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Research Guides

GEOG 490: The Seattle Region - Spring 2021: Using Special Collections


Special Collections is located in the basement of Allen Library South.  All material in Special Collections is library-use only -- nothing can be checked out.

Selected Relevant Collections

What's in Special Collections

Special Collections houses material dealing with the history of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.  Included in Special Collections:

  • Historic photographs (some are digitized via UW Digital Collections)
  • Local atlases and maps (Krolls & Metskers)
  • City Directories
  • Pamphlet files -- newsclippings on local places, events and topics
  • Books on the PNW
  • Index to local newspapers (PNW Regional Newspaper & Periodical Index)
  • Scrapbooks -- collections of photos and clippings
  • Restaurant menus
  • University Archives -- records of the UW
  • Manuscripts -- unique, unpublished records created by organizations and individuals including letters, speeches, minutes, reports, writings, and other types of records that document the history and culture of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest


Some Tips for Using Manuscript Collections

Research using manuscript 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 manuscript material in Special Collections:

  • Check Special Collections hours, they are open fewer hours than the rest of the library.
  • Read the Special Collections web pages on preparing for your visit.
  • 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 online 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 manuscript material takes time.


Using the UW Libraries Catalog to Identify Manuscript Collections

Use the Advanced search option in the UW Libraries Search  to identify manuscript collections. 


Digitized Finding Aids for UW Collections

Collections of unpublished personal papers, organizational records, and historical photographs are described and inventoried in detailed guides known as finding aids. A finding aid helps the researcher to identify boxes or folders of interest with a manuscript or archival collection. A typical finding aid provides background information on the organization, person, or family who created the papers or photographs, an overview of the collection and its arrangement, and a detailed container list. Many, though not all, finding aids are available to view on the web, see Digitized Finding Aids.  A complete collection of finding aids is available in Special Collections.