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Using the Collections

red X symbol August 19 – 23: CLOSED for staff training. Contact us if you have questions

Special collections is open to the public, but contains many rare, valuable, and unique items that require special security measures to assure they will be available for years to come.

Visiting Special Collections

Special Collections is open to members of the UW community, visiting scholars, and the general public. You can access our collections both in-person and remotely!

in-person appointment

Schedule an in-person appointment

virtual appointments

Schedule a Virtual Reading Room appointment

In-person research

Although not required, appointments are strongly encouraged for in-person research.

While we welcome walk-ins for easily retrievable material as space allows, making an appointment and requesting material ahead of time is the only way to guarantee space in the Reading Room. This is because the majority of materials are housed in secure, non-browsing stacks and are retrieved by staff members. Many of our collections require advance notice to use – whether because they are stored elsewhere in the building and not readily accessible, stored offsite and require us to arrange delivery, or because they have restrictions that require screening. Having researchers make appointments and submit requests ahead of time gives us the chance to make these arrangements ahead of time and ensures that researchers are able to view the material when they arrive instead of having to wait, or worse, being told that they can’t view the collection at all!

Special Collections contains many rare, valuable, and unique items that require special security measures to assure they will be available for years to come. We ask your patience and understanding in striking this sometimes difficult balance between making these materials accessible and preserving our rare and fragile items. When you arrive to Special Collections, you will be asked to check all of your belongings. You may bring loose paper, pencils, laptop computers (without cases), tablets, cell phones, and cameras (without cases) into the Reading Room. You may not bring pens, food or drink, ring binders, sprial notebooks, folders, cases, bags, notepads, or containers of any kind. You may not bring in any external camera equipment or personal scanners.

Virtual appointments

The Virtual Reading Room (VRR) is a remote access service for Special Collections. Using Zoom and a specialized document camera, we’re able to provide access to researchers from all over the world!

The VRR is only equipped to show paper materials. Born digital and audiovisual materials are not something we can show at this time. Some oversize material may be too large to be viewed in the VRR.

Availability of materials

A small portion of the collections have donor imposed or legal restrictions. Access to Manuscript collections is governed by terms agreed to by the donor of the records and the Libraries at the time of the gift. Most accessions are available for public use, but some may only be used by advanced academic researchers or are subject to other restrictions. University Archives collections are open to the public, subject to the terms and conditions established by transfer agreements or deeds of gift. Please note, however, that many collections of university records contain temporarily non-public material that are restricted to use only by University officials.