While some collections may contain handwritten documents, it is common to find a variety of documents such as printed articles, reports, subject files, and memorabilia.
Collections can be small - containing a single document - or quite large, containing hundreds of boxes.
A manuscript collection contains a variety of materials and may include letters, journals, publications, writings, or business papers. Collections may be centered around an individual (Cornelius Vanderbilt), an organization (Vanderbilt Aid Society), or a specialized topic (Vandy Goes to War Oral History Project).
While the term “manuscript” technically refers to handwritten material, a collection may contain a variety of different formats including handwritten letters, typed articles or manuscripts, photographs, film reels, audio cassettes, reel-to-reel recordings, VHS cassettes or DVDs, floppy disks, and other material.
Highlights of some of these collections include the papers of civil rights activist Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr., Francis Robinson, director of the Metropolitan Opera; and Kelly Miller Smith, Divinity School assistant dean and civil rights activist.
Historically, Special Collections created finding aids (a box by box contents list for a collection) for its manuscript collections which were kept in file cabinets in the Reading Room. These guides are now listed in our Collection Guides database to assist researchers in locating material.