Robert Caro's archive will inspire future scholars and history lovers.
The New York Historical Society announced earlier this month the acquisition of Caro's interviews, research materials, notes and writing drafts.
Caro's files for his massive biographies of New York City public works director Robert Moses and Sen. and President Lyndon Johnson will be open to researchers without restrictions, as stipulated by the 85-year-old Caro, the Historical Society said.
The writer's book on Moses, who transformed New York City and surrounding areas with his massive 20th century construction projects, examines New York history from the 1920s through the 1970s.
Covering Johnson’s origins in rural Texas and his long political career, the multi-volume biography gives an expansive account of American and world history over the same era.
A former investigative reporter for the Long Island newspaper Newsday, the New York City native in his monumental books traces the dynamic eras of World War I, the Jazz Age, the Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. Caro's won multiple awards, including the Pulitzer Prize.
Ducuments also will be displayed in a permanent installation, "Robert Caro Working," that will feature rotating materials "allowing practitioners and lovers of history and biography to observe the writer and his craft," according to the Historical Society.
The installation will feature recordings of Caro speaking about his research methods, along with TV appearances.
The collection includes the extensive interviews Caro has conducted. For his biography of Moses, "The Power Broker," Caro carried out more than 500 interviews, including many with the the last people then alive who had known New York Gov. Al Smith and New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.
He also conducted a multitude of interviews for his Lyndon Johnson biography, of which four volumes have been published.
Along with extensive rewriting, Caro is known for his immersive research methods, such as moving to Johnson's Austin, Texas, for an extended period.
For work on his forthcoming final volume of the Johnson biography, which covers Johnson's presidency, Caro and his wife, Ina, who works with him, moved for a time to Vietnam.
Caro's devotion to old-fashioned writing methods will also be honored. The archives include his outlines, the legal pads on which he's written the first versions of his work, the succeeding drafts hammered out on Smith Corona electric typewriters and galleys of his books, including comments scribbled by his well-known editor, Robert Gottlieb.
"The Power Broker" is receiving a new burst of fame during the Covid-19 pandemic as one of the books often viewed on bookshelves of reporters and analysts when they do TV Zoom interviews from home. Volumes of Caro's Johnson biography are also frequently visible.
Caro said he chose the New York Historical Society as the permanent home of his memoirs because of his warm memories of spending hours there as a child. When his mother was seriously ill, a favorite aunt often took him to the historical society, he said.
As Caro enshrines his legacy, his readers hope that the exhibit eventually will mark the completion of his Lyndon Johnson biography. After detailing Johnson's rise to the leadership of the U.S. Senate, vice presidency and presidency following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the final volume will encompass Johnson's tragic demise.
After the passage of landmark civil rights legislation, Johnson's presidency collapsed over his escalation of the Vietnam War. In striking contrast to Donald Trump's refusal to accept Joe Biden's election as president, Johnson gave up the presidency when his support eroded.
The Caro exhibit will honor historical truth, which Trump and his followers have attacked.