Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy Statement: Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection

Written by Peter Berg, November 9, 2017

Purpose or Scope of Collection

A. Curricular/Research/Programmatic Needs

The Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection supports the information, instruction, and research needs for the study of popular culture.

While no formal academic program exists at MSU in popular culture, the Nye Collection serves and supports numerous MSU colleges, departments, and programs whose faculty and students pursue interests in the study of popular culture. These include Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures; History; English; Art, Political Science, Education, Communications, Residential College of the Arts and Humanities..

Besides providing for the research needs of MSU's faculty, graduate, and undergraduate populations, the Nye Collection also serves as an excellent resource for visiting researchers and leisure readers.

B. History of the Collection/Existing Strengths and Emphases.

The beginnings of a popular culture collection at the Michigan State University Libraries dates from the late 1960's. Faculty members with interests in popular culture and the Special Collections staff began to draw together existing resources and acquire additional materials to form a popular culture collection. A significant collection of American western fiction and a large group of detective and mystery novels had been purchased earlier, as had a nearly complete set of "Deadwood Dick" dime novels. Gifts of substantial numbers of Tom Swift and Horatio Alger books had already become part of Special Collections. Within a short time the collection grew, through purchase and through gifts, to include representatives from nearly every major genre of the popular arts in print.

By 1974, the collection had grown to such dimensions that a plan for growth and control became imperative. The strengths of the collection as it then existed were appraised and advice was sought from Professors Russel B. Nye and Larry Landrum, both in the Department of English at MSU, and both active in popular culture studies It was decided to constitute four principal categories within which the collection could be organized for research and collecting purposes.

These categories are, of necessity, not fixed. An opportunity to acquire important materials for the collection can--and does--alter the original plan. Changes in the direction of popular culture studies will doubtless dictate future changes of emphasis. The adoption of a coherent plan has meant, however, that MSU's popular culture collection, while not the largest of its kind, is one of the most usable. The principal categories into which the collection is presently organized are: 1) comic art; 2) popular fiction, including dime novels, story magazines, pulps, juvenile series books, detective fiction, mystery fiction, science fiction, western fiction, and women's/romance fiction; 3) popular information materials, including almanacs and etiquette manuals; and 4) materials in print relating to the popular performing arts.

In 1978, the popular culture collection was named the Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection in recognition of Professor Nye's work in the field, his many in-kind donations to the popular culture collection,  and his unceasing devotion to the growth of the popular culture collection in the MSU Libraries.

Today the Russel B. Nye Popular Culture Collection in the MSU Libraries includes over 300,000 items. In addition, the collection is supported by a growing vertical file collection incorporating leaflets, pamphlets, unpublished papers, and other ephemeral material in a wide range of popular culture subjects.