Augustana College printing logo

History and Purpose of Special Collections

The Generall Historie
First edition of John Smith's The Generall Historie of Virginia, 1624.

Special Collections consists of Augustana's collections of rare books and manuscripts, as well as the college archives. The primary mission of Special Collections is to collect, preserve, and make available materials which serve the teaching and research needs of Augustana College and the local community. Materials in Special Collections support the Augustana College curriculum and assist in faculty teaching and student learning. Materials also further the research of Augustana students, faculty, and staff, independent researchers, and the general public. Special Collections attempts to support and foster intellectual curiosity and provides an opportunity for users to develop rhetorical and critical thinking skills, cultural stewardship, empathy and engagement with materials, and acceptance of ambiguity through interactions with primary materials.

In addition to its functions as a teaching and research facility, Special Collections hosts exhibitions on a rotating basis. These exhibitions are prepared by library staff and feature a variety of materials from the collections; visitors are welcome to view the exhibitions during open hours. Information about the current exhibition can usually be found on the library's blog.

Many of the materials in Special Collections were acquired over the course of developing an academic library in the 19th century, while other items were gifts or deliberate purchases by the library. The Special Collections department grew out of an awareness that the archival and rare book materials already in the library's collection needed to be better preserved. When Denkmann Memorial Library was renovated in the 1960s, the "archives room" was renamed "special collections." One of the goals of this renovation was to make these materials more open and accessible. Today, Special Collections, located on the first floor of the Thomas Tredway Library, continues to build on the legacy of the materials it has incorporated and to use its materials in support of the liberal arts and in the creation of liberally educated users.