Skip navigation

University Libraries Special Collections Processes Mary Ann Wells Collection

Thu, 05/25/2023 - 03:59pm | By: Dawn Smith

University LibrariesUniversity Libraries’ Special Collections at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) continues to increase access to its collections with the recent processing of the Mary Ann Wells collection.

Wells, a freelance photographer who lived in Hattiesburg, traveled the world capturing stories of people and nature through her photographs. From 1977 to 1981, she was a photojournalist for the Hattiesburg American, publishing a weekly column, “Americans,” that focused on the everyday life of an American citizen and their story. While working for the Hattiesburg American, her work won more than 60 state, regional, and national awards from professional journalism and press organizations.

The collection, processed by Emma Anderson, a Library and Information Science and History undergraduate from Madison, Mississippi, includes articles, photographs, slides, negatives, and notes from Wells’ expansive career in photojournalism.

USMOther stories in her collection include her travels around the United States., her travel column about living in Gaeta, Italy, and her Native American heritage. Wells was deeply involved in the Mississippi Choctaw tribes and documented historical moments of the tribes, including council meetings and holidays. Wells' freelance journalistic work has appeared in more than 100 publications including the New York Daily News, The Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and Travel & Leisure magazine. Her travel writing assignments have taken her from the Amazon to Ireland. 

USM LibrariesThe Mary Ann Wells collection was selected to be processed with support through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). The NHPRC is a statutory body affiliated with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) whose mission is promotion of the preservation and use of the country’s documentary heritage essential to understand the nation’s democracy, history, and culture.

Lorraine Stuart, head of USM Special Collections and Curator of Historical Manuscripts and Archives, is leading the two-year grant project. The purpose of the grant is to increase access to collections and will support processing, digitization, and development of finding aids for existing collections significant to the history and culture of Mississippi. The grant also provides multiple opportunities for hands-on materials preservation and presentation experiences for the University’s Library and Information Sciences and Humanities graduate students.

USM LibrariesAnderson began working in Special Collections as a practicum student for the 2022 summer semester. In the fall of 2022, she transitioned to the NHPRC grant and began her work with the Wells collection. While working with the collection, Anderson sorted and preserved Wells’ notes, organized media into subjects, and researched pieces in the collection that weren’t easily identifiable.

About her experience and passion for Special Collections, Anderson said, “I enjoy working with Special Collections because of my love of preservation and history. Collections like the Mary Ann Wells collection show the smaller, more focused, history of a place. Communities are built by the people, and their stories should be told. Preserving history shows future generations that we are all human and will have lifetimes of stories that shapes their lives and their future.”

For information about Special Collections in USM University Libraries, visit the libraries website.