Learning and teaching in Special Collections and University Archives

Special Collections and University Archives welcome undergraduate and graduate classes to visit. We have a classroom (Room A003) adjacent to our reading room for this purpose and can provide assistance in planning a class visit.

Learning and teaching with rare materials

Our collections are here for you to use. Through a visit to Special Collections and University Archives and an experience with collections-based learning and research your students will:

  • Benefit from experiential learning through hands-on work with primary sources
  • Develop research skills in finding and using primary source materials
  • Learn proper handling and use of rare materials
  • Understand research etiquette for future work in archives, special collections, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions

Request a class session

Click here to reserve the Special Collections classroom (room A003).

We will confirm your booking as quickly as possible, or will contact you if we need any further clarification.


Librarian/Archivist-led class

Librarians and archivists are available to teach and facilitate classes on a variety of subjects.  Our staff will custom design classes in order to meet the teaching objectives of each particular course.  We can:

  • Select material specific to the needs of each class or group
  • Facilitate hands-on exercises and group discussions (and  provide commentary on selected materials)
  • Lead orientation sessions on archival and rare materials research
  • Explain proper handling procedures for rare materials and relevant research methods

Faculty-led class

Faculty are welcome to teach their own class session in Special Collections and University Archives.  Please see our Guidelines for Classroom Use

Please see below for additional curriculum support. 

Faculty-Librarian co-led class

Librarians and archivists are available to support your teaching as needed. We can offer in-class support and are happy to team-teach classes.

Curriculum support

Orientation to Special Collections and University Archives

We are happy to meet with faculty in order to provide a one-on-one orientation to Special Collections and University Archives.  Our staff can provide an introduction to the collection and suggest material that may best fit a particular research interest and/or course.  We can also provide an introduction to procedures (including research methods for locating materials in Special Collections and University Archives).

Customized course lists and classroom activities

Staff in Special Collections and University Archives can help faculty identify relevant rare materials from the collections in support of learning and teaching.  In addition we also have resources – including sample handouts – available for ideas on classroom activities and related assignments.

Course reserve for collections-based assignments

We can reserve materials in support of an assignment in order to facilitate easier access to collection material for your students.

Teaching resources

The following resources provide guidance and ideas for teaching in Special Collections and University Archives. 

Sample handouts

Sample worksheets


  • Past or Portal?: Enhancing Undergraduate Learning through Special Collections and Archives / edited by Eleanor Mitchell, Peggy Seiden, and Suzy Taraba
    (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2012) Link
  • Using Primary Sources: Hands-on Instructional Exercises / Anne Bahde, Heather Smedberg, and Mattie Taormina, editors
    (Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2014) Link
  • Exhibits in Archives and Special Collections Libraries / Jessica Lacher-Feldman
    (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2013) Link
  • Teaching Bibliography, Textual Criticism, and Book History / edited by Ann R. Hawkins
    (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2006) Link
  • Teaching with Primary Sources / edited by Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2016) Link

Online resources

Classroom facilities

Our classroom provides the following:

  • Capacity: 23 students (please contact us regarding larger class sizes)
  • Audio-visual podium and projector.  We have a laptop available for use but recommend bringing your own.  We have speakers available upon request.
  • Wireless connectivity
  • Chalkboard and chalk
  • Flexible table and chair arrangement.
  • Other tools available: Document camera/overhead projector, UV lights, and watermark reader

Guidelines for Classroom Use

  • Please book the classroom well in advance to ensure the classroom is available for use. We recommend booking at least one month prior to the class.
  • Please provide library staff with a complete list of library materials requested (including author, title, and call number) at least one week prior to the class.
  • Please prepare your student for their visit to Special Collections and University Archives by distributing this handout.  For more information about instructions for use of materials in the reading room and classroom please see here.
  • You are responsible for ensuring that all material is handled correctly. Please brief your students on the proper handling of our materials at the beginning of the class. Staff will be happy to brief the class if you would prefer this option.

Instructions for Visits to the Reading Room and Classroom

  • Photograph ID is required, and will be retained by staff until material is returned (for classes, instructor ID is sufficient, providing they take responsibility during the class for security and handling) .
  • Material must not be removed from the reading room and/or classroom.
  • Absolutely no food or drink are allowed in the reading room and classroom.
  • Rare materials should be handled only with freshly-washed  hands. Use only pencil or a laptop for taking notes.
  • Place all bags and personal belongings in cubbies outside the classroom.
  • Use gloves when handling negatives, photographs, and objects.
  • Remove only one folder at a time from one box, and preserve the existing order of records.
  • Rare materials may be photographed on the condition that no flash is used.