The University of Alabama
Primary Sources at the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

The W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library holds both primary source materials and secondary source materials.  Primary source materials are defined as items from the time period involved that have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation. Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based and are most often the first formal appearance of results in physical, print or electronic format. They present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information. Examples include letters, diaries, newspaper articles from the time being studied or explored, works of art, speeches, original documents of all kinds, interviews, records of organizations, surveys, video recordings, photographs, and much more.   Three major areas in our collections to find primary sources are described below.

Please note that all collections at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections are non-circulating and are used in the reading room only. 


The historical manuscripts collection consists of over 3500 collections (and growing!) of historical and literary manuscripts, reflecting the history and culture of Alabama and the Southeast from the colonial period to the present. Collections include papers of a number of former Alabama congressmen and senators, records of businesses ranging from general stores to iron and coal companies, records of churches and social and professional organizations, and personal papers of individuals and families. The collections document the lives of people of diverse backgrounds, from farmers and plantation owners to soldiers, politicians, educators, and others.

Click here for partial list of manuscript collections at the Hoole Library with links to some finding aids.


The University of Alabama Archives consists of materials generated by University departments and offices from its founding in 1831. These include records of administrators, faculty, and students. Records after 1920 encompass the entire operational aspect of The University of Alabama. Noteworthy items include the papers of University of Alabama presidents and other key administrators. Some archival materials have restricted access, and users must obtain permission from the generating department before they can access these records.

The University Archives also contains a broad range of University publications that are cataloged in the Hoole Library. Notable among these are the school yearbook (Corolla), the school newspaper (The Crimson White), University catalogs, and the records of some student organizations. Anyone interested in any aspect of University of Alabama history should visit us first!


Maps in this collection cover Alabama and the Southeast from the 16th century through the early 21st century. An important subset of this group, the Warner Map Collection, contains over sixty fine examples of 16th, 17th and 18th century cartography. The earliest of these is a 1585 Ortelius map of the world that clearly outlines the southeastern portion of what is now the United States. Another important component of this collection is an extensive set of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for the state of Alabama.

Hundreds of mapsfrom the Hoole Library collections can now be found online through a cooperative arrangement with the University of Alabama Map Library and Cartographic Research Lab at

Maps may be found in the Libraries’ catalog.


The Hoole Library houses a growing and diverse collection of historic and contemporary photographs occupying approximately 150 linear feet. Included are photographs of individuals, structures, and scenes from around Alabama, as well as of people, buildings, and events at The University of Alabama. The earliest photographic image of the University dates to 1859.

The Wade Hall Photographic Collection, a continuing gift of Union Springs, Alabama native Dr. Wade Hall, is a truly international collection, and provides a unique view of American life and experiences around the world, including Europe, South and Central America, Asia, the South Pacific, North Africa, and the Middle East. The collection of more than 24,000 images includes photographs taken by families on vacation trips in both the 19th and 20th centuries, portraits of individuals and families, snapshots of people participating in recreational activities, and of floods, fires, and other catastrophes. The collection comprises a broad scope of subject matter ranging from images of farm life in rural America to images of historic events and locations, including the American liberation of a Nazi concentration camp and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Photographs of African-Americans make up a significant part of the collection. The collection contains examples of almost every type of popular 19th and 20th century photographic process.

One significant collection, The Roland Harper photographs consist of more than 8,700 images, primarily views of plants and their environs taken over a fifty-year period. Though most of the photographs were taken in Alabama, many were taken in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, and some in other states.