Special Collections Research and Instruction

Special Collections and University Archives Research

Simpson Library’s Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room

Simpson Library’s Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room

To begin research on a particular topic, it is best to start in the library’s online catalog. The catalog contains entries for UMW students’ honors and master’s papers, publications by UMW faculty that are housed in the University Archives, and titles of rare books and print materials held within Special Collections.

Special Collections houses selected issues of rare journals from the 18th to the 20th centuries and over 1,500 rare books by various authors from many scholarly fields. All of our holdings can be found in Simpson Library’s online catalog. The Research Guide to Book History is an excellent portal to selected online resources pertaining to the history of the book. If you have questions about rare books, or would like to learn more about rare books in general, visit the Association of College & Research Libraries’ Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Your Old Books guide.

University Archives materials are arranged in divisions or “record groups” that correspond to the administrative, student, faculty, or alumni organization which originally created the materials. The Record Group Headings List designates the record group number needed to locate specific records in the archives. Our manuscript collections that do not correspond to a specific record group can be located in the personal manuscript collections inventory. Online guides and finding aids for select University Archives collections can be found on the Virginia Heritage website. A chronological list of biographies and finding aids to the collection of each Mary Washington president is located on the UMW Presidents Collections page.

Archives@UMW, the Library’s digital collections repository, is a great place to start if you are looking for images related to the history and student life of Mary Washington’s campus.

Special Collections and University Archives Instruction

Special Collections Librarian Carolyn Parsons works with students in the Reading Room. Photo by Leigh Williams ’14

Special Collections Librarian Carolyn Parsons works with students in the Reading Room.
Photo by Leigh Williams ’14

Special Collections and University Archives staff offer research and instruction sessions for UMW courses. If you would like to schedule an instruction session on how to locate and use our materials for research, design an assignment using primary source materials, or want to show a particular resource to your students, please contact Carolyn Parsons, Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist, at cparsons@umw.edu or 540-654-1752.

The Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room can accommodate a maximum class size of 15 students. We often divide larger classes into two sessions, and can also bring materials to the Library’s second-floor classroom for instructional use.

Instruction sessions involving digitization and/or digital collections are also available in the Digital Archiving Lab, room 322 in the Hurley Convergence Center.

UMW offers a Historic Preservation course taught by the University Archivist for students interested in furthering their knowledge of archival practices. HISP303 Archives and Society covers archival history, record arrangement and description, preservation, digital curation, ethics, disaster planning, and new technologies. The class is a mix of lecture, discussion, and hands-on activities using the Library’s archival collections.