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Robert Coles papers

Identifier: MSS 323 large

Scope and Contents

Still in process, the collection numbers over 70 boxes and spans the time period from the 1960's to the present. Items are continually being added to the collection. The bulk of the materials are printed correspondence (personal as well as professional), published articles and essays, manuscript drafts, course materials, and administrative records. Much of the correspondence and original drafts are holographic as well as typed. There are also videotapes, computer discs, audiotapes, and some photographs. Much of the collection consists of his published articles and essays, with the original publication as well as drafts included in the file.


  • Creation: 1966 - approximately 2016

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research with the exception of boxes 78 and 79 which are not open to access to anyone at this time.

Conditions Governing Access

The material is stored offsite in Remote Storage. Please contact Special Collections 3 working days in advance if you wish to use it.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the authors of the items in this collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. For photocopy and duplication requests, please contact the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections, Michigan State University Libraries.

Biographical / Historical

Robert Coles (b. 1929) is a child psychiatrist and professor emeritus of psychiatry and medical humanities at Harvard University where he was James Agee Professor of Social Ethics in the Graduate School of Education until his retirement in 2002. First appointed as a Teaching Fellow in Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School in 1955, Coles' career at Harvard University spans 47 years of teaching, writing, and service to communities of hard-pressed people, especially children, from Alaska to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Coles is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and a recipient of the prestigious Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. He has received more than 60 honorary degrees and written more than 80 books. Coles is best known for work that explores children's moral, political, and spiritual sensibilities, but he is also a prominent and eloquent spokesman for community service, civil rights, and the public responsibilities of academics, writers, and intellectuals, with subjects of books like "A Call to Service", "The Secular Mind", "Lives of Moral Leadership", "Bruce Springsteen's America", and, most recently, "Political Leadership: Stories of Power and Politics from Literature and Life". His work includes literary criticism, biographies, reviews, poetry, social commentary, and children's books. In addition, Coles is founder and editor of the award winning documentary magazine DoubleTake, and the author of numerous works of documentary nonfiction including "The Story of Ruby Bridges" and "The Old Ones of New Mexico" as well as a significant study of the theory and practice of documentary inquiry, "Doing Documentary Work". Numerous critical studies stress Coles representative status as a leading thinker, writer, and activist in the American grain. A pragmatic moralist, Coles bears witness to the reality of pursuing a moral life at work in the world, while his own life's work reflects the value of, and need for a literate, compassionate, and informed understanding of that world.


79.6 Linear Feet (79 boxes) ; 27 x 14 x 32 cm.

Language of Materials



The Robert Coles papers are arranged in four series, as follows: Series I: Correspondence (Personal and Institutional dating from 1960's to present, with bulk of correspondence from 1980's and 1990's) Series II: Works by Coles (Book manuscripts; Introductions to books by others; Articles/Essays/Books Reviews/Public Lectures spanning past five decades) Series III: Course Files circa 1980 - 2001 (including syllabi, administrative records,tapes, videos) Series IV: Works about Robert Coles, 1960's to the present. (articles, interviews, and reviews of books written by Coles)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Robert Coles in 2007.

Related Materials

Robert Coles was the founder and editor of DoubleTake Magazine. MSU Special Collections also has the DoubleTake Archive, MSS 305.

Processing Information

Processed by Anne-Marie Rachman in 2008.

Finding Aid for the Robert Coles papers
4 Published And Cataloged
Finding aid by Anne-Marie Rachman.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections Repository

MSU Libraries
366 W. Circle Drive
East Lansing MI 48823 USA