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Research Guides

History of Science and Medicine: Using Special Collections

Starting points and usage tips for finding materials related to the history of science and medicine in Special Collections.

Special Collections brings together the University of Washington Libraries' most rare and unique resources. From papyrus to born-digital, our holdings span history and the globe, and offer boundless opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Students, faculty, and visitors are invited to examine manuscripts, printed works, artists' books, photographs, maps, and other materials in the protected environment of the Special Collections reading room.  Our digital collections are available on the web.

Welcome!

Special Collections Tips

Special Collections Tips

Research using Special Collections material is different from more typical library research.  The unique nature of the material dictates that there are stricter security procedures -- users need to register, manuscript materials need to be requested, personal belongings are placed in lockers, photocopying is limited, etc.  The following tips can help you when using the material in Special Collections:

  • Check Special Collections hours, they are open fewer hours than the rest of the library.
  • Read our page Using the Collections.
  • Do preliminary research first so that you can place the manuscript material in historical context.  Since manuscripts tend to be either personal papers or organizational records, it is essential to know the important people and groups associated with your research topic.
  • Make sure the collections you need are housed on site.  Some collections are kept off-campus and must be requested prior to use.  If this information is not provided in the finding aid (or if there is no online finding aid), contact Special Collections to check.
  • Peruse the online finding aid, if available, prior to using this collection so that you can identify the boxes and folders you will need to examine.
  • Allocate sufficient time.  Research using these materials takes time.

Requesting Materials

Requests are made in-person at Special Collections.

For books, we need to know at least the call number, title, or author so we can look up the rest of the information needed to fill out the rest of the call slip.

For archival collections, we at least need the name of the collection or the accession number so we can look up the finding aid and the location of the collection. Additionally, if the collection is large, we'll need to know what box(es) you're interested in seeing. Some collections are held offsite and will require advanced notice to be seen.