Special Collections Research & Access

The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections reading room in John M. Olin Library is open by appointment only and with limited capacity. Please see the Plan Your Visit section on this page for appointments.

On-site instruction is limited to Washington University classes. Faculty and student researchers with a valid Washington University ID will be prioritized for on-site research appointments. Research appointments for patrons without Washington University affiliation will be limited and require administrative approval. We will continue to accept virtual instruction requests.

The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections Reading Room is located in Olin Library (Level 1) at the center of the Danforth Campus where researchers, visitors, and classes can access a wide variety of collections. For assistance accessing the Art & Architecture, East Asian, and Music collections, please reach out to those locations.

Search the Special Collections | Contact Us | Plan Your Visit | Instruction | Class Visits | Locations | Research Policies Procedures & Forms | Requesting Reproductions | Licensing & Publication | University Archives Info for Staff | Donations

Search the Special Collections

Since June 2020, Special Collections has been actively transferring archival and manuscript finding aids from the Archon platform to ArchivesSpace, an open-source archives management application with enhanced searching features. ArchivesSpace is a discovery portal for researchers to search and browse our archival and manuscript collections. In this interim period, some finding aids will only be accessible in Archon until transferred into ArchivesSpace.

Browse all Research Guides related to Special Collection topics

Search Manuscript & Archival Materials

Locate materials in the Manuscript, University Archive, Modern Graphic History Library, and Fine Print collections. ArchivesSpace

Search Books in Special Collections

Find Rare Books and other Special Collection items in the Library Catalog.

Search the Catalog

Search the Film & Media Archive

Our tool MavisWeb searches only a fraction of the collections in the Film & Media Archive. Contact us for assistance.

Contact Us

Please contact us to arrange your visit or with reference questions by email (spec@wumail.wustl.edu) or via telephone at (314) 935-5495; you may also reach us by text message at (314) 309-3411.

The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections at the John M. Olin Library.

Plan Your Visit

The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections will provide limited in-person access for research appointments. Priority appointments go to faculty and student researchers with valid Washington University ID. Appointments for patrons without Washington University affiliation will be limited and require administrative approval. On-site instruction is limited to Washington University classes.

  • Please contact Special Collections (spec@wumail.wustl.edu or (314) 935-5495) to schedule an appointment. Appointments are on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Research visits are by appointment only. A maximum of four researchers are allowed in the reading room at a time.
  • Appointments for visitors and/or patrons without Washington University affliation will be limited and require administrative pre-approval.
  • All on-site patrons must follow University health and safety requirements, including mask-wearing and self-screenings.
  • Virtual Consultations (optional): Special Collections will offer virtual reference consultations for researchers. Please contact the respective curator/archivist to arrange your virtual reference consultation. Upon receipt of your inquiry, the curator/archivist will schedule a virtual reference consultation.

Special Collections will continue to fulfill virtual reference requests and inquiries to the extent possible; we cannot guarantee that all requests can be filled at this time.

Please see our COVID-19 Updates & Resources page to learn more about our current procedures. You can also browse our Remote Resources available to use off-campus.


  • Special Collections offers a wide range of instruction and teaching opportunities for faculty and students. Curators support and collaborate with faculty to help students discover and engage with primary source material in our collections.
  • Special Collections will offer on-site instruction for the Washington University community in Fall 2021. In addition, our staff can work with faculty to teach remotely with synchronous classes or present material asynchronously.
  • To book a remote or on-site class, please contact us well in advance (spec@wumail.wustl.edu or (314) 935-5495). Curators will work with faculty to identify relevant material and resources and discuss digitization possibilities and options for the class.

Class Visits

Schedule a Class Visit

The Mendle Classroom is located adjacent to the reading room and can be configured to accommodate seminars, lecture-style presentations, or small groups at multiple study stations. We are happy to bring out materials for single class visits or to put them on reserve for consultation in the reading room during normal open hours.

To make arrangements for a class visit or other study opportunities, please contact us.

The Department of Special Collections welcomes classes from all academic disciplines. The format is flexible: we encourage faculty or instructors to select the materials they would like to present in a classroom setting, or the Special Collections staff can assist in selecting and introducing materials.

Provide your name, the name of the class, the desired date and time for your visit (with alternates if possible), the materials you would like to have available, the approximate number of students, and whether you will require a computer/projector. Our staff will confirm your visit details and room reservation by email.


Special Collections is located on Level One of the John M. Olin Library.

If using GPS navigation, the closest parking garage is the Danforth University Center (DUC) Garage and that is located at 6475 Forsyth Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130.

Maps & Directions – Danforth Campus

The Modern Graphic History Library (MGHL), Film & Media Archive, and Preservation Unit are located at West Campus. Please contact us with questions about collections in these areas.

Note: Hours at West Campus by appointment only. Please contact us to arrange your visit.

Maps & Directions – West Campus

Research Policies, Procedures & Forms

The following lists detail the policy procedures and forms needed when researching at Special Collections. Contact us with questions.

To return forms electronically, please save your completed & signed form and email it to spec@wumail.wustl.edu. Forms can also be brought to the reading room when visiting, or returned by mail to the following address:

Julian Edison Department of Special Collections
MSC 1061-141-B
Washington University
1 Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130

  • Materials Use Policies for Special Collections
  • Patron Information Form (PDF) | All researchers must complete a Patron Information Form before (once an academic year).
  • Paging Request Form (PDF) | Researchers can fill the Page Request Form to have materials retrieved from storage for use in the reading room. As a general guideline you can request up to 6 boxes or 6 books for each day you plan to visit. Please contact the staff if you have extenuating circumstances regarding your visit (international travel, etc).
  • Reproduction Request Form (PDF) | Researchers can fill out a Reproduction Request Form to request copies of collection materials (see below for more information).

Requesting Reproductions

To request copies of Special Collection materials, please download and complete the Patron Form (PDF) and Request for Reproduction Form (PDF) and return them as email attachments to spec@wumail.wustl.edu.

After we receive your order someone on our staff will contact you regarding costs, time to delivery, and if there are any questions.

If condition and copyright restrictions allow, researchers can take their own photos of material (without flash). Please check with staff before taking any photos.

A free, self-service scanner that can accommodate flat documents up to 8.5″ x 11″ (allowed for most materials) is available for use in the reading room.

Some reproductions can only be done by staff due to fragility, size, or format.

See the current fee schedule for standard reproduction requests. Researchers can request a quote before Special Collections staff begins work on their order.

Payment can be made by check, credit card, or inter-departmental billing. Pre-payment may be required.

  • Please make checks payable to “Washington University Libraries”
  • Credit card payments are accepted online via the Olin Library Online Payment Portal after receiving an invoice number for your order.

Licensing & Publication

If you plan to use images or other materials from Special Collections in any type of publication or media production, it may be necessary to obtain non-exclusive public permissions and rights from the department. Examples include:

  • exhibition
  • film or television show
  • dramatic presentation
  • publication (book, article, newspaper, etc)
  • website

Depending on the nature of your proposed use, we may charge a fee to use materials. Generally, we will also provide you a form or agreement that should be signed.

For information about commercial and non-commercial use of materials, please contact us.

Licensing requests for materials where Special Collections is the copyright holder are considered on an individual basis. This includes material from the Film & Media Archive and other collections. For licensing requests where Special Collections is the copyright holder, please contact us for more information.

For information about specific collections and their copyright status, please contact us.

If the materials are not in the public domain, and the library does not hold the copyright, you will need to contact the current copyright holder to request permission. Special Collections does not hold rights to any material currently under copyright by a third party, including stock footage or images, in its collections. Special Collections staff can assist researchers with locating information about the copyright holder(s), but it is the patron’s responsibility to clear rights with the appropriate parties.

University Archives Info for Staff

Approximately 25% of archive patrons who call, email, or visit the University Archives are Washington University staff members, searching for information related to the University’s 150-plus years of history.

Reunion staff from all academic divisions access campus yearbooks and historic photograph collections for invitations, Facebook pages, event displays, memory books, and more.

Campus architects and designers regularly consult archived plans and images when renovating or remodeling campus buildings.

EH&S Radiation Safety Division consulted the archives to determine when campus buildings were constructed, and therefore which might have hazardous emergency lights.

The Art on Campus Program is using the earliest campus architecture documents to provide historical perspective and background for the commissioned artists.

Public Affairs Newsroom staff works closely with Washington University Archives staff to locate historic images needed for outside media requests, generally needed on very short notice. The archives also regularly contribute to campus publications and websites, such as this tribute to William H. Danforth.

Washington University Archives archives the official records created by the Chancellor, and provide access for his office staff, and authorized researchers. A similar service is provided for the records of the Provost, Board of Trustees, Faculty Senate, and other offices.


Special Collections is grateful for the support received through gifts and donations.

If you are interested in making a gift of material to Special Collections, please see this page for additional details and contact a curator by email (spec@wumail.wustl.edu) or via telephone at (314) 935-5495 for more information.