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In 1826, the South Carolina Baptist Convention chartered the Furman Academy and Theological Institution; several years later, they recommended the creation of an archives for essential Furman Academy records and notable documents of the Baptist denomination. Although the concept of a Special Collections and Archives department surfaced very early in the university’s history and there were efforts to collect and preserve university materials, it was many years before the collection had an identity and many more years still before it had staffing and suitable accommodations. In 1890, Harvey Tolliver Cook, Professor of Classics, designated this collection the Baptist Historical Collection. Loulie Latimer Owens served as Furman’s first Special Collections Librarian when Furman moved to its new campus in the late 1950s. In the library renovation and expansion in 2003-2004, the current Special Collections and Archives department on the second floor of Duke Library was reconfigured and housed. We have a large research room, microfilm and audio/visual viewing facilities, lockers for readers and a lobby/gallery space that hosts three or so exhibitions each year. Class visits take place either in the Simms Research Room or in the adjacent Pitts Room, a fully-equipped smart classroom with facilities for allowing the hands-on close examination of rare materials in a seminar setting. 

Special Collections and Archives contains several components: the Furman University Archives; a rare book collection; manuscript collections; the South Carolina Baptist Historical Collection; the South Carolina Poetry Archives; some music special collections; and a Furman authors collection in addition to textiles, artifacts, and furniture. 

These materials are maintained separately from the general library collections due to their uniqueness, fragility, significance and format. With the exception of the book collections, these materials are organized, maintained and accessed differently from other library materials, and information on how to identify and locate materials can be found on our website.

Materials housed in Special Collections are not available for public browsing. Researchers can request materials and use them in the William Gilmore Simms Research Room. All cataloged holdings of the department (books and periodicals) may be identified through the Library's online catalog. Guides to archival, manuscript, microfilm, and digital collections can be found on the department's website.

Materials in the Simms Research Room include Furman and Greenville Woman's College yearbooks, the Furman alumni magazine, the student newspaper, books from the South Carolina Poetry Archives, and books by and about William Gilmore Simms.