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Special Collections Research & Access

While visitors are always welcome, research visits to the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections by appointment only. Please see the Plan Your Visit section on this page for appointments and see the Library Hours page for the Special Collection Reading Room hours of operation.

On-site and virtual instruction is available for 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 are also available. 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 Guidelines | Research Policies Procedures & Forms | Requesting Reproductions | Licensing & Publication | University Archives Info for Staff | Donations | Special Collections Collection Development Policy

Search the Special Collections

Special Collections archival and manuscript finding aids are discoverable on 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.

Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Descriptions & Cataloging

The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections is dedicated to balancing efficient and timely processing and cataloging, as well as the preservation of original context with an awareness of the importance of language and its effect on users of our materials and those represented within them. Special Collections acknowledges that some descriptions contain language that is euphemistic, racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist, or that demeans the humanity of the people we describe.

Special Collections is dedicated to correcting those records as they are found. If you encounter offensive or harmful language in the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections’ finding aids, catalog records, digitized collections, news articles, exhibitions, or elsewhere, or if you have questions about this statement or about our work, please reach out to Special Collections via the Special Collections Harmful Language Feedback Form.

Search Manuscript & Archival Materials

Locate materials in the Julian Edison Department of Special 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 and Media Archive

Contact the Curator of Film and Media to search the Film & Media Archive.Contact the Curator of Film and Media

Contact Us

Please contact us to arrange your visit or with reference questions by email ( 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 welcomes researchers to schedule in-person research appointments. Priority appointments go to faculty and student researchers with valid Washington University IDs.

On-site instruction is available for Washington University classes. On-site instruction is available for other local university classes on a case-by-case basis.

  • Please contact Special Collections ( or (314) 935-5495) to schedule an appointment. Appointments are on a first-come, first-served basis; please see the Library Hours page for the Special Collection Reading Room hours of operation for available appointment hours. The last appointments for the day will begin no later than one hour before the reading room closing time.
  • While visitors to the reading room are always welcome, research visits to the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections by appointment only. A maximum of four researchers are allowed in the reading room at a time.
  • 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.

Please see the Remote Resources page for off-campus resource options.

Instruction & Class Visits

Special Collections offers faculty and students a wide range of instruction and teaching opportunities. Curators support and collaborate with faculty to help students discover and engage with primary source material in our collections and will work with faculty to identify relevant material and resources and discuss digitization possibilities for the class.

Special Collections offers on-site instruction for the Washington University community. In addition, our staff can work with faculty to teach remotely with synchronous classes or present material asynchronously.

Schedule a Class Visit

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.

To make arrangements for a class visit or other study opportunities, please fill out the Special Collections Instruction Request Form.

Special Collections staff will respond within five to seven business days. Please reach out via email at or by phone at (314) 935-5495 if you have any questions or concerns.

The Mendle Classroom is adjacent to the reading room and can 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.

Special Collection Locations

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, located at 6475 Forsyth Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130.

The Dowd Illustration Research Archive (DIRA), 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 Special Collections to arrange your visit.

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 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 | All researchers must complete a Patron Information Form before (once an academic year).
  • Paging Request Form (PDF) | Researchers can fill out the Paging 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 complete the Patron Information Form and the Request for Reproduction Form (PDF). The Request for Reproduction Form can be downloaded and returned as an email attachment to

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

If conditions 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.

University Marketing & Communications 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 provides 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 the Donating to Special Collections page for additional details and contact a curator by email ( or via telephone at (314) 935-5495 for more information.