The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Mitchell Memorial Library to unveil historic Lincolniana collection

Students would be hard pressed to miss the Mitchell Memorial Library’s fourth-floor construction.

The construction, which started in June, adds to the fourth floor of the library which houses The Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana and The Ulysses S. Grant library.

The Lincoln collection consists of over 17,000 Lincolnian artifacts, ranging from letters and documents to a portrait of Lincoln painted by James Montgomery Flagg, the artist behind the “I Want You” WWI propaganda posters.

Collected by former Rhode Island Chief Justice Frank Williams across a 50-year period, the collection spans 150 years of American history and is estimated at over $3 million dollars in worth.

“I was already into American history, and by the time I got into sixth grade, I was really into it,” Williams said. “I sat under a portrait of Lincoln and was fascinated by his face, and my sixth-grade teacher help mentor me and directed me towards the study of him[Lincoln] and the Civil War.”

He continued to use his lunch money, all 25 cents a day, to buy used Lincoln books. Even his career as a lawyer, Williams added, was influenced by his love of Lincoln and the 16th president’s time as a lawyer.  

Williams, as acting president of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, is also the reason the Grant collection is at Mississippi State University, which was moved from its original home at Southern Illinois University in 2009.

Williams said his main hope for the collection is that it is, simply put, “used.”

“Not just by MSU faculty and students, now and in the future, but that it is used online,” Williams said.  “It’ll be a resource, we hope, for the legacy.”

However, Williams is not finished with his passion for Lincolnian history. While his shelves, which at one point lined the walls of his office with Lincoln memorabilia, are now empty, he said he and his wife still have “the bug.”

Unable to name a specific favorite in his collection, Williams said some pieces like the miniaturized Emancipation Proclamations and a clerk desk that Lincoln used in his lawyer days, are particularly interesting.

Additionally, The Williams have pledged $500,000 for a research fund to help curate the collection into the future and have pledged to fund an annual lecture series on Lincoln and his era.

MSU President Mark Keenum, in a statement at the announcement of the Lincoln addition, said, “Mississippi State University is immensely proud to receive the Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana, a truly unique and comprehensive collection that provides unprecedented insight into the life and times of our 16th president and the Civil War era. With this incredibly generous donation and their guiding hand in bringing what has become the U.S. Grant Presidential Library to our campus, the Williams’ have made MSU one of the nation’s foremost repositories for research into this pivotal period in our nation’s history.”

The Dean of Libraries Frances Coleman, a MSU alumna and dedicated faculty member since 1969, understands the emmsense value the new collection brings to the university and research around the world.

“Our goal is to display its great treasures on a rotating basis while making the entire archive available to researchers throughout the world by cataloging each piece, digitizing the unique materials, and developing a website for the collection,” Coleman said.

Students can look forward to seeing the collection, and all its history, on Nov. 30, along with the following lecture series. 

About the Contributor
Dylan Bufkin
Dylan Bufkin, Former Editor-in-Chief
Dylan Bufkin served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Reflector from 2020 to 2021. He also served as the Opinion Editor from 2019 to 2020.
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Mitchell Memorial Library to unveil historic Lincolniana collection