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Research Guides

Guide to Research in Special Collections: Preparing for your visit

This guide will show you how to search Special Collections materials.

Preparing for your visit

This page will give you an idea of what to expect when you visit the Special Collections Reading Room. 

Handling Guidelines to Expect

  • One box may be viewed at a time and one folder from the box may be pulled at a time. This is to preserve the original order of materials (which, according to archival theory, helps one better understand the materials they are viewing) and prevent damage from overlapping materials.
  • Special Collections staff will provide book wedges and weights as needed to view books. This protects books from general wear and tear and other damage. 
  • Special precautions may be taken when viewing rare books as they may be more delicate and require extra care. 
  • Ask before taking photographs. Photographs are allowed of some material, but not all. 
  • Special Collections staff will provide gloves to view photographic prints to protect them from damage.

What can I bring?

UW Special Collections abides by security best practices as outlined by the American Library Association (ALA).

For us, this means:

  • Special Collections staff will ask you to store coats and bags.

  • Laptops are permitted for note taking.

  • Loose leaf paper is permitted and provided, but notebooks are not permitted.

  • Pencils are permitted and provided, but pens are not permitted.

  • External light sources and personal scanners are not permitted.

Contact Us

Please contact us if you still have questions. 

We can be reached through the following methods:

  • Ask a question online

  • Email us at

  • Call us at 206-543-1929