Thursday, January 27, 2011

Archives and Publics: Rebecca Burns + "Burial for a King" + Research

On Thursday, February 24, 2011, author and journalist Rebecca Burns will discuss her new book, Burial for a King: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Funeral and the Week that Transformed Atlanta and Rocked the Nation. Read about it here. The event takes place at 7:00 p.m. in the Authors’ and Writers’ Lounge on the 3rd floor and is free and open to the public. If you are in the area, it will be an amazing opportunity to see Burns, as AARL is one of the many research libraries she used to write the book. Copies will be available for purchase.

If you aren’t familiar with Rebecca Burns, spend a few moments here. While well-known as former editor in chief and, now, interactive director at Atlanta magazine, she also is a prolific writer who has published three books in a relatively short amount of time. In addition to Burial for a King, Burns is author of Rage in the Gate City: the Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot, now in its second edition, and Atlanta: Yesterday & Today.

While an accomplished journalist and author, Burns is featured in this post for another reason. She’s an advocate and user of archives. Pick up any of her books, and you will find evidence of exhaustive research through lists of primary and secondary sources, which sometimes include informative notations. I witnessed firsthand the countless hours Burns spent researching AARL collections for Atlanta: Yesterday & Today and Burial for a King; some weeks she worked concurrently on both projects. Throughout months and months of research, Burns exhibited great rigor, thoroughness, and passion.  

The relationship between archivist and researcher is often a collaborative process filled with leads, dead ends, and discoveries. But there’s more to research than this one-to-one relationship. As the editors of Beyond the Archives: Research as Lived Process note, “the process [sic] of research itself creates new knowledge, not just published results” (p. 6). It is generative, transmissive. In other words, those involved in the process are changed as a result of new information and, in turn, change others through intellectual exchange. Examples at hand are an author’s talk or an archivist’s blog post. Both become settings through which findings and information are delivered and meaningful conversations can occur, whether it’s through a question and answer session or comments section.

Please join us Tuesday, February 24th, for what promises to be a wonderful evening of learning and dialogue.


Rebecca Burns, Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot, 2nd ed., (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2009)

_______, Atlanta: Yesterday & Today (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, Ltd., 2010)

_______, Burial for a King: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Funeral and the Week that Transformed Atlanta and Rocked the Nation (New York: Scribner, 2011)

Gesa E. Kirsch and Liz Rohan, eds., Beyond Archives: Research as Lived Process (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2008)

Posted by Wesley Chenault, Library Research Associate

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