Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Historical Southern collection to make debut at Gorgas Library


A Theodore Roosevelt campaign button, a baby picture of Truman Capote and a diary of a Prattville Confederate soldier are just some of the more than 30,000 newly added items to the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library.

The A. S. Williams III Americana Collection, which will be unveiled Tuesday, includes more than 20,000 new books and ore than 10,000 other items, such as photographs, relating to the history of the South.

Williams, former executive vice president and treasurer of Protective Life Corp. in Birmingham, started building his collection more than 40 years ago, and it has previously existed in a gallery in Williams’ hometown of Eufaula, Ala. The University formally acquired the collection in June, but all of the more than 30,000 items were not unpacked and sorted until the end of October.

Nancy Dupree, the curator of the collection, said the three main genres of books are Civil War history, Southern history and Southern literature. Records can be found in the areas of family, regimental and business history.

“It’s a collection that touches on every aspect on life in Alabama,” Dupree said. “It’s a service we can do for the state.”

Shelf after shelf holds items that provide windows into the past, be they books, maps, records, diaries or photographs. The walls of Gorgas Library Room 301 are adorned with presidential relics and portraits by Edwin Augustus Harleston, a professionally trained African-American artist during the 1920s. Cases include an array of interesting items, including a copy of a book entitled “Seven Mile Funeral Cortège of Genl. Grant in New York Aug. 8, 1885,” of which there are only a few known surviving copies in the world.

“The sheer range of materials makes a single contribution to the study of the American past,” said UA professor of Southern history George Rable. “Everything from atlases to insurance maps to county histories offers a rich collection of materials to students in any number of fields. The collection will attract researchers on any number of topics from around the country.”

Each president from George Washington to George W. Bush is represented with a repertoire of manuscripts, public papers and signed items. The photography archive provides extensive glimpses into the Civil War. Once glance into one of the “map drawers” provides a time travel experience, as there are maps of Alabama dating back to the early 1800s.

“The Williams Collection builds on existing strengths and brings our special collections, particularly those pertaining to the South and the history of photography, to a new level of excellence and national prominence,” said dean of libraries Louis A. Pitschmann. “We are honored that Mr. Williams has agreed to entrust us with his remarkable collection.”

The opening ceremony for the Williams Collection will be tomorrow at 10 a.m. in Room 301 of Gorgas Library. Rable and Pitschmann, as well as Judy Bonner, executive vice president and provost, and Williams himself are all expected to speak. Large parts of the collection are not yet catalogued, but most of the book collection will be available following the opening ceremony.

“The Williams collection will greatly enrich the intellectual life of the campus and will be a wonderful resource for researchers from around the country,” Rable said. “Not only students in history but in many other fields will find all kinds of treasures in this collection.”

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