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University Libraries - The Evolution of South Carolina Political Collections

Over the past fifteen years, South Carolina Political Collections has gained a national reputation for its collections and programs and is on its way to meeting the vision created for it at its founding in 1991. Modern Political Collections (MPC) was established as a division of the South Caroliniana Library as the direct result of the decision by U.S. Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings to place his personal papers with the University. 

MPC’s mission was to collect and administer manuscript collections documenting government and politics in the post-World War II era. It began with eighteen collections transferred from SCL’s Manuscripts Division, including the large unprocessed congressional collections of U.S. Senator Olin D. Johnston and Congressman Bryan Dorn. At the same time, over eleven hundred cartons of non-current Hollings papers were inventoried and transferred from a federal records center outside Washington and Hollings’ Charleston office. 

Given the tremendous size of typical congressional collections, MPC needed a home outside the Caroliniana. A warehouse adjacent to what is now the Colonial Center was leased and serves as the Caroliniana’s annex and home to MPC. In addition to planning and implementing the transfer of Sen. Hollings’ non-current records, the staff went to work processing first the Johnston and then the Dorn collections, and seeking other collections to build on that excellent beginning. 


From the start, it was assumed that eventually MPC would be made independent of the Caroliniana and move to a more appropriate home. That vision is being realized. On July 1, 2005, MPC was removed from under the Caroliniana Library and made an independent unit of University Libraries. Herb Hartsook, who founded MPC and served as curator from 1991 until 2003, resigned as Director of the Caroliniana to return to and become director of the newly renamed South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC). 

Currently, SCPC holds seventy-five collections totaling almost four thousand linear feet of materials including the papers of Sol Blatt, Butler Derrick, James B. Edwards, Lindsey Graham, Robert E. McNair, Richard W. Riley, Donald Russell, Mark Sanford, Floyd Spence, Robin Tallon, John West, David Wilkins, the League of Women Voters, and the Democratic and Republican state parties. 

Planning is underway to erect a state-of-the-art home for SCPC as a wing to be added to Thomas Cooper Library. The Groundbreaking ceremony was a great success on May 10, 2006. Construction is scheduled to begin in August, and it is hoped the facility will open during 2008.