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Overview of Special Collections

Manuscripts and Archives

image of letter MManuscripts and archives comprise the unique assets of the department. Special Collections holds more than fourteen hundred processed manuscript collections, amounting to more than ten thousand linear feet of materials. These collections represent many areas of human endeavor, including government and politics, business, family and community life, education, conservation, the arts, and religion. The important episodes of Arkansas and United States history are well documented. For example, more than one hundred manuscript collections pertain in some way to the history of the Civil War in Arkansas. Covering Arkansas politics for virtually the entire twentieth century are the papers of Senators J. William Fulbright, Joe T. Robinson, and Hattie Caraway, Representatives Logan H. Roots, Clyde T. Ellis, Brooks Hays, Oren Harris, John Paul Hammerschmidt, Beryl Anthony, and Ed Bethune, and Governors Jeff Davis, Charles Hillman Brough, Sid McMath, Orval Faubus, and David Pryor. Other significant collections support research in the history of civil rights in Arkansas. They include papers of Daisy Bates and Elizabeth P. Huckaby of Little Rock and of Arthur B. Caldwell, an Arkansas lawyer with the United States Department of Justice, as well as records of the Arkansas Council on Human Relations. The collections of the Arkansas Archives of Political Communication and of the Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History are maintained by the Special Collections Department.

Records of churches and schools, businesses, fraternal and social environmental and preservation groups, and other associations are resources for the study of community life in Arkansas. Among such collections are the records of the Tucker family's farming enterprise in Jefferson County, of the McIlroy Bank in Fayetteville, and of the Ozark Society's successful effort to preserve the Buffalo River as a natural stream. The Southland College records document the activities of a school for African Americans operated near Helena by Quakers from 1864 to 1925. Another school collection is the records of Commonwealth College, a radical labor school operated at Mena between 1923 and 1940. The extensive files of the Arkansas Historical Records Survey, collected in 1936-1942 by the Federal Writers Project, support research in Arkansas social and church history.

Women's records, such as club minutes, scrapbooks, and yearbooks, establish the important contributions women have made to the history of Arkansas. Special Collections has acquired the records of many women's organizations, including the Morrilton Pathfinder Club, founded in 1898; the Women's Book Club of Harrison, organized in 1900; the Fayetteville branch of the American Association of University Women, established in 1922; and Extension Homemakers' Clubs throughout the state. The department also houses the papers of the Arkansas League of Women Voters and the archives of Peace Links, the grass-roots women's network founded by Betty Bumpers in 1982 to promote peaceful alternatives to nuclear war.

Diaries, letters, scrapbooks, and memoirs in Special Collections preserve a record of the private lives and activities of Arkansas families and individuals throughout the history of the state. For example, the Butler-Paisley family correspondence chronicles the life and times of a large Clark County family from 1857 to 1887. The Martin Family Papers comprise diaries and correspondence created by a Bradley County family between 1847 and 1945 and include the diaries kept by Benjamin W. Martin and his wife, Martha Elizabeth Bond. Among the twentieth-century collections, the papers of Myrtle McCormick Parks of Prairie Grove include a diary she wrote for her three sons, who were serving in the armed forces during World War II. From the other side of the state are the Core Family Papers that document the personal and business history of a Stuttgart rice-growing family, and the diary kept by James Millinder Hanks in Helena from 1865 to 1907.

Arkansans who made significant contributions to the arts, such as composers William Grant Still and Florence Price, architect Edward Durell Stone, and novelist Francis Gwaltney are represented in the collection. The John Williams papers include manuscripts of the author's fiction, including his novel Augustus, which received the National Book Award in 1973. The papers of John Gould Fletcher, still Arkansas's only Pulitzer Prize poet, are an ample resource for research in modern English and American literature. Another such resource is the voluminous collection of papers of the English novelist and critic Frank Swinnerton.

Special Collections is also rich in manuscript and print resources for the study of popular culture. For example, the Mary D. Hudgins Collection includes popular sheet music and song books, as well as research files pertaining to the arts in Arkansas. The papers of Otto Ernest Rayburn comprise an extensive research collection of essays, photographs, clippings, and correspondence pertinent to the Ozark Mountain region. The department maintains an extensive collection of Arkansas folklore, including recorded songs and stories collected by University folklore professor Mary Celestia Parler and her students, and manuscript material pertaining to Vance Randolph, the leading folklorist of the Ozarks.

Special Collections is the repository for the archives of several organizations for international education, a subject closely associated with Senator Fulbright. These include the archives of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and the historical collection of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, a department of the United States Information Agency.

Arkansas Collection

Our Own Sweet Sounds book jacketThe Arkansas Collection of about twenty-eight thousand cataloged titles is a comprehensive library of Arkansas print material. Fiction and other literature, history and government, geography, natural and social science, arts, religion, and technology--all the major classes of knowledge--are represented in the collection. It includes rare early works, such as a copy of the first book printed in Arkansas, Laws of the Territory of Arkansas, printed by William Woodruff in 1821, and a copy of Henry R. Schoolcraft's Journal of a Tour into the Interior of Missouri and Arkansas, printed in London in 1821. The latest books by Arkansas writers are also acquired from local and national publishers. They include literary and scholarly works from the trade and academic presses, as well as privately published collections of folklore, humor, and inspirational writing.

The Arkansas Collection has benefited significantly from the work of several serious collectors of Arkansiana. For example, the library of Otto Rayburn, acquired in the 1950s from the Eureka Springs bookseller and publisher, provided many Ozark book and magazine titles. Mary D. Hudgins, a Hot Springs writer and librarian, donated her personal collection of more than a thousand volumes, as well as an immense collection of papers, sheet music, and photographs.

Documents published by state agencies and elected officials are part of the Arkansas Collection, as well as statistical reports, maps, information gathered by boards and commissions, and the published records of the General Assembly and the Supreme Court of Arkansas. The Arkansas Newspaper Project, completed in 1993, significantly enhanced the ability of the department to provide comprehensive access to newspapers published in the state since 1819, when the Arkansas Gazette was first printed at Arkansas Post.

Journals, magazines, and other periodicals on Arkansas subjects are maintained in paper or microfilm copies, and many are indexed. They include magazines of the present day as well as those that have long since ceased publication, such as Opie Read's Arkansaw Traveller and All's Well, or The Mirror Repolished, published in Fayetteville by Charles J. Finger. The department maintains a comprehensive collection of local and county historical journals published in Arkansas.

University History

image of U of AThe history of the University is well documented in Special Collections. The minutes of the Board of Trustees, descriptive brochures and bulletins of various administrative units, and some departmental files are housed here. In addition, Special Collections maintains holdings of dozens of University publications, ranging from the first yearbook, the Cardinal of 1897, and "underground" campus newspapers like the X-Ray, to programs for sports events, University theatrical and musical performances, and commencements. Record copies of theses and dissertations accepted by the Graduate School are housed in Special Collections. Of particular interest are the many albums, photographs, and other student memorabilia, including a diploma granted in the first graduating class in 1876.

Rare Books and Special Libraries

TipTop WeeklyRare books and special libraries are housed in the department because of their exceptional value, curiosity, or distinction. The collection ranges across the spectrum of knowledge and includes important early imprints of European literature and history, colonial American political tracts, examples of fine printing and illustration, and some interesting autographed books. John Gould Fletcher's personal library, rich in twentieth-century American, British, and European literary works, complements the collection of his papers for research on the arts during that period. The Wilson-Owen Library contains books that were in the personal collection of Robert Owen and Robert Dale Owen, nineteenth-century social reformers who established experimental communities in Great Britain and in New Harmony, Indiana. The Pathfinder-Porter Collection contains important eighteenth-century works in the social and natural sciences as well as in other subjects, many in interesting early bindings.

In the area of popular culture, the McIntosh Dime Novel Collection includes more than sixteen hundred printed works, including numbers of Tip Top Weekly, Beadle's Boys Library, Beadle's Halfdime Library, and many others. The collection of the Haldeman-Julius "Little Blue Books" is one of the largest in the United States, with approximately nineteen hundred titles.

Photographs and Art

Carnall Hall photoThe Special Collections Department houses more than one hundred thousand pictures, including photographic negatives and prints, tintypes, slides, drawings, and pictures printed in various media. A large group of photographs depicts the history of the University from the earliest days, including publicity stills from the athletic and other departments as well as many snapshots taken by students. The collections of two photojournalists, Larry Obsitnik of the Arkansas Gazette and George Douthit of the Arkansas Democrat, comprise thousands of images of Arkansas in the mid-twentieth century. In addition, the picture collection holds images of Arkansas towns, events, families, buildings, and natural scenery. Examples include the photographs of Fayetteville taken in the early twentieth century by Burch Grabill and Julius Hermann Field, both prize-winning photographers. The Hiltebrand-Plaster photographs document structures, groups, and activities in Mena, Arkansas, between 1900 and 1930. The Mary D. Hudgins Collection includes hundreds of colored post cards of Arkansas subjects, as well as photographs of Arkansas musicians and other personalities.

Broadsides and Maps

U of A broadsideBroadsides and maps are other non-book resources maintained in Special Collections. The Broadside Collection contains more than a thousand items, including many scarce handbills and flyers, announcements of political rallies or religious revivals, appeals to buy War Bonds, and even undergraduate jokes circulated at the University. A noteworthy broadside is Albert Pike's letter to Major General Theophilus Holmes, written in 1863 and printed on a sheet of wallpaper. The department houses over ten thousand printed maps of Arkansas covering every period from before statehood to the present day. A fine early map in the collection is the eighteenth-century Carte de la Louisiane of Guillaume de Lisle, the first detailed map of the Mississippi River region. Another is a facsimile of the manuscript map of William Clark, published with the report of the expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1804-1806. The Sanborn Insurance Maps, comprising more than four thousand items, depict structures in Arkansas towns and cities between the 1880s and the 1930s. Some maps indicate the rise and fall of railroads in the state, while others show highways, political, topographic, or geologic features, tourist attractions or places of literary or historical interest.

Index Arkansas

The Index Arkansas database is an outgrowth of the Arkansas Periodical Index, and now includes more than 90,000 entries, covering the 1880s to the present. Index Arkansas includes citations to articles and other information published in:

  • county history journals (from Benton County Pioneer to White County Heritage)
  • selected statewide magazines (from Arkansas Banker to Rural Arkansas)
  • selected newspaper articles from the Arkansas Gazette, Arkansas Democrat, Arkansas Traveler, Northwest Arkansas Times, and the Grapevine.
  • selected book titles (such as Arkansas Biography, Governors of Arkansas, and Untold Stories: Black Sports Heroes Before Integration)

Digital Collections

Protester from Land of Unequal Opportunity collectionA growing number of Special Collections materials are now available online. Digital Collections include projects on civil rights in Arkansas, Fayetteville history, and Senator Fulbright.

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Last updated: August 15, 2012