Conroy hand-wrote all of his work because he never learned to type. The exhibit has his handwritten drafts from his well-known novel “The Death of Santini” to his book turned movie “The Prince of Tides.”
The exhibit showcases Conroy’s entire life and the work he did while living. Conroy was a teacher for underprivileged children on an island off South Carolina’s coast, and he used his experience there to write “The Water is Wide.”
Crouch spent more than a year preparing and setting up the Conroy exhibit. She had the chance to meet him in person before he passed away and said, “he was just nice to talk to and be around because it was going to be fun.”
By Charnita Mack
The death of the beloved South Carolina author, Pat Conroy, is bringing people to the Thomas Cooper Library at USC to see an exhibit of the author’s work.
Although the exhibit has been set up since Nov. 2015, his death has sparked more interest in his literary papers housed at the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, says Jessica Crouch, archivist and curator of the exhibit.
Conroy died of pancreatic cancer at his home in Beaufort on March 4.
“Even if you’ve never met him, you just read him, you had a connection to him that you don’t always have with a lot of authors,” she said, “ so people want to come here and see that.”
It took Crouch about a year to arrange and organize about 90 boxes worth of archives and scrapbooks filled with material he donated in May 2014, she said. Then months and months of planning went into how the exhibit would be set up.
The walls are filled with the illustrations of Wendell Minor, Conroy’s illustrator. One glass display box holds all of the first editions of Conroy’s eleven books. The others hold memories of Conroy’s past, including handwritten drafts of each of his books.
Pages and pages of yellow legal pad filled with Conroy’s cursive writing are there to see.
Conroy never learned how to type. His father, an abusive and demanding Marine Corps fighter pilot, refused to let him learn because he thought it was “women’s work.” He was able to get to a point where he could peck some of the keys, but not efficiently enough for him to type out his work, Crouch said.
Crouch also curated another exhibit of Conroy’s work at the Historic Beaufort Foundation that “looks specifically at his life in the Lowcountry,” she said.
The specificity of the Beaufort exhibit is what differentiates it from the USC exhibit. Inside the USC exhibit, you can find photos and information from Conroy’s time as a schoolteacher on Daufuskie Island to his work on the film that came out of his book “The Prince of Tides.”
Conroy was loved by many in South Carolina, and Crouch had a chance to meet him before his sudden death. She described Conroy as someone that was “gracious with his time.”
“Anyone he met, he wanted to ask you questions,” she said.
The exhibit will be on display until March 31, and Crouch is encouraging people to stop by before it is taken down.
“It’s an opportunity to see Pat Conroy’s life and writing life in a way you’re not going to get to see anywhere else,” she said.
The exhibit in Beaufort has extended its display time until the end of May because of the increasing number of visitors, Crouch said.
The Special Collections Library is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. After the exhibit is taken down, the items on display will be returned to the Conroy archive in Rare Books and Special Collections, and they will be accessible to students and researchers through the department’s reading room.