In brief

Special Collections brings together the University of Washington Libraries' most rare and unique resources. From papyrus to born-digital, our holdings span history and the globe, and offer boundless opportunities for exploration and discovery.

Students, faculty, and visitors are invited to examine manuscripts, printed works, artists' books, photographs, maps, and other materials in the protected environment of the Special Collections reading room.  Our digital collections are available on the web.

We believe that the histories of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are essential. We acknowledge that University of Washington Special Collections contributes to an institutional legacy of collecting bias, acquiring harmful collections, and using offensive language to describe our resources. We also acknowledge structural issues with public services and personnel that perpetuate systemic discrimination and cultural bias. We are actively working to address this legacy.

We are committed to combating institutionalized racism by supporting the preservation of the histories of underrepresented communities at UW and in the Pacific Northwest. We commit to examine our own practices continually and share our progress on this work. We endeavor to ensure that these histories are appropriately represented and cared for in Special Collections. (Statement updated: 20 July 2021)


Special Collections' Statement on Potentially Harmful Content

University of Washington Libraries Special Collections collects, preserves, and makes accessible archival and library materials. These materials may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views, events, practices, and opinions. Though we do not endorse these viewpoints, we retain these materials unaltered in our collections to document their historical relevance and to fully represent materials in context, preserving our history.

Harmful language in catalog records, archival finding aids, and digital collections

If you encounter language that you find offensive or harmful, we welcome your feedback. We are committed to working with staff, communities, and peer institutions to assess and update descriptions that are harmful and to establish standards and policies to prevent future harmful language in staff-generated descriptions in catalog records, archival finding aids, and digital collections as appropriate and feasible.

To learn more about Special Collections' Anti-Racism work, see the Special Collections Anti-Racism Initiatives Library Guide.

Reviewed: February 2023


We welcome volunteers and interns to assist us in our work. If you are interested in learning more about opportunities available in Special Collections please contact us!


Annual Report


Current Exhibit|Denizens of the Deep: Sea Creatures Real and Imagined

We invite you to put a shell to your year and explore your connection to the ocean. The ocean inspires great awe and imagination and has served as the impetus for innumerable artistic, scientific, and cultural endeavors. In Denizens of the Deep: Sea Creatures Real and Imagined, librarians and curators from across the UW Libraries bring together items highlighting the breadth of material and content available about the sea, ocean, and sea creatures.

In the exhibit you will find sections featuring the real and imagined sea creatures from the life and culture of the Makah Tribe's Neah Bay, scientific and artistic drawings of local sea specimens, groundbreaking research from Friday Harbor Labs, and popular-to-obscure sea monsters. We hope the exhibit inspires you to create your own sea lore.

Dive in and enjoy the treasures of Special Collections!

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