Whether you major in economics, civil engineering, or Italian, chances are you will spend time in your college library. While many universities offer architecturally stunning spaces for studying and researching, several institutions are home to one-of-a-kind collections that draw visitors from around the world. If you are intrigued about these special collections, here are some of the most distinctive library offerings around.
Among the most famous is Yale University’s Beinecke Library, which stands as one of the world’s largest collections of rare books and manuscripts. Highlights of the collection include the Gutenberg Bible, a 13th century manuscript of the Arthurian Romances, the Edith Wharton Collection, the James Baldwin Photographs and Papers, and a Gertrude Stein home movie.
Thanks to a recent gift, UCLA Library is now home to a world-class collection of more than one million political cartoons, dating back to the 1690s. The vast Michael and Susan Kahn Political Cartoon Collection of drawings, prints, periodicals, ephemera, newspapers, and magazines includes the first known caricature of Abraham Lincoln in print.
At Swarthmore College, the library’s Peace Collection is the most extensive research and archive collection in the country, focusing exclusively on movements for peace around the world. The history of conscientious objection holds a prominent place in the archives. The diverse formats in this collection include manuscripts, posters, periodicals, photographs, memorabilia, film, and video.
Barnard College’s Zine Library boasts over 5,000 zines with a focus on third wave feminism, all of which are available in the open stacks. Barnard’s compilation of personal/political self-publications is one of the largest in academia and complements the already extensive Women’s Studies collection. A special emphasis on zines by BIPOC women/transfeminine and by transwomen of all races and ethnicities distinguishes the collection.
In the Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, the Witchcraft Collection stands out for its impressive documentation of the history of the Inquisition in Europe and the persecution of witchcraft. With more than 3,000 titles, the collection focuses on witchcraft as theology and religious heresy; most of the editions were acquired in the 1880s, with one Latin text dating back to 1487.
NYU is home to the Marion Nestle Food Studies Collection, which began as an effort to document the evolution of cuisine in 19th and 20th century America. The collection has expanded to include international cuisine across additional time periods. Archival and print materials include the library of Gourmet magazine, which ceased publication in 2009.
The Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has the distinction of holding the largest collection of documents devoted to a single state in this country. In addition to the array of North Carolina documents, the library is home to the Southern Folklife Collection, an archive of vernacular music, art, and culture related to the American South.