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last updated: 3/12/2008

Brody Gift Enhances African Collection

Gift of African Materials Extends World-Class Collection

A passion to study Africa compelled Amanda Lewis Knighton to IU, and her work with a recent donation has given her firsthand experience in cataloging a collection that ranges from books and manuscripts to T-shirts and commemorative plates. 

Amanda, a student in IU's School of Library and Information Science, is organizing a one-of-a-kind collection of materials pertaining to President Banda of Malawi, Africa. The items were donated to the Indiana University Libraries by Dr. Donald Brody, who worked with Banda in the 1960s and 1970s and collected the materials while in government service. Banda, in fact, gave Brody his consent to write his biography.

Perhaps in preparation for that undertaking, Brody collected hundreds of items-from books and photographs to correspondence and cuff links.  "The range is just huge,"  Amanda says.  "Anything, even slightly related to Banda, he collected. If you can imagine something, it's in this collection."   In addition to Banda's papers and diaries, the collection even includes Banda's fly-whisk, with which he was often photographed.

Amanda's job, with help from African Studies bibliographer Marion Frank-Wilson and Lilly Library cataloger Cheryl Baumgart, is to create an online finding aid so it's easier for researchers to locate items of interest.

"The challenge is to make it cohesive and accessible," Amanda says of the collection. She draws on the classes she's taken in her graduate program, including cataloging and archiving, but admits this unique collection presents its own challenges. "I'm the kind of person who if you put an interesting book in front of me, I'll start reading it," Amanda says, "so it's taking me a while to get through it."

Banda was the first president of Malawi, a landlocked country in Southern Africa about the size of Pennsylvania. He ruled the country for three decades, from 1964 (just two years after the country's independence from Great Britain) until 1994. 

The university makes a good home for the collection. Brody and his wife Paula, now residents of New Albany, Indiana, knew that IU boasts one of the strongest collections of African materials in the world. And in 1978, Banda himself was awarded an honorary degree from IU, having been an IU student for a short time in the early 1920s.

last updated: 3/12/2008