If you’ve visited Special Collections in the last 2 years, you’ve probably seen our reading room. (Although, if you were last here more than 2 years ago, the tables might have been a little different and if you were last here more than 8 years ago, we weren’t even in this space!)

Coincidentally, the space you can see into behind the open glass door is my office. So, now you know where to find me!

However, the reading room is really just the gateway to Special Collections’ secrets. So, this week, I took walk into the Rare Book Room and two of our manuscript storage spaces with a digital camera.

Our historical photograph collection is in black acid-free boxes and is organized generally by topic. Beyond it, you can see some bound and boxed newspapers above and part of our collection of vertical files on university history.
Our historical photograph collection is in black acid-free boxes and is organized generally by topic. Beyond it, you can see some bound and boxed newspapers above and part of our collection of vertical files on university history below.
To be honest, manuscript collections means lots of boxes on shelves.
To be honest, manuscript collections means lots of boxes on shelves.
Seriously, I mean LOTS of boxes. In all kinds of sizes and shapes.
Seriously, I mean LOTS of boxes. In all kinds of sizes and shapes.
These boxes contain rolled architectural drawings from two large IAWA (International Archive of Women in Architecture) collections.
These boxes contain rolled architectural drawings from two large IAWA (International Archive of Women in Architecture) collections.

One of our on-going projects at the moment (well, two on-going projects, now, but more on that below), involves managing all these boxes (and books!). Until the last year or so, everything was on shelves where it fit and we relied on a printed shelf list and/or our archival management software to tell us where things are. However, in late 2013, we launched the first phrase of a major reorganization. Most of our manuscript collections are now in order by number on the shelf. We still have some more things to move, but at the moment, we’re working on creating space for additional shelves (meaning we need to move some map cases).  IAWA materials are located on separate shelving and will probably be reorganized in the future. Other future phases will involve reordering record group materials (in a smaller room past the map cases below) and flat files in map cases like these:

Boxes on top of these map cases contain textiles (while will be moved to new shelving soon) and architectural models.
Boxes on top of these map cases contain textiles (which will be moved to new shelving soon) and architectural models.
These cases, like the others above, contain architectural drawings stored flat. We have map cases throughout the department that also house oversize manuscript materials, unframed art, and historical university items.
These cases, like the others above, contain architectural drawings stored flat. We have map cases throughout the department that also house oversize manuscript materials, unframed art, and historical university items.

Opposite the space where the manuscript collections are being put in number order is part of our Rare Book collection. (Some of it is also in an off-site library storage facility.)

Our rare books are shelved in call number order, but not all together. We have some shelved by size (so we can maximize available shelves) and others shelved by topic (like university publications and Civil War books).
Our rare books are shelved in call number order, but not all together. We have some shelved by size (so we can maximize available shelves) and others shelved by topic (like university publications and Civil War books). This photo shows a set of shelves containing “large” books, which for us means books over 28cm tall.
We also have a fun collection of boys adventure books, which have spines that make for nice images.
We also have a fun collection of boys adventure books, which have spines that make for nice images.

We are also in the process of shifting our book collection in order to fit in one more range of shelving. (Space is tight and we’re exceptionally good at acquiring new materials!) It’s a long process, but it will give us much-needed wiggle room. For us, managing materials is always an active process, whether it’s adding a single new box or moving 1,800 manuscript collections and 35,000 books.

Of course, there’s lots more to see and this is only a sneak peek. If you do pay us a visit and want to see more, please ask! We’re more than happy to take you on a tour beyond the glass door at the end of the reading room and into the stacks. We LOVE to share Special Collections and you’ll probably see something you might not discover otherwise!

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