The A. S. Williams III Collection is a rich collection of Americana assembled over some forty years by insurance executive and bibliophile A. S. Williams III of Birmingham, Alabama. On June 28, 2010, Mr. Williams formally presented his extensive library to The University of Alabama, where it is maintained as a separate, non-circulating research collection in the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library. The Collection is exceptional in terms of size and scope, large parts of it being rare or unique and not yet studied by scholars.
The book collection includes some 20,000 volumes and pamphlets, published between the late 17th century and 2009. These pertain to the U.S. presidents and the history and culture of the South. The Civil War is particularly well represented with some 6,000 volumes published from the earliest days of Secession to the present and reflecting the observations and opinions of the Union, the Confederacy, European visitors during the War, veterans, and subsequent generations of scholars.
Unpublished portions of the Collection contain archival materials ranging from 19th-century letters, diaries, and newspapers to business records and a wide variety of documents recording the American experience of both the famous and the unknown from the mid 18th century to the Great Depression. Particularly noteworthy are some 12,000 photographs of the South taken between the 1850s and the mid-1930s. These document not merely people, places, and events but also the spread of photography as a commercial enterprise across the South. Smaller collections include early Southern maps; the African-American experience in the South, with particular emphasis on materials relating to historically Black educational institutions; the financial history of the United States from pre-Revolutionary times to the founding of the Bank of the United States; and some 3,000 volumes of Southern fiction ranging from well-known literary landmarks to obscure works by lesser known and unstudied writers. An archival collection of correspondence to and from a number of Southern authors and papers pertaining to private presses and bookshop inventories round out the fiction collection.
The Williams Americana Collection officially opened on November 9, 2010. Because the Collection is not cataloged, access will be temporarily restricted to use of the reference collection and viewing materials on exhibit. Access to all other parts of the Collection will be phased in when preliminary processing has been completed. The current timeline for making the various parts of the Collection available to researchers is as follows:
- Southern fiction: November 10, 2010
- Civil War books and periodicals: December 6, 2010
- Southern History books and periodicals: January 4, 2011
- U.S. Presidents books and periodicals: February 1, 2011
- County and Local History Collection: February 15, 2011
- Pamphlets and ephemera: TBD
- Photography collections: TBD
- Manuscripts and archival collections: TBD