Purvis collector’s work featured online

By STAFF REPORTS,

Sam Edison Woods, a career diplomat and donor to The University of Southern Mississippi, is the subject of a new online exhibit for USM University Libraries’ Special Collections. The Sam Woods Collection contains materials owned by Woods and includes items such as furniture, art, prints, and books. These items once decorated his home, and are the genesis of USM Special Collections.

“Sam Wood’s legacy at Southern Miss will forever be preserved through his donation to Special Collections,” said Jennifer Brannock, curator of rare books and Mississippiana in Special Collections. “From rare, one-of-a-kind books to extraordinary paintings, his collection will permanently help students, faculty, and researchers abroad with their research. 

“This online exhibit pays tribute to Mr. Woods and what he has done for the university.”

The collection includes 1,200 books from the 16th to 20th centuries that focus on religion, history, and literature. Woods also donated an assortment of vellum manuscripts documenting the legal activities of their owners. A mysterious palm leaf manuscript, written in Tamil or Malayalam and created in India, illustrates how Woods was interested in collecting documents from cultures outside Europe.

In addition to the remarkable printed and manuscript materials, the collection includes artifacts, furniture, and art from across Europe, including Flemish tapestries from the 18th century, a 19th-century depiction of a Viking helmet with horns, and king and queen chairs that once resided with European royals. All of these items work with the paper materials to tell the story of Sam Woods, the collector.

Born in Texas in 1892, Woods’ family moved to Purvis, where he lived until attending college. He returned to Hattiesburg and founded the manual arts department at Mississippi Normal College in 1917. He was later called to serve in World War I in the Marine Aviation Corp. After the war, Woods worked with the Army Education Corp as a teacher, which led to a lifetime of working abroad for the United States government.

For more than 30 years, Woods held a number of diplomatic positions, including assistant trade commissioner in Czechoslovakia, commercial attaché in Prague, commercial attaché at large in Berlin, consul general in Switzerland, and consul general with personal rank of minister in Germany. It was during his long career that Woods developed his extensive collection.

After the death of his wife, Woods returned to Mississippi and made the decision to donate his collection to USM, which designated a room to honor the donation, known as the Sam Woods Room, now located in Special Collections on the third floor of the McCain Library and Archives on the Hattiesburg campus.

The Sam Woods Collection serves the research needs of students and faculty at USM and around the world.  From interior design students to art faculty to French professors to local high school Latin classes, the materials have become integrated into the University and the community. 

The Sam Woods exhibit is available by clicking here or visiting www.lib.usm.edu/spcol and clicking exhibits. For more information on the collection and the exhibit, contact Jennifer Brannock at 601.266.4347, or email Jennifer.Brannock@usm.edu.

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