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Find Local Special Collections

A special collection is a group of items that are rare or unique, and may require special handling or pertain to a specific subject. This guide will show you where special collections exist in the Maryland/DC area.


Find local special collections here! Use the tabs above to find links and read descriptions of the collection holdings.

If this guide is missing a collection, please let us know using the survey under the feedback tab, or you can direct message us on Twitter @SpecCollUMD. If there is enough demand to locate national collections, we may expand the guide! Also, let us know if a link is broken or leads to a recently closed branch/archive.

*TIP: Some of these special collections may have online databases or archives; visit the webpages to learn more!


Definition: Special Collections

From Research Using Primary Sources Web Guide

Special collections have characteristics that set them apart from other types of collections in libraries. These special aspects may include:

  • Rarity: books, manuscripts and other materials that are old, scarce or unique.
  • Format: photographs, slides, films, audio recordings, maps, artworks, artifacts and other objects that need special handling.
  • Comprehensiveness: accumulation of materials that are individually not unique, but collectively make up an important resource because of their relevance to a particular topic or individual.

These characteristics also mean that special collections are not readily replaceable and require a higher level of security and special preservation environments to insure their survival. In contrast to museum collections assembled for visual display, special collections focus on research as their primary mission. Thus, they complement general research collections and are often located in institutions that house both kinds of collections.

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