Manuscripts Collection

Personal Papers

Personal Papers document the lives, accomplishments and activities of individuals and families. Personal papers are usually composed of diaries, letters, and other materials. They can be important to researchers whether or not the individual or family was famous, if they provide insight into how people lived their lives, what decisions they made, and how they felt about the events they lived through.

  • Diaries give an intimate and detailed look at the daily lives and thoughts of their writers. The diaries most useful to historians not only record details of what the writer did, saw and heard but also the writer's motives, emotions and reactions.

  • Letters between friends, family or colleagues can be highly expressive or merely perfunctory. "Personal" correspondence may include important information about families, social life, business deals, and political machinations. Increased use of the telephone has meant the virtual disappearance of extensive personal correspondence since 1950.

  • Among other materials preserved in the manuscripts collections are speeches, sermons, personal account books, photos, home movies and videos, family histories, certificates, and commendations.