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Manuscripts & Folklife Archives Collections

Manuscript Collections


Tim Lee Carter Church Records Civil War Courtney M. Ellis
Janice Holt Giles Green Family South Union Shakers 20th-Century Wars
Underwood family Vernon White Ruth Hines Temple County Records
Mammoth Cave      

Folklife Archives Collections


Lynwood Montell Sarah Gertrude Knott


Tim Lee Carter

A Monroe County native, Republican Tim Lee Carter (1910-1987) served Kentucky's Fifth District from 1964 to 1980.  Trained as a physician, Carter counted health care and hospitalization legislation foremost among his interests and, despite his strong support of the armed forces, may be best known as an early advocate of U.S. military withdrawal from Vietnam.  This large collection of papers, donated by Congressman Carter, is a valuable resource on the work of a member of the United States Congress. Click here to download a finding aid that describes the collection in greater detail.

Church Records

Our manuscript collections include records (either originals or photocopies) from churches of many denominations in Kentucky and elsewhere. Typically, these records consist of minutes of church meetings and registers of members, but may also include other information such as the church constitution, articles of faith and rules of decorum, and lists of pastors, elders, deacons, baptisms, marriages and deaths.  Click here to browse our church collections, or search TopSCHOLAR®, WKU's online digital repository.

Civil War Collections

Both Union and Confederate soldiers and civilians are represented in our manuscript collections.  Included are letters, diaries, military papers and other material documenting the experiences of Kentuckians and those who found themselves in Kentucky during the Civil War.  Click here to browse our Civil War collections, or search TopSCHOLAR®, WKU's online digital repository.

Courtney Ellis Collection

A young broom-pusher on a stationary steamboat, Courtney M. Ellis (1888-1964) became an avid lifelong lover of steamboats and rivers. Of the approximately 3,500 photographs in this collection, the majority picture the steamboats that plied various tributaries of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in the Upland South. Also included are a tape recording of the Delta Queen’s calliope tunes, light lists, masters’ licenses, newspaper clippings, navigational charts and pamphlets.  Click here to download a finding that that describes this collection in greater detail.

Janice Holt Giles Collection

Writer's manuscripts, galley proofs, and research materials document the creative processes of noted Kentucky author Giles (1905-1979) of Knifley in Adair County.  Also included are World War II letters from her future husband Henry Giles, letters from her daughter, and correspondence with literary agents and publishers.  Click here to download a finding aid that describes this collection in greater detail.

Green Family Collection

The Green family settled and developed a small empire at Falls of Rough in Grayson County, Kentucky. The family constructed a beautiful house and engaged in large-scale farming and lumbering operations. They also operated a grist mill, general store, and saw mills, as well as the post office.  This collection includes business papers and letters created by several generations of the Green family.  Click here to download a finding aid that describes this collection in greater detail.

South Union Shakers

Journals, diaries, account books, hymnals, and business records chronicle the activities of the religious community of Shakers, who gathered at South Union in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1807 and disbanded in 1922. These materials provide more extensive documentation of the South Union Shakers' 115 years of existence than any other repository.  Click here to browse our Shaker collections, or search TopSCHOLAR®, WKU's online digital repository.

20th-Century Wars

Our collections include correspondence, diaries and papers of American armed forces personnel and civilians as they experienced wars of the twentieth century from World War I through Iraq and Afghanistan.  Materials for World War II are particularly extensive.  To find 20th-century war collections and download finding aids that describe their contents in greater detail, search TopSCHOLAR®, WKU's online digital repository.  Click here to browse our World War I collections.

Underwood Collection

Letters, diaries, and genealogical information combine to tell the story of U. S. Senator Joseph Rogers Underwood (1791-1876) of Warren County, Kentucky, his wife Elizabeth Cox Underwood (1818-1884), his brother Warner Lewis Underwood (1808-1872) and his son, John Cox Underwood (1840-1913). Rich in information about Bowling Green, the Civil War, and travel descriptions, the collection includes the story, told through letters, of Joseph and Elizabeth Underwood's efforts to build a home in Warren County while he was serving in Congress.  Click here to download a finding aid that describes this collection in greater detail.

Vernon White Collection

The Vernon White Collection represents the interests of White (1915-2008), a native of Hardin County, Kentucky and a Sociology Department faculty member at Western Kentucky University from 1966 to 1980. The collection contains information about White’s military experience and his academic career, but more importantly it documents his research interests outside his field of study, including: covered bridges, grave markers, archaeology, and American folkways.  White’s research on these topics led to the publication of several articles and two books: Covered Bridges: Focus on Kentucky (1985) and Grave Covers: Our Cultural Heritage (2005). The collection contains research field notes as well as hundreds of slides.  Click here to download a finding aid that describes this collection in greater detail, and here for more about the collection.

Ruth Hines Temple Collection

Warren County, Kentucky native Ruth Hines Temple received her A.B. degree from Virginia's Randolph-Macon College in 1923 and her M.A. in Art Education from Peabody College in Nashville in 1938.  Prior to her graduate studies, Temple taught high school, traveled, and spent a summer at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts.  In 1942, Temple accepted a position as art supervisor at the Western Kentucky State Teachers College training school. In 1946, she was promoted to head of the college's art department, remaining there until her retirement in 1966.  This collection includes papers of both Ruth and her family, as well as a large sampling of Ruth's drawings, watercolors, graphic design and other creative work.  Click here to download a finding aid that describes this collection in greater detail.

Warren County Records

We hold several collections of court records from Warren County, Kentucky that will interest historians and genealogists.  The most used collection contains a substantial number (but not all) of the county's original marriage bonds, including more than 7,000 dating from 1797 to 1984.  The bulk of the marriage bonds date from 1797 to 1860.  Click here to download a finding aid for this collection and here to download images.  Another significant collection is of Warren County Equity Court records from 1802 to 1856.  The bulk of these cases concern debts, estate settlements and land title disputes, but other matters include divorce, dower claims, contractual disputes, and the disposition of property.  Click here to download a finding aid for this collection.  Yet another collection of county records includes municipal reports and records; court dockets; fee and order books; trustees' minutes; and local ordinance, surveyor's and commissioner's books.  For more information about this collection, contact us at mssfa@wku.edu

Mammoth Cave

Our collections include historical accounts by tourists describing the wonders of the Cave; narratives of guides; archaeology at the Cave; and records relating to the creation of Mammoth Cave National Park.  Click here to browse our Mammoth Cave collections, or search TopSCHOLAR®, WKU's online digital repository.

Lynwood Montell

Want to learn more about ghost stories, gospel singing, occupational folklore, Native Americans, log structures, or folk remedies? The Lynwood Montell Collection contains hundreds of oral interviews and sound recordings related to these and other folklore topics. The people of southcentral and southeastern Kentucky speak candidly about their lives with this Monroe County native and his Western Kentucky University folklore students.  The collection also includes professional correspondence, drafts and galley proofs of Montell's published works and associated research material.  Montell was one of the first faculty members of WKU's famed folk studies program and helped establish WKU's Folklife Archives.  For information about this collection, contact us at mssfa@wku.edu.

Sarah Gertrude Knott 

This Princeton, Kentucky native, served as the National Folk Festival Association president from its founding in 1934 until 1970. The group’s annual festival featured indigenous American and ethnic song and dance. The NFFA later changed its name to the National Council for Traditional Arts.  Knott's life and the organization’s papers are woven together in a collection of festival correspondence, radio scripts, programs, and news clippings.  The collection includes forty years of documentation related to the annual festival, and provides Knott's insights into the organization as well as those of the second NFFA president, Leonard Roberts.  For more information about this collection, contact us at mssfa@wku.edu.



Sample manuscript pages 

 Tim Lee Carter with President Nixon


Rural church building


General Simon Bolivar Buckner

The Sternwheeler Bowling Green

Janice Holt Giles


Jennie Green

 Shaker Tree of Life


World War II sailor

Joseph Rogers Underwood

Petroglyphs found in Kentucky




Ruth Hines Temple





Sample court documents





Mammoth Cave



Dr. Lynwood Montell



Folk dancers

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 Last Modified 8/27/20