Special Collections: Samford’s own hidden treasure trove

Photos from Homecoming past. Photo by Megan Thompson.

By Henry Heaton – Advertising Manager |

It wasn’t until I found the Special Collections department located in the basement of the University Library that I realized I had been missing out on our school’s greatest treasure. This historical museum built primarily on gifts has an impressive variety of our past that is right at our fingertips.

Under Special Collection librarian Elizabeth Wells and archivist Rachel Cohen, this department preserves not only the history of the University, but also records for the Alabama Baptist Historical Collection as well as printed and published materials of Alabama authors.

Whether it’s an 1861 diary of a 20-year-old woman watching the second inauguration of President Lincoln, every Samford Crimson published since 1915, biographical information of Alabama church

Special Collection’s shelves house years of Alabama history in the lower level of the library. Photo by Megan Thompson.

leaders, Alabama county records or an Irish collection, Special Collections archives it.

“We are a museum in which students can touch the exhibits,” Cohen said.

The resources that this department collects have a balance of mundane records as well as a little flare. For instance, the department houses the largest collection of Alabama Ku Klux Klan records. This is not controversial, but instead respectful of their obligation to archive the history of all of Alabama’s past.

“We need to collect everything, even if it makes us uncomfortable,” Cohen said.

The department’s first priority is to the students and to the researchers who use the facility.

“As an archivist, it’s our job to collect and preserve,” Wells said. “We are based on trust, integrity and honesty.”

The department’s heavy collection of Samford’s past brought them to be involved as a resource in a great opportunity.

This weekend the University Library will host “Live @ the Library” with Randall Williams, a Samford graduate who was told to leave Samford in 1974 for publishing an article that the university wanted to be censored. He was re-admitted with a renewed scholarship in 2010.

There will be a presentation of Journalism & Mass Communication professor Dr. Jonathan Clemmensen’s documentary “Another Voice,” which touches on the subject.  The Special Collections department aided the film in providing historical material, photographs, and documentation.

Live @ the Library will take place this Saturday October 13th at 9 a.m. in the library, and convo credit is available.

“It shows how we’ve changed as an institution,” Wells said. “If you don’t grow, you don’t change, and then you’re just stunted. If our university did not change, we would not be here.”

A scale model of the science building. Photo by Megan Thompson.

Each individual, student or not, has a place in history with capabilities of lending the world insights of moving forward and progress, and it’s with the Special Collections department that we can see firsthand how individuals at Samford have done so.

“Thinkers aren’t a dime a dozen these days,” Wells added.

Additionally, to celebrate National Archives Month, the Special Collections department urges all to come to visit their one-of-a-kind archives for an open house Wednesday, October 31 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Costumes are strongly encouraged.


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