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The primary purpose of the Beulah Culbertson Archives and Special Collections is to support the university’s mission and commitment to excellence, leadership, and personalized learning via the following core functions:

  • Collecting, preserving, and making available written records, manuscripts, artifacts, memorabilia, and other items of historical significance that document the history and legacy of Mississippi University for Women as well as the history of Mississippi women and Mississippi women’s leadership.
  • Documenting in the same manner the lives of those who have touched and changed the institution, including but not limited to those who fought for the establishment of the Columbus Female Institute/Industrial Institute and College, our past presidents, and our famous faculty and alumni.
  • Making available for purposes of education and research to our faculty, staff, students, alumni, visiting scholars, and the wider public the rare and unique resources within our holdings.
  • Becoming a destination for the study of Mississippi women’s history and leadership.

Collection Policy

The Beulah Culbertson Archives and Special Collections houses the Library’s specialized research collections. It is composed of three major groupings: University Archives, the records created by Mississippi University for Women; Manuscripts, unpublished materials donated by non-MUW entities, including student organizations; and Rare Books, published items of particular value to the library. Archives and Special Collections will use a single collection policy to guide selection and acquisition in all groupings.

Our Purpose

  • to support the teaching, learning, research, and scholarship of the Mississippi University for Women community, as well as the local, regional, national, and international research communities.
  • to collect, preserve, and provide public access to primary and secondary materials in our focused research collections and rare books.
  • to promote the use of, and education about, collections through exhibits, instruction, public programming, and the web.

Scope of Collections

Rare Books

Rare Books’ primary collecting areas are published materials on: Mississippi University for Women, its history and culture; Mississippi history; Mississippi authors; works supporting current faculty research and instruction; the history of women in Mississippi; and Mississippi women’s leadership. In addition, a copy of publications produced by Mississippi University for Women intended for consumption by parties outside of the university is housed in the Rare Book Library. There are no restrictions on chronological or geographical coverage. Collection materials are primarily in English, with secondary coverage of Western European languages.

In addition, books from the circulating collection may be transferred to the rare books collection if they meet two or more of the following criteria:

  • fragile condition
  • more than 100 years old
  • relevant to the rare books collecting areas
  • high monetary value
  • significant provenance (e.g., signed by author)
  • highly susceptible to theft

Circulating books transferred in this way become non-circulating, and may be housed in the library’s automated storage and retrieval system (“Athena”). They may only be called and consulted within Archives and Special Collections.

These materials are organized by LC call number.


Manuscripts’ primary collecting areas are unpublished materials on: Mississippi University for Women, its history and culture; Mississippi history; Mississippi authors; works supporting current faculty research and instruction; the history of women in Mississippi; and Mississippi women’s leadership. There are no restrictions on chronological or geographical coverage. Collection materials are primarily in English, with secondary coverage of Western European languages.

These materials are organized by provenance, distinguished from Rare Books in being unpublished materials not cataloged with LC call numbers, and from University Archives in not originating from Mississippi University for Women itself.

University Archives

University Archives collects records created by Mississippi University for Women and its constituent departments and offices having long term historical or evidentiary value. This includes university-produced ephemera and publications intended only for internal consumption.

These materials are organized by provenance and described in inventories complying with Describing Archives: A Content Standard, or other archival standards as needed. Two copies of theses and dissertations produced by graduate students at Mississippi University for Women are also kept in University Archives.

Selection Responsibilities and Means of Acquisition

The Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist is responsible for selecting materials for the collections and determining collection care, storage, and access to informational content. In addition, they follow state guidelines to comply with legal retention requirements of University records.

  • Published materials are acquired through purchase, donation, and transfer from Fant Memorial Library’s circulating collection or other University offices and departments.
  • Unpublished/original materials are acquired through donation and purchase.
  • Archives and Special Collections actively solicits both financial and material donations. All donations are accepted with the stipulation that the materials become the property of Fant Memorial Library. Archives and Special Collections personnel determine the disposition of donated items.

Intellectual Freedom

Special Collections adheres to the beliefs professed in the American Library Association’s statement “Diversity in Collection Development: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights”:

“Librarians have a professional responsibility to be inclusive in collection development and in the provision of interlibrary loan. Access to all content legally obtainable should be assured to the user, and policies should not unjustly exclude content even if it is offensive to the librarian or the user. This includes content that reflect a diversity of issues, whether they be, for example, political, economic, religious, social, ethnic, or sexual. A balanced collection reflects a diversity of content, not an equality of numbers.

Collection development responsibilities include selecting content in different formats produced by independent, small and local producers as well as information resources from major producers and distributors. Content should represent the languages commonly used in the library’s service community and should include formats that meet the needs of users with disabilities. Collection development and the selection of content should be done according to professional standards and established selection and review procedures. Failure to select resources merely because they may be potentially controversial is censorship, as is withdrawing resources for the same reason.”

The full statement is available at: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/diversitycollection


It is the policy of the Beulah Culbertson Archives and Special Collections to take all reasonable and appropriate action to prolong the usable life of the research materials in its possession. Rare books, manuscripts, and university archives are housed in a segregated facility within Fant Memorial Library and in its automated storage and retrieval system (Athena). To maintain a safe macro-environment for sensitive materials, its facility in the library includes a separate HVAC system to serve as a backup in case the larger library system suffers from outages, and Archives and Special Collections endeavors to keep temperature and humidity levels inside as constant as possible. There is also a separate HVAC system in Athena. Security measures are also in place to prevent theft and mutilation of materials.

Archives and Special Collections takes measures to preserve items individually in a financially responsible manner. While archival staff may make minor repairs to items, preference is generally given to preservation (action taken to prevent, stop, or retard further deterioration). Individual item preservation via rehousing, reformatting, and other means is taken on a case-by-case basis as budgets and labor allow.

In addition, Archives and Special Collections seeks to preserve its digital content, both digitized and born digital. It makes copies and disperses them to minimize exposure to irrecoverable loss from natural and anthropogenic disasters, and checksums are used to prevent data loss due to file corruption. File format migration and copying keep the files usable with current and future software.


The Beulah Culbertson Archives and Special Collections seeks to build comprehensive collections in the above areas of focus. Therefore, deselection is uncommon, although it is sometimes necessary in cases such as, but not exclusively, the following:

  • infestation of mold or pests that presents a danger to other materials
  • damage or decomposition rendering the item unusable
  • the item is no longer deemed as fitting within this collection policy
  • duplication

In such cases, Special Collections staff will attempt to find a new home for the item if appropriate and will keep a record of deselection.

Access and Use

Access to the materials in the Beulah Culbertson Archives and Special Collections, whether stored in the Archives and Special Collection facility on the second floor or within Athena, is restricted to within the reading room. Archives staff must be present during consultation of materials.

Food, beverages, pens, sticky notes, and fasteners cannot be used in the reading room, nor can bags, briefcases, and backpacks be brought to the research area. Visitors may use cubbies at the entrance to the reading room to store their belongings. Laptop cases must be similarly stowed, though laptops themselves may be used in the reading room.

Pencils, paper, and electronic devices may be used in the reading room. Electronic devices should be muted.

Copying Materials

Archives staff can digitize a limited number of requested materials for visitors. Staff can create .pdf images of documents or .jpg/.tif images of photographs, but will only create up to 10 images per visit due to time and staffing constraints. The Archives can refuse to digitize certain fragile materials that may be damaged in the act of digitizing.

The Archives does not create hard (i.e., paper) copies of materials for visitors.

Visitors are allowed to bring cameras to photograph materials on their own, but they must not use flash, as exposure to intense light is damaging to archival holdings.

Closed Records

Some of the archives’ records are closed due to legal obligations or privacy concerns. Student records and personnel records are restricted from consultation for 75 years from the date of creation. Other records containing student personally identifiable information or protected information such as grades, discipline reports, Social Security Numbers, student ID numbers, etc. are restricted for 75 years from the date of creation, or are redacted if it occurs rarely in the document and can be done without harming the rest of the document or nearby documents.

Records containing “directory information,” such as full name, address, phone number, date of graduation, etc. can be closed to the public upon request by the student.


Theses from most graduate programs will be made available in the reading room in hard copy and posted on Athena Commons in .pdf format. Thesis authors who wish for access to either the electronic or hard copy of their thesis to be embargoed for a certain period of time can contact us with their preference and we will close access to the thesis in question.

Theses from the Creative Writing program are available for use in the reading room in hard copy, but all digital copies are under permanent embargo and closed to view. Any digital copies of creative writing theses are kept purely for preservation purposes and will not be viewed or shared. This embargo will only be lifted by the express written permission of the author of the thesis. Catalog records of these items and abstracts from them can still be made available online.

Harmful Language

The Beulah Culbertson Archives and Special Collections is committed to diversity and inclusion in our work and in our practice. It is our aim to create archival description that uses clear, respectful, and accurate language and that does not cause harm to our community and users of the collection. However, we acknowledge that descriptions in our collection may contain language that is ableist, homophobic, racist, sexist, or offensive. As archivists, we have a responsibility to and are committed to address these descriptions and continually assess the language used.

Occasionally, there are cases where harmful or outdated language has been deliberately retained because we have identified that the language used in that context is historically significant or may help users identify relevant items within the collection.

Regardless, archival description in iterative work and we are committed to working with our community to establish appropriate policies and standards. We invite you to submit feedback if you come across harmful or offensive language in our finding aids or collections and would like to suggest a change, please email us at archives@muw.edu.