Special Collections and Museums acquires manuscript and archival 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material in all formats, including but not limited to the following: manuscripts and works on paper (which may be unpublished or published); personal papers of individuals and families; records of small businesses and organizations; graphic materials; prints, photographs, and images;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 Special Collections and Museums supports 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. Special Collections and Museums does not collect official university records, which are under the purview of the separately administered University of Delaware Archives.

Manuscript and archival collections are arranged and described 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. Archival description standards are used to create metadata that is repurposed for use in bibliographic databases and in support of digitized collections, among other access tools.

Special Collections and Museums 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 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.