The Williams Collection contains both unpublished/archival and published materials, encompassing both primary and secondary sources.
The collection is focused on American history, and it falls loosely into four categories, described below:
The presidential collection is arranged chronologically and it supplemented by a considerable quantity of manuscript material and ephemera. Every president is represented by a significant grouping of volumes, including contemporary works, later and modern scholarship and, where published, scholarly annotations of their public papers and addresses. The Collection holds at least one document signed by every past president and contains a number of books signed by various presidents. The Collection is further enhanced by a collection of political campaign buttons and other political ephemera.
The American Civil War collection is one of the most comprehensive in private hands. The books and pamphlets cover both the Union and Confederate sides of the struggle and the Collection contains a number of rare volumes. Based on current information, the Collection may hold the only copy extant of some titles. The Collection is supplemented by an important group of Confederate imprints, that is, books and other publications printed in the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. The Collection is further enhanced by original art, including works by Allen C. Redwood and Edwin Forbes, prints and lithographs, including E.D.B. Julio’s “Last Meeting of Lee and Jackson”, Civil War manuscripts and major photographic archive.
The Williams Collection holds important books and pamphlets on Southern history, with a particular emphasis on Alabama. This section is rich in personal narratives, county histories, biographies, and scholarly monographs. The pamphlet collection is strong in rare Alabama and Southern titles including African American history, church history, political history, and town histories. A significant number of rare titles are held on southern Native Americans, including first editions of early narratives through Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and the Carolinas. Women's history is also reflected in the materials.
The A.S. Williams III Americana Collection is home to an extensive collection of Southern literature. Every major southern writer is represented, as well as a number of lesser known, but important authors. The collection is rich in first editions, association copies and rare books, as well as signed copies, limited editions and manuscripts.The Williams Collection also includes contributions by these authors to obscure magazines and periodicals.
The literary collection is supplemented by photographs, correspondence, and other original materials related to a significant number of these authors. Rounding out the fiction collection are an extensive archive of correspondence of Alabama authors and the inventory of a mid-twentieth century bookshop in Mobile.
The manuscripts collection consists of materials reflecting the history and culture of Alabama and the American South from the colonial period to the present. Collections include letters and documents from United States presidents, signers of the Declaration of Independence, Civil War military personalities and politicians, early American statements, Southern literary figures, and notable African Americans. The collection also includes public and private correspondence, official documents, account books, business records, and manuscript historical monographs on a variety of subjects.
Each collection is described in a Finding Aid, a document that assists patrons who wish to use a manuscript collection for research. A researcher can use a finding aid to understand the contents of a collection and how it is organized.
Maps in this collection focus on Alabama and the American Civil War. The extensive Civil War map collection includes some maps printed during the Confederacy (1860-1865). The portion of the collection realting to Alabama contains important early maps not only of the state, but of various counties, cities and townships. The Collection also holds an original set of the rare Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.
The photographic archive consists of over 18,000 images and includes three major categories: the Southern Photographer, 1860-1910, the American Civil War, and general Southern photography. The collection documents the formats, period, and place of Southern Photographers from Maryland to Texas. This part of the collection includes approximately 4,000 images and documents from about 2,500 different studios. It also includes daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, photographic reference books, articles, and biographical sketches of Southern photographers.