About Special Collections

University of Victoria Special Collections serves as a research and teaching resource for students, faculty, and the community at large. Its mandate is to collect, preserve, and make accessible rare books, manuscripts, architectural plans, photographs, and oral history interviews. Special Collections provides a reference service and allows instructors to deliver classes using material from the collection within the Special Collections classroom.

Research opportunities and areas of collection

Our collection of rare books and unpublished material provide opportunities for original research in diverse areas. As well as holding books in all disciplines from the 16th century onward, Special Collections strives to acquire publications that complement the major subject and author areas of its manuscript holdings to provide more comprehensive research collections.

From its inception in the 1960's, Special Collections has developed internationally recognized holdings in Modernist British, American and Anglo-Irish literature. Among the authors represented in print and manuscript are: John Betjeman, T.S. Eliot, Robert Graves, Ezra Pound, Kathleen Raine, Herbert Read and Laura Riding.

In response to emerging research needs, our collection policy has diversified and significant collection areas now include:

  • Architectural plans and drawings
  • Artists' books
  • Canadian military history
  • Early 20th century literary magazines
  • Medieval manuscript and palaeographic examples
  • Northwest exploration, ethnology, art and anthropology
  • Regional and Southern Vancouver Island authors and literary culture
  • Vancouver Island publishing

See our collection policy.


Special Collections is both a reference service and a teaching resource for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and the community at large. Instructors may conduct classes in our reading room using Special Collections material.

Frequent group users include English Bibliography, Medieval Studies, and Fine Arts classes.


Special Collections welcomes the use of its classroom A003 and materials for classes.

Faculty are advised to book the classroom well in advance to ensure the room is available for their class. If you are giving a class using room A003 with Special Collections material please contact us to make a booking at least one month prior to the class.

See our pre-class briefing.


  • Provides access to 75,000 rare books and 450 archival fonds or manuscript collections, several map collections, 4 architectural drawings collections, and large military oral history and theses collections
  • Provides reference and instruction services related to Special Collections materials for faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students, library staff and the general public
  • Preserves, conserves, makes secure, and maintains all Special Collections books, maps, plans, audio and archival collections
  • Collects according to a collections policy
  • Prepares finding aids, displays, exhibitions and publications
  • Solicits, accepts and processes a large number of gifts
  • Develops a fund raising plan for Special Collections including: public relations, events, and donor recognition ceremonies
  • Liaises with faculty in English, History and History in Art about material to be purchased for teaching and research
  • Provides instruction for classes in the Special Collections classroom on the history of the collections and on the use and handling of the collection and facilitate faculty use of Special Collections materials in the curriculum

See our list of reprographic services.

Preservation and conservation

Special Collections recognizes the importance of maintaining the collection and providing continued access. Procedures are used to prevent and reverse deterioration. Perishable books, documents, and other media are housed in a secure and climate-controlled environment.

Access and usage

Members of the University community, researchers from other institutions, and the public in general may access Special Collections.

  • Photo ID is required to view requested material
  • Only pencil and paper, or laptops, may be used in this area -- pens are not permitted
  • Gloves may be required while using certain materials
  • Use of material is normally restricted to our reading room during regular hours
  • Reproduction by photocopy, or by any other means, is determined on an item-by-item basis dependent on the material's condition, copyright, and specific restrictions (a self-serve photocopier is available)

See our access policy.


Special Collections is pleased to discuss prospective donations of rare materials.

For more information about supporting Special Collections and UVic Libraries please see here.


Special Collections and the University Archives brings together researchers, instructors, students, and members of the community to explore and share materials from the collections.

Treasures and Tea meets in the library every first and third Thursday at 12:30pm for an informal show-and-tell presentation followed by discussion and refreshments.    

The presentation program and other information will be posted on our current events page.

Social media

Find out what's happening in Special Collections by joining the conversation on our social media channels.

Special Collections is located in room A005 in the lower level of the Mearns Centre for Learning and shares facilities and responsibilities for archival material with the University Archives.

University of Victoria Libraries
Special Collections
PO Box 1800 STN CSC
Victoria BC  V8W 3H5

Phone: 250-721-8257

Fax: 250-721-8215



8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (September-April)

10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (May-August)

* Open to patrons by appointment only

Lara Wilson
Director, Special Collections and University Archivist
Mearns Centre, Room A005b

Heather Dean
Associate Director, Special Collections
Mearns Centre, Room A005c

John Frederick
Library Assistant
Mearns Centre, Room A005a