n.a cohesive collection of noncirculating research materials held together by provenance or by a thematic focusCrittenden 1945, 263Third, we cannot and probably should not seek to add to our war records collections the regular files of permanent official agencies. Sections of the files of the state treasurer, the clerk of the county court, or of most other state and local officials ought not to be extracted in order to be placed in any special collection.Fox 1951, 107There they remained, much in the condition of their arrival, since the University Library was neither equipped nor supported to handle such special collections of manuscripts.Epstein 1954, 234The List of File Microcopies of the National Archives, published in 1950, contained descriptions of the Groner and Von Seeckt papers, but not long ago the papers of the German military leaders were transferred to the Departmental Records Branch in Alexandria; they are now no longer open to the public. The National Archives closed this special collection in order to avoid possible future legal complications under copyright law.Cox 1965, 388Specifically, it would be the historian’s responsibility to determine if for some reason the publication of a special collection or of individually owned letters had been forbidden.Russell 1965, 440There are other collections of manuscripts at Duke outside the manuscript department. The Walt Whitman papers constitute a special collection of some 600 items in the rare book department, and there are medieval manuscripts (largely of the Gospels) and a few miscellaneous ones there, too.Armstrong 1969, 311This attempt to establish a center of documentation in the form of a published guide instead of as a special collection in a repository has been urged for some time by many British archivists.Berner and Bettis 1970, 278For example, the poet Theodore Roethke heavily annotated books written by Auden and Dylan Thomas; to handle them elsewhere in the system would be to destroy their relation to Roethke’s creative development because the integrity of the records would be violated and the documentary connection obscured. If, however, such items are nevertheless transferred, then they should at least be placed in a special collection that is noncirculating, and proper reference should be made illustrating their interrelationships within the system. And they should be kept together as a single unit just like the manuscript group itself.Nelson 1974, 477At Central State University damage was done to archival material and a special collection of black history as well as to books in the university’s library.Dowling 1975a, 423–424The Division of Library and Archival Services of the American Medical Association has been collecting and documenting the history of its constituent medical societies. It has formed a special collection of printed histories by and on state and county medical societies.Cowan 1977, 228The purpose of Sr. Menžeńska’s volume is “to provide guidelines for the staff of a small college library with special collections,” with an emphasis on archival materials. On the assumption that most small libraries will have few professional librarians to spare for the organization, cataloguing and preservation of special holdings, Sr. Menžeńska posits the inevitable remedy: the professional librarian in charge of these collections must wear three hats—librarian, curator and archivist.UWSAC 1978, 54Consistent with the Area Research Center agreements between the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and each of the Universities in the UW-System, individual Archives may develop special collections which, while not technically University Archives, supplement and add a unique dimension to existing official records. Special collections may include artifacts, maps, photographs, oral history interviews and other materials which may add to the overall effectiveness of the archival collection.Fenn 1979, 439In addition, the library has developed a special collection of over 20,000 books on government and politics in mid-twentieth century United States, in the expectation that users of the library’s holdings will benefit substantially from the availability of those published materials at the library.Lathrop 1996, 226Appraising a Special Collection ¶ In 1984, the archives acquired the entire contents of the Minneapolis Plan Vault. The Plan Vault contained the plan sets that had been registered with the city’s Building Inspections Department by anyone who was planning to carry out a building project requiring a building permit within the city limits.Northern Micrographics 1997, 121In libraries across the country there are special collections that are irreplaceable. They are stored in special vaults, kept away from the students and scholars who seek their invaluable insights. But these controlled, lightless rooms cannot keep these documents and books safe from acid paper problems or even time itself.ARL 2003, 1While many of our general collections are remarkable in their comprehensiveness or age, our Special Collections tend to the unique. They comprise manuscripts and archival collections unduplicated elsewhere and one-of-a-kind or rarely held books. They also include items precious through their rarity, monetary value, or their association with important figures or institutions in history, culture, politics, sciences, or the arts. ¶ Special Collections extend beyond paper to other formats of cultural significance, for example photographs, moving pictures, architectural drawings, and digital archives. Special collections are also significant for their focused assemblages of published materials so comprehensive as to constitute unparalleled opportunities for scholarship. The development, preservation, support, stewardship and dissemination of major special collections thus becomes both a characteristic of the true research library, and an obligation assumed by all members of the Association of Research Libraries. Special Collections represent not only the heart of an ARL library’s mission, but one of the critical identifiers of a research library.Patzwald and Wildt 2004, 90Archival materials from interprovincial activities are placed in a special collection in the Milwaukee Province archives. The archivists meet annually at one of the provincial archives.ARL 2009, 5–6The term “special collections” has been used in North American libraries in many different ways. One of the more restricted uses designates special collections as rare books, generally dating from the dawn of European printing to some point in the 19th century, with the addition of rare editions and special printings of a later date, often known as the “book arts”. More often the term is used to include manuscripts, archival collections of mixed format including prints, drawings and photographs, and graphic materials such as maps, theatrical publications, pamphlets, advertizing [sic] and posters, and sometimes newspapers, which were not published in book form. “Special collections” also can be extended to include distinct collections of material relating to a particular subject or part of the world or sometimes reflecting the output of a particular publisher; and in this definition the materials often will be in non European [sic] languages. By the end of the 20th century, the collections of most libraries of any size had proliferated into numerous additional formats: film and video, audio tapes, microfilm, and other formats for written communication. A new information revolution also had established born-digital materials as an essential part of the holdings of research libraries, though they entered the consciousness of library administrators and their budget calculations first as scientific journals and databases, not a form of communication generally designated as special collections.Dooley and Luce 2010, 16We defined special collections as library and archival materials in any format (e.g., rare books, manuscripts, photographs, institutional archives) that are generally characterized by their artifactual or monetary value, physical format, uniqueness or rarity, and/or an institutional commitment to long-term preservation and access. They generally are housed in a separate unit with specialized security and user services. Circulation of materials usually is restricted. ¶ The term “special collections” is used throughout this report to refer to all such materials. ¶ The definition is intended to exclude general collections characterized by format or subject specialization—such as published audiovisual materials or general library strength in Asian history—as well as materials managed as museum objects.O’Meara and Tuomala 2012, 95The repository currently accepts born-digital special collections, digital scholarly output from the UNC community, and library-generated digitized content.Morris, Mykytiuk, and Weiner 2014, 396According to a 2004 survey of 278 historians, the sources they used most frequently for primary information were, in order: archives, manuscripts and special collections, books, newspapers, and other sources.Harling 2014, 497At HSU, where special collections are secondary to the information needs of undergraduates and a significant portion of use of the archival collections is by researchers new to primary sources, MPLP helped establish the priorities for processing the Rudolf W. Becking Collection that were most suitable to our end users.Bastian, Sniffin-Marinoff, and Webber 2015, 14Special collections, defined generically as “collections of materials segregated from a general library collection according to form, subject, age, condition, rarity, source, or value,” may include rare books, personal or family papers, maps, posters, artifacts, images (and even organizational or institutional records not associated with the home institution) and increasingly born-digital content as well. Unlike materials stored in an institutional archives, special collections materials generally are acquired from outside the institution, either by purchase or by donation. Like institutional archives, the collections generally do not circulate.Maclachlan et al. 2017, 89From special collections of historically significant rare maps to assemblages of modern topographic sheets, plans, and aerial photographs, map libraries offer researchers, students, and members of the public an opportunity to better understand human and natural environments of the past and present.an institution or an administrative unit of a library responsible for managing materials outside the general library collection, including rare books, archives, manuscripts, maps, oral history interviews, and ephemeraCrittenden and Huss 1944, 107It was recognized at the beginning that there were certain records which could not be included in such a collection—at least not at present. The records of various federal, state, and local governmental agencies were in most cases a part of the regular official records series of these agencies and at present could not be transferred to any such special collection.Fox 1951, 109A faculty committee with Professor George H. Sabine, Dean of the Graduate School, as its chairman began to formulate a program for the creation of a special collection of original historical and cultural New York State source material.Berner 1984, 254Bear in mind that “administrative convenience” was a major factor leading to the establishment of special collections in libraries. It had been administratively more convenient to group collections of non-conforming materials accordingly, as a kind of miscellany.Watson and Graham 1998, 124–125Let us consider for a moment the traditional approach to research requiring the examination of manuscripts and other primary sources, scarce or unique texts, images, and maps, in sum—the stuff of which special collections are made.Levy 2005, 76–77And special collections are places devoted to reverent attention, a dimension of scholarship that is in danger of being overwhelmed by the speedy, shallow mode of inquiry that is most common today. So special collections are special not just because their materials are special or because they afford a special encounter with these materials, but because they are guardians (from the Indo-European root wer-) of a mode of attention and inquiry that extends beyond the particulars of the materials they collect and provide access to.Gunselman 2007, 151The Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) unit of the Washington State University (WSU) Libraries is responsible for acquiring, processing, preserving, and providing access to manuscripts, graphic materials such as historical photographs and maps, rare books and other printed materials, and the archives of the university.Fleming and Gerrard 2014, 16The locations of fund-raising events are evenly spread out among the library, special collections and archives, other facilities on campus, or off campus entirely.Nutt and Worrell 2015, 318In 2005, the head of Special Collections at the University of Arkansas Libraries asked us to formulate a plan for the Manuscripts Unit, which is responsible for collecting, processing, and maintaining the manuscripts and the book collections.Mannix 2016, 478Although you will not sit down with [sic] on a snowy night and read this book from cover to cover, you will go back to it time and time again as a reference book. If you work in a special collection or archives and need some inspiration, it is here.adj.relating to special collectionsZinkham, Cloud, and Mayo 1989, 302Even without depending on provenance associations, special collections users may request material by type as a means of limiting a broad subject search to pertinent documentation. A writer compiling a chronology of the theater in California, for example, may want to see only material that focuses on who, where, and when; he or she might look for such subjects as theaters or actors in combination with California and with programs, playbills, and clippings. Other special collections users may seek a type of material because they are studying the form itself or are using specific materials as raw data for other studies. A devotee of science fiction may try to find new examples of that genre to publish. A bibliographer may survey broadsides as part of a census of early printing, or may try to locate watermarks on dated documents to create a tool for dating undated records with similar watermarks. A historian may seek as many different kinds of pictorial calendars as can be found to support a discussion of the role of popular imagery in daily life.Hefner 1996, 85The scientist had stated in his will that, after his death, all of his records were to be donated to a specific university that had created a scientific environmental special collections department.Keough and Schindler 2003, 124APAP is a significant component of the Department of Special Collections and Archives, which holds approximately forty thousand books and more than six hundred manuscript collections totaling approximately six thousand cubic feet in the University Archives, the German and Jewish Intellectual Emigre, the General Manuscript, and the APAP collecting areas. A special collections librarian and three archivists administer these collections.Harris 2010, 71Like users of general collections, special collections users need to find information sources, access them, and know that the information sources are authentic. People come to special collections to use rare books, organizational records, personal papers, photographs, and memorabilia, among other types and formats of material.Tomberlin and Turi 2012, 304This growth in the instructional use of special collections materials has occurred in an era characterized by shrinking campus budgets and increased administrative scrutiny, and we would argue that the broader instructional value that faculty are finding in special collection holdings and services presents the library with an opportunity to assert its role as a unique, significant, and irreplaceable contributor to the core mission of the University.Novara 2013, 198As a major special collections repository in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and the flagship campus of the University System of Maryland, the University of Maryland, College Park, was, and is, ideally situated for collecting the papers of significant Maryland political figures and organizations.
The term special collection is general enough it can refer to almost any collection of research materials. When referring to an institution or administrative unit, it is usually used in its plural form but construed as singular.The most common use of the term is in the plural sense, where it usually refers to an institution or unit that maintains more than one special collection. (But the singular special collection can also refer to such an institution.) This use of the term is common in the titles of units in libraries, such as Special Collections Research Center or Special Collections and University Archives. Although special collections here is plural, it is plural only in the way that archives is plural in a North American context: One would say, for example, “Special collections holds an amazing collection of historic photographs.”But a special collection is also nothing more than an individual collection of library materials of research value: a collection of books documenting binding techniques of the eighteenth century, a donated collection of movie posters from the 1930s and 1940s, or an assembled collection (archivists might say an artificial collection) of lantern slides documenting one region of the country. Special collections often, but not always, have artifactual value, and special collections in these times often consist of born-digital materials. Most special collections are donations or purchased acquisitions, but the archival records of the parent institution are treated as a special collection in some institutions.Some special collections hold many of these different formats of materials, and others have only one or two. What sets them apart is the specialness of their resources, the stark difference they usually show compared to the paper volumes, online databases, and even the surviving microfilm of the general collection of a library.