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Special Collections & Archives Guide

Learn how to access, use and experiment with primary resources in the learning laboratory!

About Special Collections

The Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives collects, preserves, and provides access to unique primary sources, archives, and rare books documenting the history of ODU and the Coastal Virginia Region.

Special collections and archives are for everyone! Our diverse and inclusive collections cover a wide range of topics that enrich scholarly opportunities, and we welcome students, faculty, staff, community members, and researchers from all over the world to use our collections and services.

​Contact Special Collections and University Archives, we are here to help you find exactly what you need: libspecialcollections@odu.edu 

Special collections contain both primary and secondary resource materials that have characteristics which set them apart from other types of collections in libraries. These qualities may include:

  • Rarity: books, manuscripts and other materials which are old, scarce or unique.
  • Format: photographs, slides, films, audio and video recordings, maps, artworks, artifacts and other objects that require special handling.
  • Comprehensiveness: accumulations of materials that are individually not unique, but collectively comprise an important resource because of their relevance to a particular topic or individual.

The University Archives document the unique history of ODU from it's founding in 1930. Learn more using our University Archives Research Guide

Because of these qualities, special collections are difficult or impossible to replace, and require a higher level of security and special preservation environments to insure their survival.  Therefore, special collection materials are located in closed stacks areas, where they are retrieved by staff for researchers in our reading room.  

Old Dominion University Special Collections & University Archives is dedicated to providing a welcoming environment for students, faculty, staff, and community members where the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion are fully embraced. We define these principles as follows:

Equity – Coming together without prejudice to develop policies and practices which guarantee justice, fairness, equal opportunity and equal access for every individual.

Diversity – Understanding and respecting that every individual brings a unique set of experiences, and this is reflected in our staff, collections, exhibits, services, and spaces.

Inclusion – Striving to make the University Libraries a place where differences are welcomed, different perspectives are respectfully heard and where every person feels a sense of belonging.

Special Collections & University Archives will demonstrate our commitment to these principles by increasing access, eliminating barriers, creating reflective metadata, working objectively with materials and with empathy for their creators, and providing a space where the Monarch mission of understanding and active learning is supported.

What do we do?

Special Collections and University Archives staff help engage students, faculty, staff, and the general public with our collections in a number of ways:
  • Instruction: We specialize in archival and primary source literacy instruction, involving active-learning exercises and the development of practical research skills.
  • Research Help: Archivists provide one-to-one and group consultations on research projects at any stage of the research process. 
  • Community Engagement: In addition to preserving our community's history, we collaborate with community organizations and individuals on events, exhibitions, digitization initiatives, publications, digital humanities projects, etc.

What do we collect?

  • Special Collections: Our primary resources cover a wide variety or topics and formats, including maps, documents, letters, photographs, diaries, film, oral histories, music compositions, engineering plans, public health records, posters, reports, art work, etc.
  • University Archives: The memory of ODU and include thousands of photographs of university life, oral histories, faculty and administrative papers, posters, newspapers, oral histories, film, scrapbooks, etc.
  • Music Special Collections: The Diehn Composers Room houses a unique collection of music special collections documenting contemporary composers, conductors, and musicians.
  • Rare books, newspapers, and artifacts: Examples include signed artist books, local historical volumes, rare poetry and fiction books, journals and newspapers, ancient artifacts, recording equipment, etc. 

Our Two Main Locations on Campus

Featured Digitized Collections for Fall 2021

Norfolk in 1919 Photograph Collection

The 46 photographs presented in this collection show some of the people and businesses of Norfolk, Virginia in 1919 about one year after World War I ended. Of the handful of photographs that have been identified, all were taken of the small businesses on East Main or nearby streets owned, operated, and patronized by women, African Americans, and immigrant communities.

Watch our video about the collection to learn more about this unique collection!

WTAR-WTKR Hampton Roads Va., Historic News Film Collection (NEW!)

Browse or search over 2,000 clips of historic local news film footage from the 1950s-1970s. Donated by CBS affiliate WTKR News Channel 3, these historical films feature significant historical events related to military history, Civil Rights, public health, medicine, women's history, arts and entertainment, urban development, education, politics, etc. https://dc.lib.odu.edu/digital/collection/wtar/search

Women's History Collections

LGBTQ+ History Collections