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Tom Trusky Papers, a Vast and Diverse Research Collection, to Open in April

Tom Trusky
Tom Trusky, inspecting a film in the university’s collection in 1987.

Outsider artist James Castle is getting a lot of love in April as the city prepares to open the James Castle House after a three-year renovation, and Boise State opens an exhibition of Castle’s books. But April is also a month to remember the late Boise State English professor Tom Trusky — most appropriate since Trusky was a preeminent Castle scholar and among Castle’s early, most perceptive fans. Trusky, who died in 2009, helped popularize Castle’s work in Idaho and beyond, and wrote a biography of the artist.

The current Boise State exhibition, James Castle: Eighteen Artist Books (through May 20 at Albertsons Library), features works donated by Trusky to the university.

Beginning Monday, April 9, the Tom Trusky Papers — research and personal papers that filled more than 210 boxes — will be open to the public in the Special Collections and Archives at Albertsons Library. Organizing the collection has been an ongoing project for more than two years, said Gwyn Hervochon, assistant professor and librarian/archivist.

“It’s been an archival project of a lifetime,” Hervochon said.

Along with the professor’s research, the collection includes zines, art books, personal correspondence, photographs, audio and video recordings, including interviews of Castle family members.

Trusky joined Boise State’s faculty in 1970. Throughout his career, he “championed the work of artists and writers who inspired his own projects,” said Hervochon.

Trusky was himself a poet, book artist and researcher. In addition to Castle, Trusky also devoted study to silent film pioneer Nell Shipman who shot films in Idaho in the 1920s. Trusky also devoted his time and energies to small press publications and zines. Trusky was the founder of literary publications and projects including cold-drill Magazine and Poetry in Public Places. He was also co-founder and editor of Ahsahta Press and the Western Writers Series as well as founder and director of the Idaho Center for the Book and the Idaho Film Collection. In 1991 he became director of the Hemingway Western Studies Center. He amassed numerous awards throughout his career, including recognition as one of the top 10 professors in the U.S. by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. He was named the CASE Idaho Professor of the Year in 1990, 1991, and 1993.

Idaho writer Cort Conley, a friend of Trusky, wrote the notes in the program for Trusky’s memorial on campus in 2009.

“Tom was the prince of postcards, the anti-Christ of cliches, the Robin Williams of the extemporaneous letter. And while certainly not above the withering comment, when it mattered and was deserved, one could count on his unencumbered approval. Appreciative students too numerous to mention call him ‘the best professor I ever had,’ ‘the least pretentious academic.'”

Trusky-related events on campus:

  • Friday April 6, 4-7 p.m. exhibition opening reception, James Castle: Eighteen Artist Books, Albertsons Library
  • Friday April 6, 4-7 p.m. exhibition and open house, The Literary Legacy of Tom Trusky Albertsons Library, Special Collections and Archives
  • Thursday April 12, 6-7:30 p.m. screening of films by silent film pioneer Nell Shipman with an introduction by Karen Day, director of “Girl from God’s Country: The History of Women in Film and Other War Stories.” Riverfront Building Room 105 (co-hosted with Idaho Film Collection)
  • Thursday April 19, 2-4 p.m. zine-making workshop open house, Albertsons Library Room 201c (co-hosted with the Gender Studies Program). Items from the Tom Trusky Papers on display, materials provided or bring your own.