Mission, Vision & Collection Scope

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Mission, Vision & Collections Scope


We are a small and dedicated department continually working to build new pathways to rare and unique materials, knowledgeably connecting people to learning opportunities and resources, and preserving resources for the future. As stewards of these materials, we support equitable access in recognition and advancement of the mission of the library and the university.


Archives & Special Collections strives to be a trusted partner and a hub for stimulating research, learning, and creativity through open, informed, and equitable access to physical and digital resources.

Collection Scope

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The Archives & Special Collections' subject area concentrations spring from major research and education areas conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The collections are composed of rare and unique documentary materials created and accumulated by UNL and its members as well as from individuals and organizations external to the University. The collecting interests and the extent of collecting activity increases and decreases over time as academic research programs develop and diminish at UNL. The purpose of this approach is to provide the UNL research community with the rare and unique research materials that users require. Collections will, to the extent possible, anticipate future research needs.

Collection strengths are reflected in the University Archives, manuscripts, rare books, ephemeral print materials, photographic collections, and in digital texts. For more detailed information, please see the Collection Development Policy for Archives & Special Collections. Areas of strength include the following:

  • Agriculture
  • Ethnic American Collections
  • Folklore and Folk Arts
  • French Revolutionary War Materials
  • Great Plains History and Literature
  • History of U.S. Wartime or Military History
  • Natural History and the Sciences
  • U.S. Railroads
  • Russian History
  • Social Sciences
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln

NOTE: Materials that fall outside the collecting scope such as realia (three dimensional objects) and duplicates are not actively collected or retained.

General Guidelines for Collecting Rare Books at UNL

Material of typographical and/or historical interest. Decisions are determined by date of printing and country of publication. Among this category are:

  1. Materials printed in Western Europe prior to 1801.
  2. Materials printed in the U.S. prior to 1865.
  3. Nebraskana printed prior to 1900.
  4. Materials printed in Canada, Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Australia prior to 1850.

    If a serial began publication within the date guidelines given above and continued after the terminal date, only those volumes which fall within the guidelines are automatically sent to Special Collections.

Unique material or material existing in a limited number of copies.

  1. One of an edition of 300 copies or less.
  2. Autographed or association copies. The latter include items belonging to an author, annotated by an author, belonging to someone famous or interesting in her or his own right, or belonging to someone particularly associated with the book's contents.
  3. Books with significant manuscript notations or other material laid or fastened in.
  4. Editions of textual and/or bibliographic significance or books of literary or historical importance.
  5. Manuscripts, typed materials, and archival materials of interest to scholars, especially if related to existing collection strengths.
  6. Ephemeral materials such as broadsides, leaflets, pamphlets, and posters.
  7. Material published by non-commercial or small Nebraska presses.

Books and other materials of importance such as works of art in themselves. Examples: exceptionally fine bindings, printing, or illustration (especially hand-colored plates) or of importance in the history of printing. Among these are books published by outstanding early or private presses such as these: Ashendene, Cuala, Doves, Golden Cockerel, Gregynog, Kelmscott, Shakespeare Head, and Strawberry Hill.

Also the work of fine binders, works illustrative of styles of binding and type design, such as Bruce Rogers, Frederick Goudy, Cobden-Sanderson, or Zaehnsdorf.

Materials liable to loss or damage because of their physical format or condition, such as miniature books (under 10 cm or 4" tall), fragile books--especially early works in original paper wrappers or boards, books with loose or tipped in plates. Note: this does not include books simply in bad condition.

Monetary value may be a consideration depending upon the uniqueness of the material.

Procedures Affecting the Collecting Policy

Transfer Records Procedure

The Archives & Special Collections will accept the transfer of university records which are scheduled for permanent retention only. It will not accept records which are scheduled for destruction. University records considered for transfer to the University Archives for permanent retention must be reviewed and approved by the Archivist/Special Collections Librarian prior to transfer acceptance. All transfer of records must be accompanied by a listing of the contents.

Deeds of Gift

The Archives & Special Collections will not accept materials without legal transfer of title through a deed of gift, deposit agreement, transfer of records form, or other official acknowledgement. All transmittal forms must be signed by the Archivist/Special Collections Librarian and the donor/official from the transferring office.

Loans and Deposits

Materials loaned or deposited with the Archives & Special Collections will be accepted only when the conditions for acceptance are favorable to the department and the University Libraries of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Closed Collections

The Archives & Special Collections will not accept materials that are closed to the public in perpetuity. All restricted material will be designated with an opening date prior to the donation/transfer acceptance.


Materials that do not reflect the Archives & Special Collections' collecting scope or do not possess sufficient archival value may be deaccessioned, subject to the documented terms of acquisition, university regulations and state and federal laws.

Revision of Policy

The Archives & Special Collections reserves the right to amend its collection development policy at any time.


Society of American Archivists: "Donating Your Personal or Family Records to a Repository"

Society of American Archivists: "Donating Your Organization's Records to a Repository"

Society of American Archivists: "A Guide to Deeds of Gift"

UNL Libraries Deposit Program