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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
Marc Brodsky, Public Services and Reference Archivist
Kira Dietz, Acquisitions and Processing Archivist
Jeff Flanagan, Project Archivist
John Jackson, Archives Assistant
Tamara Kennelly, University Archivist
Laurel Rozema, Processing and Special Projects Archivist
Sam Winn, Collections Archivist
Anthony Wright de Hernandez, Community Collections Archivist

Purpose of the Guide and Keys to Remember

The purpose of this guide is to provide a basic introduction to Special Collections at Virginia Tech. What kinds of materials are located in Special Collections? How is the department different from the rest of the library? How are materials accessed? Why should you want to know about Special Collections? 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 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 works in the ways that it does.

3. Special Collections is for everybody. You don't need an invitation to come to Special Collections, 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 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 the various components that define the department. Primary source material is at the core of what makes Special Collections 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. 

B. Collecting Areas: Here, we will go over those subject areas in which Special Collections is currently and actively acquiring new materials. Most archival repositories, including Special Collections 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? 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 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. 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 do? In what other ways might we be helpful to you? 

F. Special Collections Online: This new and developing element of Special Collections' web presence is focused on presenting digital content related to materials held in Special Collections. 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.