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Special Collections and University Archives: A Basic Introduction: B. Collecting Areas

This guide will introduce the department of Newman Library that is devoted to collecting, preserving, and providing access to primary source materials.

Collecting Areas

General Information

Monday-Friday 9am-5pm & By Appointment

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Telephone: 540-231-6308
Information for Visitors

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Aaron Purcell, Director, Special Collections and University Archives
Kira Dietz, Assistant Director, Special Collections and University Archives [appointment calendar]
Ren Harman, Oral History Projects Archivist/Project Manager, VT Stories
John Jackson, Archives Assistant
Alan Munshower, Digital Collections Archivist
LM Rozema, Processing and Special Projects Archivist
Jade Snelling, Collections Archivist
Amelia Verkerk, University Archivist
Anthony Wright de Hernandez, Community Collections Archivist
Kat Zinn, Project Archivist

Collecting Areas

Special Collections and University Archives​ actively collects materials in the following areas: 

American Civil War: Nearly 500 manuscript collections include over 60 diaries and many hundreds of letters from soldiers on both sides of the conflict, letters from the homefront, and all manner and kind of documents related to the American Civil War. In terms of printed pieces, there are over 7,000 books and pamphlets on the Civil War and related subjects.

Local/Regional History and the Appalachian South: These are materials focused on a wide range of subjects having to do with the geographical area with which we are chiefly concerned, that is—in a narrowing scope—the South, Southern Appalachia, Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Montgomery County, and Blacksburg. As one subset among many in this collecting area, Railroad history continues to be an area in which new materials are being acquired.

Science and Technology: With materials on a range of fields, including Engineering, Construction, Wood Science, Manufacturing Technology, and Natural Science, to name a few, Special Collections and University Archives is also especially strong in the areas of Aviation and Aerospace. As the home of the Archives of American Aerospace Exploration, we have collections from many of NASA's leading and pioneering figures.

History of Food and Drink: These materials include recipe books, to be sure, from across centuries and continents, but also cover, for example, matters of the anthropology of food, foodways and eating behaviors, food preparation technology, and domestic economy. Most recently, materials have begun to be collected in the area of the History of the American Cocktail!

Speculative Fiction: Approximately 4500 issues of science fiction and fantasy magazines that date from the mid-1920s into the 1990s make up this area of Special Collections , including complete runs of many of the most influential publications in the field.

International Archives of Women in Architecture (IAWA): Special Collections and University Archives holds nearly 400 collections of work by women architects from around the world including, literally, thousands of architectural drawings. Beginning with a collecting focus on the papers of pioneering women in architecture who practiced when there were few women in the field, the IAWA collections now document the history of women's contributions to the built environment over multiple generations. 

University History: More than a collecting area of Special Collections and University Archives, University Archives is the component of the department that collects and preserves the materials that document the rich history of the university and the accomplishments of the individuals and groups who have been associated with it over the decades. Photographs, university publications, personal papers of faculty and alumni, Presidential papers, records of various administrative offices and academic departments on campus are among the materials found in University Archives. A full set of the Bugle (campus yearbook) going back to 1895 is available, for example, as are various artifacts and memorabilia. 

In addition to these areas, there are others in which Special Collections and University Archives​ has actively collected, but is no longer. As a result, these areas remain strong, but rarely receive new acquisitions. They are: 

19th- and 20th-century, British and American, literary first editions:  These include a first edition of Joyce's Ulysses, a complete set of the serial edition of Dickens' Bleak House, and a first American edition of Huckleberry Finn, for example, but also signed works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zora Neale Hurston, Eudora Welty, Langston Hughes, William Faulkner, and Walt Whitman, not to mention first editions by Hemingway, Cather, Thackeray, Kerouac, and many others. 

Ornithology: The crown jewel in this area is the rare 1985 Abbeville Press facsimile edition of Audubon's Birds of America, which occupies a significant place in our Reading Room. The 435-illustration, four-volume work reproduces flawlessly and in full double elephant folio, Audubon's work, which was originally sold on a subscription basis between 1827 and 1838. It is, however, only one title among a group of rare and stunning items, books and manuscript collections, about birds.