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Special Collections and University Archives: A Basic Introduction: Home

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

Special Collections

General Information

Monday-Friday 8am-5pm & By Appointment

Contact us:
Telephone: 540-231-6308
Information for Visitors

Find us online!


Aaron Purcell, Director, Special Collections and University Archives
Marc Brodsky, Public Services and Reference Archivist
Kira Dietz, Assistant Director, Special Collections and University Archives [appointment calendar]
Jeff Flanagan, Project Archivist
Ren Harman, Oral History Projects Archivist/Project Manager, VT Stories
John Jackson, Archives Assistant
Alan Munshower, Digital Collections Archivist
Bess Pittman, Project Archivist
LM Rozema, Processing and Special Projects Archivist
Jade Snelling, Collections Archivist
Anthony Wright de Hernandez, Community Collections Archivist
[vacant], University Archivist (please contact

COVID Operations: August 2021

August 2021 Update:

  • Beginning August 9, 2021, Special Collections and University Archives will be open Monday-Friday from 8am to 5pm
  • Appointments will not be required, but strongly encouraged (**see below)
  • Appointments can be made by visiting the SCUA Seat Reservation page (instructions are included on this page)
  • Virtual reference help remains available at or by phone at 540-231-6308
  • Newman Library hours of operation and those of other University Library branches are also available online

**By making an appointment, you will help us limit the number of researchers using our Reading Room at any one time for health and safety; guarantee you a seat at the requested time; and help us plan for your visit, for example, making sure materials needed are onsite and available.

Purpose of the Guide and Keys to Remember

The purpose of this guide is to provide a basic introduction to Special Collections and University Archives at Virginia Tech. What kinds of materials are located in Special Collections and University Archives? How is the department different from the rest of the library? How are materials accessed? Why should you want to know about Special Collections and University Archives? As you read through the guide or as you view separate parts of it, here are a couple of important things to remember:

1. The materials in Special Collections and University Archives are here for people to USE! We consciously and intentionally acquire materials and build collections of interest and significance to make them accessible to students, scholars, and researchers. 

2. In addition to providing access to materials, we are charged with the responsibility of protecting and preserving them, as they may be unique, valuable, and/or rare. Our work describes a balance between preservation and providing access, and this balance informs much of "why" any archival repository like Special Collections and University Archives works in the ways that it does.

3. Special Collections and University Archives is for everybody. You don't need an invitation to come to Special Collections and University Archives, nor do you need to make an appointment. If you have an interest, an assignment, or a project that may benefit from the materials held here, and you can handle the materials thoughtfully and with care, Special Collections and University Archives is for you. 



Structure of the Guide

The guide itself consists of the following separate pages: 

A. Materials: This page will discuss the types of materials you'll find in Special Collections and University Archives and the various components that define the department. Primary source material is at the core of what makes Special Collections and University Archives unlike other parts of the Library, and this page will offer a definition and some examples of primary sources. It will also describe the major component kinds of collections held at Special Collections and University Archives. 

B. Collecting Areas: Here, we will go over those subject areas in which Special Collections and University Archives is currently and actively acquiring new materials. Most archival repositories, including Special Collections and University Archives at Virginia Tech, collect in a handful of areas, which define the strengths of the overall Collection. Areas in which this department has, in the past, actively collected but is no longer will also be considered, as they also represent areas of strength in the Collection.

C. Research: How does one conduct research in Special Collections and University Archives? This page will go over the tools you are likely to use to find appropriate materials for your work, as well as potential challenges you may encounter.

D. Procedures: Special Collections and University Archives operates differently than does the general collection of the library, though we do share the same primary purpose of providing access to materials for users. These differences will become apparent as soon as you enter Special Collections and University Archives. Avoid the surprise. This page will tell you what to expect. 

E. Services: In addition to providing direct assistance finding and retrieving useful materials, what else does Special Collections and University Archives do? In what other ways might we be helpful to you? 

F. Special Collections and University Archives Online: This new and developing element of Special Collections and University Archives' web presence is focused on presenting digital content related to materials held in Special Collections and University Archives. In many cases, this will be digital representations of collection materials themselves, as described in our finding aids (see Section C. Research for more on finding aids). In other instances, there will be digital exhibits that add perspective and value to materials, perhaps across collections.