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Ohio University Libraries

Researching with Archival & Special Collections Primary Source Materials

What are archives & special collections?

Archives are generally defined as a collection of documents or records, often historical, providing information about an individual, place, institution, corporation, organization, or group of people.

Special Collections refers to any cohesive collection of research materials linked by origin or by a thematic focus.

Both specialize in collecting primary source research materials.

* For more information and additional definitions visit the Society of American Archivists Dictionary of Archives Terminology

Mahn Center collections

Image shows a collage of select images from University Archives

Image shows a collage of select images from University Archives

University Archives documents the records and history of Ohio University, including its students, instructors, staff, administration, events, and organizations. Ohio University students are living history. For example, you could contribute to our COVID-19 Archive which seeks to document student experiences during the pandemic. See what your fellow students have submitted, and consider making your own contribution!

  • Bill Kimok is University Archivist and can help you with any University Archives questions.

Image shows a collage of select images from Manuscript Collections

Image shows a collage of select images from Manuscript Collections

Manuscripts are archival collections without a direct correlation to Ohio University, although many do have local and regional relevance. Both types contain records in a wide variety of formats, from correspondence and meeting minutes to photographs, ephemera, and memorabilia.

Lynn Johnson photograph of Fred Rogers speaking with a group of school children

Image shows a black and white Lynn Johnson photograph of Fred Rogers Fred Rogers talking to a group of students in a Chicago elementary school classroom during Heroes project visit, 1994

The Documentary Photography Archive contains materials that document the history, content, and techniques of documentary photography.

  • Laura Smith is Photo Archivist and can help you with any Documentary Photography Archive questions.

Local Government Records contain select government records from counties located in southeastern Ohio including Athens, Belmont, Gallia, Guernsey, Hocking, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingam, Perry, Pike, Ross, Scioto, Vinton, and Washington.

Image shows a collage of select items from the rare book collection

Image shows a collage of select items from the rare book collection

Special Collections at the Mahn Center primarily refers to the Rare Book Collection. Rare Books is a broad category that is a bit more difficult to define. It includes, for example:

  • historic books (but not all old books are rare books)
  • books that are unique or rare because relatively few copies exist
  • books that are important because of who previously owned them or used them (association copies)
  • books that are noteworthy for their bindings, illustrations, printing techniques or other physical or structural features
  • limited edition, small press, and fine press books
  • contemporary artists' books which you can think of as books as art objects, often handmade
  • original and facsimile medieval manuscript material

Miriam Intrator is Special Collections Librarian for Rare Books and can help you with any rare book questions.