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UNIV 2655 - Historic Black Nashville

Special Collections

Sepcial Collections

Collections of unusual or  scarce materials such as rare books, manuscripts, historical maps, drawings, paintings, photographs, etc., as well as the institution's own archives (alumni papers, professors' papers, university records) housed in a climate  controlled secured area.

Univ. Archives & Special Collections Research Guide

History of Medicine Collection @ Biomedical Library

Before You Go: Research Trip Planning

COVID-19 Policies

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) is open by appointment.

SCUA has never stopped providing online reference and digitization services. You’ll find we have further expanded and improved access to our collection resources during the pandemic. In all we do, we follow University protocol to enhance the safety of our spaces. This page provides important information that will make your next visit to Special Collections and University Archives a success.


Hours of Operation

Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm.

During the semester some classes will be held in Special Collections that may affect the availability for appointments. Please keep this in mind as you plan your visit, and we thank you in advance for your flexibility.


What to know before you make an appointment

  • For the safety of staff and researchers, the number of researchers allowed in the reading room will be limited. Researchers and staff will be required to wear masks/cloth face coverings at all times.
  • Appointments will be scheduled in two-hour research blocks. You may book up to two sessions per day.
  • One researcher is allowed at each table. Each table will be thoroughly sanitized before and after use.
  • Researchers must maintain social distancing of six feet.
  • Please allow 48 hours' notice when making appointments. Many of our materials are shelved offsite and require sufficient time for safe retrieval and access. If you need an exception, contact
  • We are unable to offer on-site photocopying services at this time. You may use your cell phone or a digital camera to take photos (without flash) of materials.

How to make an appointment

  • Create an account on our registration form.
  • Email us at to start the conversation about your research needs. Let us know your research topic, what items interest you, and/or if you need help identifying materials. Please tell us if you expect to require multiple visits so we can discuss your options.
  • Do not travel to the library until you’ve received an email confirming your appointment and requests.

On the day of your appointment

  • Please wash and dry your hands thoroughly before entering the reading room. Hand sanitizer will be available, but hands must be completely dry before touching any materials.
  • Visitors will enter through the terrace doors.
  • Researchers will need to present a valid photo ID or Vanderbilt ID.
  • You may bring the following with you into the reading room:
    • Laptop (without bag or sleeve)
    • Cell phone (set to vibrate or silent)
    • Camera
    • Pencils
    • Loose leaf paper

Vanderbilt Observer, 1882Special Collections owns approximately 700 manuscript collections on a variety of topics including civil rights, performing arts, astronomy and physics, and others.  The collections listed here are a select list of manuscript collections held by Vanderbilt Libraries. 

Special Collections Finding Aids.

For a list of all special collections by subject, please see the collections Subject List.

For a list of all the special collections by title, please see the collections Alphabetical List.

Please note that for the alphabetical and subject lists, a handful of items are owned by other libraries in the system even though most items belong to Special Collections.  If you are uncertain which library owns an item on the list contact Special Collections.


If the phrase "off-site" appears next to a collection title, then the collection is stored at our off-site facility.  Individual boxes will need to be requested for use in class and in the Special Collections Reading Room.  Due to limited storage on our hold shelf, only two boxes per person may be requested at a time from off-site storage.

Inventory Available

If the phrase "inventory available" appears next to a collection title, then a paper-based inventory is available for the collection.  To request a PDF of the inventory, please contact Special Collections for assistance.

Small Collection

If the phrase "small collection" appears next to a collection title, it contains less than one full box of material.  All other collections contain at least one full box of papers.

Thanks to Teresa Gray, Public Services Librarian, Special Collections, for compiling this manuscripts page.

LIbrary Special Collection Exhibit: Early Tennessee History

Materials included in this come from the Stanley F. Horn and James Robertson collections held by Vanderbilt University Libraries Special Collections.  Manuscripts include the voices of Native Americans and discussion of African American slaves and slavery in Tennessee and Texas.

The Life of Sam Houston: the Hunter, Patriot, and Statesman of Texas