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Value of Special Collections

A UC history professor and 15 students in a public history course researched the records of the Kennedy Heights Community Council.  Kennedy Heights is an older Cincinnati neighborhood, founded as an independent village in 1795 and annexed into the City of Cincinnati in 1914.  The UC Archives & Rare Book Library holds the records of this community council as part of its Urban Studies Collection. In this course, students mined council minutes, newsletters, and correspondence to write an original history of the neighborhood, learning the value and importance of primary source documents and techniques for evaluating their content.


David Stradling, Professor of History in McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, is researching the history of the University of Cincinnati in preparation for the bicentennial in 2019.  His project will make use of many resources in the UC Archives and Rare Book Library and the Henry R. Winkler Center for the History of the Health Professions.  This summer, with the help of Environmental Studies student Coleman Williams, Dr. Stradling is reading through the very large Robert Kehoe archive in the Winkler Center.  Kehoe was instrumental in creating Kettering Labs, was a leading researcher in industrial and environmental health, and in many circles is known as the “father of environmental health science”.  “Kehoe’s papers are an incredible primary source for research on the history of environmental health,” Dr. Stradling remarked. “Having them accessible, well-documented, and preserved for posterity is incredibly important to the history of science, industry, and the region.”


Cincinnati Ballet, whose records reside in UC’s Archives & Rare Books Library, commissioned writers to pen its history on the company’s 50th anniversary.  The ballet’s records, part of the Urban Studies Collection, include extensive photographs, posters, brochures and playbills, biographies, correspondence, newspaper and magazine clippings, and performance notes, which the writers spent analyzed over the course of many months.  This collection of primary source documents made possible a creditable and  professionally documented publication, Cincinnati Ballet Celebrates 50 : 1963-2013 .

What Are Special Collections

Special collections are special for many reasons. These reasons may include:

  • age,
  • rarity or uniqueness,
  • format,
  • provenance,
  • and comprensiveness.

Special collections require careful handling and are often irreplaceable. Because of their intrinsic value and often their fragility, use of special collections is usually limited to the location where they are housed, sometimes with supervision or other special conditions. 

UC Libraries encourage the use of their special collections by providing well-attended reading and research rooms and a variety of research services by knowledgeable staff and faculty librarians.

Special collections may consist of various formats, such as:

  • printed books, pamphlets, and journals;
  • manuscripts;
  • organizational records and archives;
  • photographs, slides, and negatives;
  • and audiovisual reels, cassettes, and discs.

Because of their special nature, special collections are often the only primary sources for their topic in the world. Researchers frequently visit special collections across the country and globe to conduct their research.

comprehensive list of special collections at the UC Libraries is available on CampusGuides.