Toolkit: Using Special Collections and Archives at Notre Dame

What’s the difference between holdings in Special Collections and Archives?

Special Collections’ holdings include:

    •  Books and periodicals dating from the 15th to 21st centuries, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, numismatics, philatelic, prints, posters, broadsides, and printed ephemera from around the world. 

The Archives’ holdings include:

    • Official records of the University of Notre Dame that document the administrative and academic responsibilities of the University and the experiences of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and benefactors.
    • Records, papers, photographs, printed material, and audio-visual material documenting the life of the Catholic Church and its people in the American context. Materials date from the 19th century to present.


Hesburgh Libraries Special Collections

Finding Materials in Notre Dame’s Rare Books and Special Collections

Finding Aids
Library Catalog
    • ND Catalog – Select “Special Collections” from the “Search Scope” drop-down menu
    • Catalog Classic – Select “Hesburgh Special Collections” under “Limit to: All Locations”

Requesting Materials

  • Contact the curator (see below) for the type of material you want to see preferably 1-2 days in advance.
  • For manuscripts, please have the name of the collection and identifying number. This number generally begins with MS followed by another letter designating the geographical area, then a slash, then 2 or 3 letters generally representing the time period, followed by a number. For example: MSN/CW 1009 is Manuscript North American / Civil War 1009. “INQ” is used for the Inquisition collection.
  • For books, look the title up in the library catalog. Write down the entire call number (in bold below). The words “Vault,” “XSmall,” “Small,” “Medium,” “(MR) Medium,” “Large,” “XLarge,” and “Oversize” are very important to include. This identifies the location of the item in our storage facilities. For example:
    • Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library Special Coll. Vault (D 17 .Sch22L)
    • Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library Special Coll. Rare Books Medium (B 1873 .B535 1937)
    • Notre Dame, Hesburgh Library Special Coll. (MR) Medium (PS 3505 .R43 C66 1968) **The (MR) is very important to write down – it tells us the book is in a different location so we can go there directly and not keep you waiting.**
Whom to Contact to Use the Material
    • General Inquiries: Special Collections, 574-631-0290,
    • Ancient and Medieval Collections, Dave Gura, 574-631-6489,
    • North American Manuscripts and Sport Collections: George Rugg, 574-631-6506,
    • Early Modern and Modern European Collections including Irish Collections, Julie Tanaka, 574-631-7845,
    • Russian Collections, Natasha Lyandres, 574-631-3009,
    • Latin American Collections, any of the curators above
How Much Time to Allow to Get Access to the Materials
    • Most items can be accessed the same day they are requested. It is possible to walk in and request materials, but you may have to wait depending on their location and the time of day (materials generally are not paged between 11:30 am – 1:00 pm)
    • To save yourself time, please try to request materials at least 1 day in advance.


Working in Special Collections

Hours You Will Be Able to Use Your Materials
    •  Monday-Friday, 9 am – 5 pm
      • Please note that between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm, Special Collections usually does not pull materials. If your materials have already been pulled, you may use them in the Reading Room during these hours.
      • Often there is someone available prior to 9 am if you happen to come and want to begin reading materials that have already been pulled for you. Keep in mind that new materials are not pulled until 9 am due to staffing.
    • Don’t count on working in Special Collections on the weekend – the department is closed Saturday and Sunday.
What to Do and Expect When You Arrive
    •  Leave your coat, bag, pens, and all food (including gum and candy) and drinks in the coatroom on the left as you walk into the exhibit area. There are some lockers there to use on a first come, first served basis.
    • You may bring a laptop, tablet, cell phone (please turn the ringer off), paper, and pencils with you. NO PENS.
    • Bring your ND id and sign in at the front desk.
    • Tell the person at the desk what you want to see (have the call number (ex. Medium B 1873 .B535 1937) or shelf mark (ex. MSN/CW 5084-105) from the library catalogue with you. If you made an appointment with one of the curators, tell the person at the desk and he or she will get the curator to speak with you.
    • If you are interested in taking a photo of a manuscript, speak with the curator of the collection.
    • If you are interested in using the overhead scanner to scan a book or other type of material, ask the person at the front desk. You can save the file and emaill it to yourself or save it to your own thumbdrive.



University of Notre Dame Archives

Location and Hours
    • 607 Hesburgh Library
    • Monday-Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Contact Information
Accessing Materials
    •  Contact Archives ahead of time to use materials. Many collections are stored off-site and may take 1-2 days to retrieve.



Resources and Reference Tools for Working with Archives

  • Using Manuscripts and Archives: A Tutorial (Yale) – An excellent introduction to methods for locating primary source material. Some of the information is specific to Yale, but there is considerable information for locating manuscript and archival materials in other repositories. A new version of this site is planned in the future, but the archived version remains relevant.
  • Using Archives: A Guide to Effective Research (Society of American Archivists)
  • Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (Society of American Archivists)
  • Reference at Your Desk (National Archives and Records Administration) – A set of quick reference tools, including links to archival institutions throughout the world, biographies, bibliographies, copyright information, vital records, statistical reports, and much more.