Special Collections

Manuscripts and Archives Department

The mission of the Manuscripts and Archives Department is to collect, preserve, arrange, describe, promote the use of, provide access to, and educate users about the manuscripts and archival collections that comprise special collections in the University of Delaware Library. This mission supports the greater missions of the Library, which is to support the education, research, and service goals of the University of Delaware.


The Manuscripts and Archives Department acquires collections—by purchase and by donation—primary source material in all formats, including but not limited to the following: manuscripts and works on paper (which may be unpublished or published); personal papers of individuals and families; records of small businesses and organizations; graphic materials; prints, photographs, and images; common places, albums, and scrapbooks; account books and ledgers; diaries, journals, and ships logs; audio/visual material; electronic records; and ephemera and realia, as appropriate.

The topical collecting focus of the Manuscripts and Archives Department parallels the collecting focus of the Special Collections Department, both of which support of the educational programs of the University: the fine, decorative, and applied arts; English, Irish, and American literature; history and Delawareana, with a concentration in the greater regions of Delmarva and the Delaware Valley; horticulture; and history of science and technology with concentrations in the history of chemistry and engineering. The Manuscripts and Archives Department does not collect official university records, which are under the purview of the separately administered University of Delaware Archives.

The Manuscripts and Archives Department arranges and describes its holdings to appropriate levels of control and description to meet current best practices to support access to all archival holdings through various platforms at the local and international levels. Arrangement and description decisions include use of minimal level control and description, as appropriate. The Manuscripts and Archives Department uses archival description standards to create metadata that is repurposed for use in bibliographic databases and in support of digitized collections, among other access tools.

The Manuscripts and Archives Department participates in the University of Delaware Library’s exhibition program, bibliographic instruction, and publicity to promote use and awareness of its holdings. Particularly through use of undergraduate student assistants in support of processing and collection housing projects, the Manuscripts and Archives Department supports the service learning mission of the University of Delaware by promoting understanding and appreciation of the collection management responsibilities for manuscripts and archival collections.

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