The Manuscripts Division of the Special Collections Department of Mississippi State University Library contains more than 670 collections of the papers of individuals, families and organizations. These collections primarily document Mississippi and the South from the early 19th century to the present. However, because many of the collections were deposited by the descendants of early settlers of Mississippi, the collection also contains much primary material on Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and other states of origin of these early settlers. More than one third of the collections contain Civil War materials such as diaries, letters, muster rolls and other original materials. A large number of the collections document agriculture and rural life in Mississippi.
The Division holds 31 mass communications collections, including those of contemporary Mississippi journalists Bill Minor and Sid Salter, the papers of Turner Catledge, Hodding Carter, Clayton Rand, Kenneth Toler, Henry Meyer and others, representing a variety of newspapers and time periods. Other major mass media collections include the records of WLBT-TV, the papers of Eugene Butler, founder of Progressive Farmer and Southern Living magazines, the records of the Godwin Advertising Agency of Jackson and the editorial cartoon collection of Mark Bolton. These mass communication collections provide excellent documentation of 19th and 20th century local, state, regional and national events and personalities.
Other collections held in the Division include the records of Mississippi organizations and firms. Organizational records such as those of the Delta Ministry and the Tombigbee Council on Human Relations contain important documentation on the civil rights movement in Mississippi. Business records such as the records of the Delta and Pine Land Company, the largest cotton plantation in the world, document economic conditions in Mississippi and the South. A growing number of records of Mississippi's architectural firms document Mississippi's built environment and the business of architecture. These include the collection of Mississippi's first registered architect, MSU alumnus N.W. Overstreet.
Although literary materials have not been a collecting emphasis, the donation of the papers of MSU alumnus John Grisham, received continuously since 1989 and now totaling some 60 cubic feet, have brought much attention to the library. Materials from the Grisham Papers are on display in the library's John Grisham Room, opened in May of 1998. Other literary materials include the Hunter Cole Eudora Welty Collection and some manuscripts of Mississippi authors Beth Henley and Thomas Hal Phillips.
The types of materials contained in the collections are as varied as the people, families and organizations that created them. Included are correspondence, political and campaign records, deeds, wills and other legal records, business and financial records, diaries and journals, photographs, sound recordings, videotapes, printed materials and family memorabilia.