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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

USM's Special Collections

             Housing Special Collections for The University of Southern Mississippi, McCain Library is a treasure trove of interesting and culturally important artifacts.  The first thing I noticed upon entering the third floor research room was a giant songbook used by monks in the 15th century.  Because it was printed on animal skin, the pages looked very textured and hair follicles and other markings were visible.  After passing by that impressive book, I was lead, along with the other students in my class, by a librarian into a separate room where she told us about what McCain libraries has to offer. 
            Through its de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, the university acts as sole repository for the original works of Ezra Jack Keats.  The librarian showed us some of his original framed artwork and a manuscript page from a Japanese version of one of his works.  She also told us that the de Grummond collection houses 500-600 versions of the story of Cinderella, and she showed us more than a dozen editions of the story of Little Red Riding Hood. 
            McCain Library also possesses a large collection of Civil Rights memorabilia.  As part of our tour, we got to see a page from a diary of a woman who worked in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964.  Additionally, we were told about the State Sovereignty Commission and some of the horrendous actions it undertook to uphold the segregation of Mississippi, including preventing two little boys from attending public school.  As a part of this collection, we also got to see some original hate mail that forms part of the 2500 boxes of the Bilbo collection. 
            My favorite part of my time in the McCain Library was getting to see an original script from the show Saturday Night Live.  I have been an avid fan of the show for many years, and it was incredible to me to see an original script from the 1980s with handwritten edits and last-minute corrections.  Upon further research, I discovered that the head writer for the show at that time, David Sheffield, is from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, just like I am, and is an alumnus of Southern Miss.  I had no idea such remarkable artifacts resided in a library at my own university, and I definitely plan to return to look around some more—especially at the Saturday Night Live script.