Spring 1997

Archives works to preserve university's history

'The Immortal Four
This cigar-smoking foursome graduated from South Carolina College in 1884 and were known in their college days as "The Immortal Four." As it turned out, Adolphus Fuller (lower right) of Mountville, Laurens County, was named Carolina's oldest living graduate in 1956, at the age of 94. In 1883 or 1884 he posed with his three best friends, Alexander Boyce Marion of Chester, James Beaufort (Jim) Davies of York, and Guy Warren McBride of Sumter.

By Elizabeth Cassidy West
The University of South Carolina Archives was established in 1976 as a unit of the McKissick Museum whose purpose was to house under one roof the University's collections relating to art, science, and history. In May 1993, the archives, now the Department of Archives and Records Management, became part of the South Caroliniana Library and physically relocated to the SCL Annex at 720 College Street.

During the early months of the archives' existence, approximately 1,000 cubic feet of records were located and transferred to the areas in McKissick Museum designated for archival storage. Key groups of records which were transferred include those of the USC Board of Trustees and the Office of the President, as well as the minutes of faculty meetings. Due to the long absence of an organized archival program, some of the University's historic records had been stored haphazardly over the years in the basements and attics of campus buildings. As a result, some valuable documents did not survive, and many others suffer from water, mold, and insect damage.

As these documents and photographs are processed, insights into important events and eras in the history of the University and the state of South Carolina have been rediscovered. Records from the 1800s shed light on the college years of such important Southern statesmen as Preston Brooks, James L. Petigru, and Wade Hampton III. A collection of 19th-century documents from student literary societies reveals much about the mores and political views of the period's Southern youth. The effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction on the University and the state are also recorded in these materials as is the traumatic arrival of coeducation in the 1890s.

Twentieth-century records detail the transformation of a small Southern college with an enrollment of under 300 students into a modern university which now ranks among the 100 largest in the country. Documented in the archives' holdings are the steps which led toward the integration of the University in the 1960s, including the successful efforts of the University and the surrounding community to prevent the racial violence that was prevalent elsewhere at that time. The recent history of the University, including further diversification of the student body with the increasing enrollment of foreign students in the early 1970s, can be studied as well.

The Archives also houses a variety of publications produced by academic and administrative departments, the Alumni Association, and student organizations. Of particular value to researchers are the University's annual reports, the Garnet and Black yearbooks, and the Gamecock newspaper, as well as commencement programs, broadsides, photographs, posters, maps, and blueprints.

The Department of Archives and Records Management schedules the records generated in the various academic and administrative departments and identifies which records can be destroyed after a specified time. Records series which have permanent historical value are transferred to the archives. This ongoing effort will enable future researchers to study topics relating to the continuing development of the University. As of this date, 20 departments are participating in the records management program, with the eventual goal of full participation by all departments of the eight USC campuses.

The Archives provides reference services to student, faculty, staff, and the general public and produces exhibits in cooperation with the South Caroliniana Library and McKissick Museum. An exhibit on the first one hundred years of student life at USC is currently on display at McKissick.

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