The histories of archives are especially significant because their collecting practices affect the writing of the history going on beyond their walls. This essay explores the early history of the Mississippi State Archives through the activities and practices of its first archivist, Dunbar Rowland. Rowland was not only a member of the first generation of southern state archivists, but was also a member of the Mississippi planter elite and an aspirant to participating both in the wider world of archival practice and thought and in the post-Reconstruction interpretation of southern history. This investigation divides Rowland's work into three periods: foundation, collection, and publication, and argues that Rowland's example shows how archival practice itself can reflect the stance of its times toward the construction of public memory.

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