Special Collections and Rare Books houses rare and unique materials that span over four thousand years. The collections include books, maps, posters, pamphlets, comics, artwork, artifacts, personal papers, and over 8 million titles on microform. Many of these materials are valuable primary sources.
The materials in Special Collections are here because they are fragile, one-of-a-kind, and they have lasting value for research. Because of this, the procedures for using books and other materials are a little different from what you may be used to in libraries. This guide will walk you through the process of finding and requesting materials in Special Collections.
According to the Society of American Archivists, an archive is "the permanently valuable records—such as letters, reports, accounts, minute books, draft and final manuscripts, and photographs—of people, businesses, and government. These records are kept because they have continuing value to the creating agency and to other potential users. They are the documentary evidence of past events. They are the facts we use to interpret and understand history."
Manuscript collections are "collections of mixed media in which unpublished materials predominate. They may also include typescripts, photographs, diaries, scrapbooks, news clippings, and printed works." While an archive is usually the product of a single creator (a person, family, organization, business, or government entity), a manuscript collection is assembled from a number of sources.
For the purpose of this guide, the term manuscript collections refers to modern manuscripts and correspondence. For information about medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, see Teaching with Medieval Books in Special Collections.