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Historical Manuscript Collections


The Historical Manuscripts Collection of The University of Southern Mississippi documents the history of the state of Mississippi by acquiring, preserving, and providing access to primary source materials. Historical Manuscripts (and visual/photographic materials) are especially strong covering: events in Hattiesburg connected with the civil rights movement in the 1960s; prominent politicians’ papers; the American Civil War and other conflicts; the lumber industry; the tung oil industry; the Natchez Trace; the railroad industry, and southern history and culture in general. The collection is primarily in English, with some Spanish and French. The geographic area covered is primarily central and south Mississippi from the 1500s to date. Many subjects may be found within a manuscript or visual collection (see also the Special Collections Development & Acquisitions Statement).

The Historical Manuscripts Collection is one of the largest in the state, where personal, family, business, church, and organizational records that document the development of Mississippi and the achievements and stories of Mississippians are preserved permanently and may be consulted by students, scholars, and other interested persons with access to the resources of a research library.

The collection consists of approximately 10,000 cubic feet of manuscript collections and over 100,000 photographs and negatives. Some of the most frequently studied collections are the papers of Governor and U.S. Senator Theodore G. Bilbo, U.S. Congressman William M. Colmer, Governors Paul B. Johnson Sr. and Paul B. Johnson Jr.; various civil rights collections; the records of the J.J. Newman Lumber Company, the American Tung Oil Association, and the Association of American Railroads; the mayoral papers of the City of Hattiesburg; and the Oseola McCarty collection. See also the Alphabetical List of Historical Manuscripts Collections.

The collections are preserved, stored, and housed according to generally accepted professional archival standards and located in the McCain Library and Archives building (named in honor of Dr. William D. McCain, former president of the University and director of the state Department of Archives and History).

Although each collection is as unique as the person or group whose activities it reflects, personal and family collections typically consist of letters, diaries, scrapbooks, school and military service records, certificates of achievement, photographs, and newspaper clippings. Business, church, and organizational records frequently contain ledgers, minutes of meetings, anniversary materials, photographs, scrapbooks, and newspaper clippings.

The collections are consulted by researchers in the Cleanth Brooks Reading Room under staff supervision. To assist researchers, a detailed finding aid guide or written inventory of the contents of each collection is prepared (including a biographical sketch). Fully processed collection descriptions and finding aids are also available in the online catalog.