Volume 13, Issue 2

A View into Special Collections

By Steve Marine, Associate Dean of Digital Initiatives, Special Collections, Preservation and Grants

Cincinnati’s riverfront in 1802. From the Urban Studies Collection.

UC Libraries’ special collections provide scholars, both local and global, access to rare books and other rare materials such as maps, pamphlets and journals, that are found in few other libraries. In addition, UC Libraries’ special collections consist of unique primary source materials such as the personal archives of notable people, photographs and historical artifacts and the official records of the university and many regional institutions. Such collections are sources for new discoveries and catalysts for novel research.

UC Libraries’ flagship special collections location is the Archives and Rare Book Library located on the 8th floor of Blegen Library. The Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions is a large special collection of historical medical resources in the Donald C. Harrison Health Sciences Library. Focused special collections also reside in the Albino Gorno Memorial (CCM) Library; Robert A. Deshon and Karl J. Schlachter Library for Design, Architecture, Art and Planning (DAAP); the Elliston Poetry Room and the Chemistry-Biology Library.

Thousands of people visit and use UC Libraries’ special collections each year to conduct research, take advantage of the exceptional facilities and to seek specialized assistance from archivists and librarians; but we also know that in some cases collections have only been superficially explored because of the labor intensity of finding them and mining their content or the inability for researchers to travel to Cincinnati to view the items.

UC Libraries is changing that!  A new website and search feature for UC Libraries’ special collections (http://www.libraries.uc.edu/special-collections.html) provide streamlined access to the breadth and depth of these often-hidden treasures. The site also offers examples of how scholars and instructors have used specific resources in their research and teaching, as well as practical tips on locating materials relevant to specific subjects. The new search feature enables a person to focus inquiries on the archival finding aids, digitized special collections and relevant websites.

In addition to enhancing access, UC Libraries actively preserves special collections for current and future generations of scholars and students. The Preservation Lab, a partnership between the UC Libraries and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, provides professional preservation, conservation and restoration services to extend the life of deteriorated and fragile materials for current and future generations. And the Digitization Lab digitizes high-value unique materials for free and easy access worldwide, with the added features of full-text searching and textual analysis in same cases.

UC Libraries’ efforts to enhance find ability, expand long-term preservation and to increase digitization are aimed at fostering and catalyzing innovative research and instruction that would otherwise not be practical or possible. We believe these efforts will advance those aims, but actively seek feedback for improvements and new programs. Please contact Stephen Marine, Associate Dean, with your ideas at stephen.marine@uc.edu.