Timothy Leary archives acquired by the NY Public Library

Some 350 boxes of hitherto unpublished papers from the estate of the late Timothy Leary have been purchased by the New York Public Library, and will be opened to researchers and the public after the library staff has organized and sorted the materials. Leary was somewhat of a compulsive gatherer of the  traces of his life and work, and some of the material is clearly more interesting than others. For many people this will provide in-depth access to the beginnings of the Harvard Psychedelic Research projects. Various media have been granted a preliminary view of this material.

Great thanks to Michael Horowitz for the providing the links to these articles.

New York Magazine published the following article, by Boris Kachka:


How Was Your Trip, Allen?

Acid commentaries from Timothy Leary’s just-revealed archive.
Timothy Leary has settled in at the New York Public Library. After many months of negotiation, the NYPL has acquired his complete papers—335 boxes of manuscripts, letters, photographs, and videos constituting the legacy of the psychedelic guru […]

As journalists are wont to do, there’s an emphasis on the weird and bizarre and a down-playing of the seriousness of the research. Michael Horowitz, Leary’s long-time archivist, provides a corrective commentary on the selection:


…The New York Magazine writer who covered the recent acquisition of the Timothy Leary archives by the New York Public Library seems to have a morbid interest in descriptions of the worst moments of people’s psychedelic trips…

This highly selective editing ignores the fact that, lo and behold, these same folks in the middle and later stages of their trips, and upon reflection afterwards, concluded it was one of the most uniquely insightful and glorious experiences of their lives…

Here is how the NY Times described the project, in an article by Patricia Cohen:


…When the Harvard psychologist and psychedelic explorer Timothy Leary first met the Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in 1960, he welcomed Ginsberg’s participation in the drug experiments he was conducting at the university…

…The meeting between Ginsberg and Leary marked an anchor point in the history of the 1960s drug-soaked counterculture. Leary, the credentialed purveyor of hallucinatory drugs, was suddenly invited into the center of the artistic, social and sexual avant-garde…

The following is a commentary published in The Berkeley Blog by David Presti, senior lecturer of neurobiology at UC Berkeley:


…While many students in college today do not know who he is, Timothy Leary is without a doubt one of UC Berkeley’s most famous graduates.  He received his PhD in psychology at Cal in 1950…

I wrote the following  comment on David Presti’s blog:

Thanks for this sensitively nuanced appraisal of my former colleague and dear friend Tim Leary. Your statement that “the role of Timothy Leary in the early days of contemporary psychedelic research and his impact on society during the second half of the 20th century are far from having been fully explored” is right on target. I think in retrospect his pioneering contributions will be recognized and appreciated, while his flamboyant and provocative style of self-presentation will be forgotten. More books about him are coming out all the time – the most recent being Peter Conners’ White Hand Society – The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg. He was the funniest man I’ve ever known. When asked about Nixon’s judgement of him as “the most dangerous man in America” he said “It’s true – I’ve got America surrounded.”

The Economist


Acid tests
Research into hallucinogenic drugs begins to shake off decades of taboo
THE psychedelic era of the 1960s is remembered for its music, its art and, of course, its drugs. Its science is somewhat further down the list. But before the rise of the counterculture, researchers had been studying LSD as a treatment for everything from alcoholism to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), with promising results…
Timothy-Leary-Being-LedThe Guardian (UK) published a fairly balanced review by Sue Blackmore, freelance writer, lecturer and broadcaster:


Will Timothy Leary’s papers turn us on to LSD?

…Perhaps these papers will give a glimpse of great genius arising from the clash of creative minds with powerful drugs – of insights gained and mystical peaks reached. Or perhaps they will show the horrors and mental decline of drug abuse and excess.

Possibly the most interesting will be the numerous “session records”, that is, descriptions of taking LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and other psychedelic drugs. These will presumably give a more realistic picture of what these poets, writers, professors and actors actually experienced at the time…

The New Yorker published the article about the archives by Scott Staton, which touches on some of the larger cultural-historical themes in a perceptive manner:


Turn On, Tune In, Drop by the Archives: Timothy Leary at the N.Y.P.L.

…In addition to his Harvard records and correspondence with such figures as Albert Hoffman (who first synthesized L.S.D. in 1938) and Aldous Huxley, Leary’s papers include the complete records of the various entities he established to continue his hallucinogenic studies: the International Federation for Internal Freedom, the Castalia Foundation, and the League for Spiritual Discovery. They constitute an immense amount of material to be assessed and reëvaluated by researchers today. The piles of case studies, session reports, and letters describing personal experiences in his archive are among the earliest ever recorded in such a fashion, and will offer scholars a unique perspective on the subject. Cultural historians will turn to the collection in an effort to shed greater light on this paradoxical figure who typified the acid-fueled, utopian indulgences of a far younger generation. Leary’s escapade was seriocomic—a midlife crisis that took on the dimension of a cultural revolution. In a private, lucid moment, he might have conceded this disproportion…

3 Responses

  1. […] Ralph’s post on his own blog about the last few weeks of press on the archives. Ralph was a graduate student at Harvard, working […]

  2. for a new book that puts the whole psychedelic thing into a higher context, check out
    Review copies available

  3. Nice to see Tim’s stuff got a nice home. Looking forward to his letters
    to and from Aldous, Bill Wilson, et. al. Most extraordinary

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