The University of Houston Libraries Special Collections preserves, safeguards, organizes, and describes materials in its collecting areas, making them available for use by the UH community and the general public. Anyone is welcome to visit the UH Special Collections Reading Room, located on the second floor of the MD Anderson Library. UH Special Collections is home to rare, unique, and irreplaceable items of intellectual, cultural, and societal distinction, and for this reason, the materials are stored separately from the main library in a climate-controlled setting.
UH Special Collections boasts a remarkable variety of primary source materials, both historic and contemporary. It is here that visitors can experience the sound recordings, creative material, and personal papers of hip hop icon DJ Screw, read a letter penned in 1833 by Antonio López de Santa Anna, or study the campaign papers of the Honorable Annise Parker. It is where one French scholar traveled to immerse herself in the world of literary luminary Donald Barthelme. It is where the history of KUHT is preserved and made digitally accessible. It is home to over 106,000 rare and antique books, including The Handy-Volume Shakespeare from 1885 and a French devotional book from the Middle Ages.
But there is much, much more in the archives of UH Special Collections. Students of all ages, scholars, researchers, history buffs, and lifelong learners, the curious and creative, can avail themselves of a vast array of singular treasures preserved here.
While UH Special Collections is known for its rich, Houston-centric collecting scope, the research collections also comprise primary materials with state, national, and global significance.
A source of pride for UH Special Collections stems from its strong relationships with individual and organizational partners. UH faculty collaborate with archivists to connect students with primary source materials for transformational learning experiences. Archivists work with campus and institutional colleagues to increase the visibility of, and access to, the collections in the community through exhibits and sharing of materials.
Planning Your Visit to UH Special Collections
Visitors are encouraged to start by checking the collection coverage at the UH Special Collections website. Type a search term in the Archival Finding Aids field, or browse by collecting area. A finding aid is an inventory of a collection that contains an overview of the collection, scope and contents, and a biographical note. You’ll find that some collections have varying levels of description; some are more detailed than others. It’s helpful to look at the finding aid as a map that will lead you to relevant material.
For those who aren’t sure of the materials they need, it is best to contact a friendly and knowledgeable Special Collections archivist or staff member. Archivists oversee the collections and know what they contain and what they don’t. These professionals can direct you toward areas of the archives that may have been overlooked, or can suggest secondary general resources. Archivists can also assist students and researchers in articulating research questions. These are often developed or modified after an examination of the materials reveals new and interesting avenues of inquiry.
Once you have browsed the website and located specific materials that fit your research scope, schedule a visit to the Reading Room with a request to have the material pulled and ready for you when you arrive.
What to Expect on Your First Visit
An ID is needed to use the collections. On your first visit, you will be asked to complete a Patron Registration Form. A staff member will give you a quick orientation on how to handle the material. You may also use the computer in the Reading Room to browse finding aids. You’ll be given one box at a time. While looking through the materials, take full citations for later reference. Smartphone cameras are welcome in the Reading Room for the purposes of private study and research only.
Additional Research Resources
The UH Digital Library makes digital collections available online, documenting the University, city of Houston, and state of Texas, as well as other historically and culturally significant materials. Collections within the UH Digital Library are mainly derived from Special Collections as well as the William R. Jenkins Architecture & Art Library and the Music Library. A few collections are from the UH Hilton College Hospitality Industry Archives.
The main UH Libraries’ OneSearch allows you to search through journals, databases, the catalog, research guides, and the website.
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