the final stages of processing the archive — comprising more than 450 boxes of materials such as draft scripts, artwork, plaques, correspondence and a guitar — and focus on partnering with groups and organizations both locally and nationally to see the Wilson archive come to life.

“The Henry L. Hillman Foundation grant will enable us to integrate the August Wilson Archive in the very fabric of the local cultural and civic life,” said Kornelia Tancheva, the Hillman University Librarian and ULS Director who also is the grant’s principal investigator. "Wilson's work was deeply informed by his experiences growing up in the Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which makes the opportunity to share this collection with those communities, local schools, and cultural and arts organizations incredibly satisfying. With the generous support of the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, we embark on what is, in some ways, a second homecoming for the archive.