Resources and methods for identifying and using the materials housed in the Special Collections Research Center
Last Updated: Dec 1, 2014
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Welcome to Special Collections
The Special Collections Research Center is home to the University of Chicago Library's rare books, archives, and manuscript collections. Special Collections is a vibrant, interactive place to conduct research, engage in classes using original sources, and view changing exhibitions.
The Special Collections Research Center is the unit within the library charged with acquiring, preserving, arranging, describing, and making accessible items of records, manuscripts, and books of historical value. Below are descriptions of our primary collections:
- Rare Books
The Rare Book Collection consists of approximately 300,000 titles ranging in date from the fifteenth century to the twenty-first. Nearly all of the Library’s pre-1800 titles are located in Special Collections, as are many books from the early decades of the nineteenth century. Later printed books that are scarce, have significant bindings, illustrations, or ownership history, are also part of the rare book collections. Other criteria for inclusion include important early works in the history of a particular subject or geographical area and books that form part of a comprehensive subject collection.
- University Archives
The University Archives documents the history of the University of Chicago, the work of its faculty, and the life of the academic community. The University Archives acquires and preserves materials in all formats, including electronic and digital. University Archives collections include records of the University administration and academic units; papers of faculty members, trustees, administrators, students, and alumni; publications; photographs; video and film; sound recordings; and memorabilia. The current extent of the University Archives collections is 35,858 linear feet.
- Early Manuscripts
The early manuscript collections include manuscripts from the ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and early modern periods to 1700. Among them are the Edgar J. Goodspeed papyri collection; the Goodspeed Manuscript Collection of New Testament and related liturgical and devotional texts; late medieval and Renaissance secular and religious texts, including books of hours and works of Boccaccio and Chaucer; the Sir Nicholas Bacon Collection of English Court and Manorial Documents; the Samuel R. and Marie-Louise Rosenthal Collection of Northern Italian Historical Documents; and commonplace books, musical scores, sermons, papal dispatches, poetry, and letters.
- Modern Manuscripts
Spanning the period from the eighteenth century to the present, the modern manuscript collections are developed to support research and teaching at the University of Chicago. Areas of strength include the early history of Kentucky and the Ohio River valley; Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Civil War era; civil rights leader Ida B. Wells; Poetry magazine and modern poetry; post-World War II atomic scientists political organizations; Cold War intellectual politics and world constitutionalism; Native American education and community organization; modern commercial printing; Chicago labor and social reform; Chicago medical history; and the history of the Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood.
- Chicago Jazz Archive
The Chicago Jazz Archive was founded in 1976 to preserve materials on the birth and early growth of Chicago jazz. Over time, and benefiting from a relationship with the Jazz Institute of Chicago, the collections have grown to span more than eight decades of Chicago and general jazz history. The collections include recordings, publications, photographs, articles, posters, programs, ticket stubs, and other ephemera of musicians, clubs, record companies, and jazz organizations. In 2007-2008, the collections of the Chicago Jazz Archive were transferred to the Special Collections Research Center. Chicago Jazz Archive manuscript and archival collections were processed as part of the Uncovering New Chicago Archives Project (UNCAP), a three-year initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These changes have made it possible for the Library to provide expanded access to the Chicago Jazz Archive, utilizing the facilities, services, and staff of the Special Collections Research Center.