The University of South Carolina received its first congressional collection in 1965 and acquired papers from other political figures and organizations in the decades that followed, but the announcement of Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings’ donation in 1989 to the library proved to be a milestone. Realizing the potential this collection and others had, the University created Modern Political Collections (MPC) – now called South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC) – as a department of the South Caroliniana Library in 1991. The department immediately set about securing more collections from political figures all over the state. Of our donors, Senator Hollings has been instrumental in the growth of SCPC. Since giving his collection, he has visited the library for numerous events and convinced many other political figures to donate their papers as well.
Though SCPC’s collections and development were thriving in this time, the department’s physical space was not. The Pearle building (“The Warehouse”) where SCPC was located had terrible climate control, limited office and exhibit space, and generally poor conditions for archival materials. It was clear a new building was necessary, and Senator Hollings wanted to make sure that happened. He successfully got $14 million in funding for the Hollings library, which has proved to be a magnificent space for SCPC and the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. His work on behalf of the library will have a huge impact for decades to come.
The department has changed over the years. In 2005, Modern Political Collections was renamed South Carolina Political Collections and became an autonomous department of the Library. A year later, groundbreaking for the new building began, and four years later, in May of 2010, SCPC moved into the new space.
The size of the department has increased and now includes five staff members and numerous student assistants. In its 25 year history, SCPC has gained a national reputation for the quality of its collections and staff. With over 125 discrete collections, SCPC is one of the largest repositories for political papers in the United States.
As congressional offices move more and more to electronic records, it is our job to make sure historians and other researchers always have access to our materials, no matter the form they take. To that end, we always keep an eye towards the future when processing papers, developing institutional standards, and maintaining our collections.
By Zach Johnson