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Special Collections

An interior photo of the Special Collections Reading Room.

Explore Our Collections

Washington University Libraries collect, preserve, promote, and make accessible rare, archival, and primary source materials that enrich teaching, learning, and research for the university community and beyond.

The Julian Edison Department of Special Collections focuses on six primary areas: the Dowd Illustration Research Archive, Film & Media Archive, Local History, Manuscripts, Rare Books, and the University Archives. An active program of class visits, exhibitions, workshops, and public events highlight the Department’s vital role in scholarship at Washington University and the wider community.

To search our collections visit the Special Collections Research & Access page.

To learn more about giving to Special Collections, visit the Donating to Special Collections page.

An interior photo of the Special Collections Reading Room.

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Collecting Areas

Digital Collections

Digital Collections highlight those portions of the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections that have been made or born-digital.

Dowd Illustration Research Archive

The Dowd Illustration Research Archive (formerly Dowd Modern Graphic History Library) at Washington University is comprised of original art and printed material from many fields of popular American pictorial graphic culture.

East Asian Library Special Collections

The East Asian Library houses about 800 volumes of rare and special books, manuscripts, and other types of materials in its special collection.

Film & Media Archive

The Archive is committed to the preservation of documentary film and other media which chronicles America's great political and social movements with a particular emphasis on the African-American experience.

Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library Special Collections

The Art & Architecture Special Collections is a 4,200-volume collection of rare and unique art and design printed materials located at the Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library. The main focus is illustrated books, prints, and photographs from the 18th and 19th centuries and contemporary book design.

Local History Collections

The local history collecting area focuses on the history of St. Louis and the surrounding region.

Manuscript Collections

Washington University Libraries' Julian Edison Department of Special Collections Manuscript collections contain a broad range of materials dating from the 2nd century BC through the present.

Modern Literature Collection

The Modern Literature Collection includes more than 175 authors, presses, and journals, with more than 125 of these represented by manuscript materials.

Music Special Collections

Special Collections at the Gaylord Music Library include sheet music, manuscripts, rare books, and digital materials.

Rare Book Collections

The Rare Book Collections include books from all Special Collection areas. The collections’ primary strengths are in the areas of literature; the material culture of the book, including the history of printing, graphic design, and the book arts; and aspects of American and world history.

Washington University Archives

Washington University Archives chronicles the history of Washington University in St. Louis from 1853 to today, with over 300 unique collections including campus publications, reports, photographic prints and negatives, books, film, sound recordings, oral histories, architectural plans, and artifacts.