The manuscript collections were generated by a wide variety of people, businesses, organizations, and institutions in Lakeland and cover more than a century in time. Included are the personal papers and business records of such prominent Lakeland residents as Herbert Drane, Leonard Carter, Albert Lodwick, Curtis Peterson and Norman Riggins and family. Among the civic organizations and clubs whose records are represented are the Canadian Society, the Florida Public Library Association, the Garden Clubs of Lakeland, Historic Lakeland, the Rotary Club, the Sorosis Club, the Tourist Club and the Woman's Club.
The creative character of Lakeland's citizens is represented in the papers of such artists and musicians as James Bennett, Howard Buss, Kent Hagerman, Fonchen Lord, Harry Mayhall, and Dottie Waddell. The architectural plans and drawings of local architects Donovan Dean and Richard Jones, and landscape architect Thomas Mack suggest not only their creative ability, but also the impact they had on the development of Lakeland. Lakeland's rich architectural history is also evident in the records documenting the establishment of the Beacon Hill, Dixieland, Lake Morton, and Munn Park historic districts.
The city's long involvement in aviation is documented in a variety of collections. The Albert Lodwick Papers, the Bartow Air Base Collection, and the Drane Field Collection indicate the importance of Lakeland and central Florida to the country's effort in World War II. The Sun 'n Fun Collection documents the city's continuing interest in aviation and aviation technology.
Although the Special Collections unit is not the official repository for the City of Lakeland's records, it does house a significant collection of city records. Included are minutes of city commission meetings dating to 1885 and city ordinances and resolutions dating to the turn of the century.
The manuscript collections have been arranged into broad categories based on the purpose or function of the records and their creators. The categories include Architecture, Baseball Teams, Businesses, the City of Lakeland, Education (Colleges/Schools), Fine Arts, Historic Districts and Neighborhoods, Military/Aeronautics, Organizations, Pioneers/Early Settlers, Ephemera, and Miscellaneous Manuscripts. Links to each of these categories can be found in the navigation bar to the left.