• Purpose

    Distinctive Collections & Archives acquires and preserves rare and unique materials to support scholarship, teaching and learning.

    Our Mission

    In Distinctive Collections at Southwestern University, we create physical and virtual spaces to experience the history of Southwestern University and Texas as well as the heritage of the printed and written word. We aim to use these spaces and our collections to create meaningful experiences for anyone, regardless of purpose.


    Distinctive Collections’ primary audience is students and faculty of Southwestern University. Due to uniqueness of the materials in our collections, we also strive to meet the needs of a wider constituency by providing access to collections on-site as well as through digital platforms.

    Collection Policy

    Distinctive Collections collects and preserves rare and unique materials including rare books, oral histories, university archives, archives and manuscripts, photography, visual materials, art and artifacts. Collections are preserved for use by students and faculty of Southwestern University and by the scholarly community at large.

    At the discretion of the Head of Distinctive Collections & Archives, the Distinctive Collections department may collect materials, in any format, that support our mission. Acquisitions are made through active collection development initiatives as described below, through donations, and occasionally through purchases. Donations to Distinctive Collections are considered on a case-by-case basis. Donations must be accepted by the department, and all donors must complete a Gift Agreement Form.

    Collection Areas
    1. University Archives

      The University Archive contains documents, photos, artifacts and audio/visual recordings related to the history of Southwestern University and her four root institutions. Materials in this archive are composed of both official university records and donations from students, faculty and alumni. The major series in the University Archive are:

      • Official Records: university publications, student publications and Presidents’ papers
      • the University Photography Collection
      • Alumni collections
      • Scrapbooks
    2. Rare & Distinctive Books

      The category of rare and distinctive books is categorized by two levels of collecting interest. Primary areas of interest include examples of printed matter and printing technologies from the period 1451-1840 (spanning the earliest printed materials in the Western world through the era of the hand press); artists’ books; miniature books (defined as books 3” or less in spine height), Texana and Texas publishers (including Texas city and county histories), Graphic Novels, Pop-Up Books, Zines, women, and other acquisitions in support of faculty and teaching at Southwestern University.

      Requests for purchases to support teaching will be given first consideration over requests which will typically only support faculty research interests, although both categories of requests are regularly considered.

      Secondary collecting interests include: J. Frank Dobie, facsimiles, children’s books, Fine Press, literature, fore-edge books.

      Distinctive Collections may also accept materials from Southwestern University Library general collection in cases where an item is valued at over $300 or in cases where the fragility of an item warrants additional protection.

    3. Visual Media Collection

      The Visual Media Collection documents the history of photography and other visual media through the works of both traditional and vernacular artists. The collection includes fine art photography, studio and commercial work, specimens of early photography and other types of visual art such as paintings, posters, illustrations, sculpture and folk art.

      Primary collecting interests are samples of early photography (cased photography, carte de visite and cabinet cards), historical photographs of Texas, collections of notable regional photographers, posters and broadsides, artist books, fine press, examples of book structures and formats (including non-Codex and non-Western book forms), examples of illustration techniques and processes.

    4. Archives & Manuscripts

      Distinctive Collections seeks to collect primary sources of enduring value that broadly represent a diverse and inclusive history of people in Texas and beyond. Collections may include a variety of formats of primarily unpublished materials including, but not limited to: correspondence, personal papers, literary manuscripts, business records, diaries, “grey literature,” still and moving images, electronic records, digital photography and artifacts.

      Primary collecting interests include conservatism, women, Latina/o history, borderland, local history and other collections of high evidential, information and intrinsic value that document significant people or events at a national, regional or statewide level.

      Particular attention is given to collections in this area created by people or organizations which serve people who are currently underrepresented in archival collections, such as women, people of color, people with disabilities, immigrant communities, and non-English speaking populations.

  • Distinctive Collections at Southwestern University seeks to provide you, our user, with the highest levels of service possible. To this end, your cameras and cell phones are welcome to be brought into our reading room. However, if you would like a scan or a copy of an item you are using, let our staff in the reading room know and we will provide a high quality scan or copy to you upon request - the product of which will be much better than what your camera or phone can provide!

    Please let us know if you have any questions.


    • Photographs may be used only for private study, scholarship and research.
    • Do not publish the photographs in print, post them on the Internet, or exhibit them without permission
    • Images may not be donated, sold, or provided to another repository.
    • Publication-quality images must be requested from the library.
    • It is the user’s responsibility to obtain permission to publish from Distinctive Collections staff or the appropriate copyright owners.


    The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement.

    This institution reserves the right to refuse a photography request when, in its judgment, fulfillment of the request would involve violation of copyright law.

    Download Camera Policy Form

  • We’d like to highlight some key policies to help you have the best experience with our materials:

    1.  All readers must present identification and be registered by staff. Please sign in with staff on subsequent visits.
    2. Readers are required to place all book bags, briefcases, knapsacks, portfolios, and any other personal property not essential to their work, in the lockers provided in the reception area.
    3. Rare books and manuscripts are to be consulted only in the reading room.                                         
    4. Please use an individual request slip for each book or box you wish to use.
    5. To ensure that our materials serve the needs of future researchers, only pencils may be used in the reading room, no pens or ink.
    6. Food, tobacco, chewing gum, and beverages are not permitted.
    7. Materials must be handled with care, we will be happy to show you how to carefully handle our materials.
    8. While cameras may be brought into the reading room, we would be happy to scan an item you like. If you’d like a scan of an item, please discuss this with the reading room attendant.
    9. Our materials are light sensitive. The use of flash cameras, and recording equipment is prohibited without special permission.
    10. No requests for manuscripts, rare materials, or photocopies will be accepted after 4:00 PM for that day’s use.
    11. Researchers assume full responsibility for conforming to the laws of copyright, literary property rights, and libel.

    Research assistance and guidance is available from the Distinctive Collections staff.