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SJSU Special Collections & Archives

Historical Research Topics and Collections

About SJSU Special Collections & Archives (SC&A)

SJSU Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) acquires, preserves, arranges, describes, and provides access to its rich, diverse holdings of manuscript collections, institutional records, rare and unique books, and other primary sources to support the diverse teaching and research needs of students, faculty, and the larger SJSU community. SC&A is the central repository for the history of SJSU and has a large collection of university, faculty, and student publications, administrative records, photographs, and ephemera. Special Collections often have no explicit ties to SJSU history but are acquired for the purposes of scholarship and instruction in subject-collected areas, such as California State Politics, Civil Rights and Social Activism, Chicana/Chicano History and Culture, Women’s Studies, LGBTQ+ Studies, California and U.S. History, and other topics of local, regional, and national significance.

Using SJSU Special Collections & Archives

SJSU Special Collections & Archives items are non-circulating, and use of archival materials will be permitted in the SC&A Reading Room during open hours only.

Before coming to the Reading Room, maximize your time with these strategies:

1.  Consult the Library Catalog (OneSearch), SJSU Digital Collections, and the Online Archive of California (OAC) to identify relevant materials. The library catalog can be searched for books and collections. The OAC is collection-specific and features finding aids for collections of personal papers and institutional records at SJSU.

2.  If you need research advice, call the Reading Room at 408-808-2062 or e-mail

3.  The Reading Room is open M-F by appointment only. We are part of a secure area on the 5th floor of the MLK Library that includes our neighbors, the Center for Steinbeck Studies, the Center for Beethoven Studies, and the California Room.

When you arrive, we'll ask you to leave all food and drink outside the Reading Room, place belongings in the storage area, and to register with us.


Classes and Tours

SJSU Special Collections & Archives (SC&A) is available to host visiting classes throughout the year to provide students with hands-on experience using rare books, fine press and artist books, as well as original correspondence, photographs, writings, artifacts, and other materials from our archival collections. Our books and collections are acquired to fit with the SJSU curriculum, including courses in History, Literature, Ethnic Studies, Art History, and Photography. Faculty are encouraged to contact Craig Simpson, Director of Special Collections & Archives, or Carli Lowe, University Archivist, to discuss incorporating SC&A materials in class projects:, For Art or Art History course faculty who want to incorporate our holdings in a class visit or project, such as artist books, you are encouraged to contact Kate Steffens, Special Collections Librarian and Liaison Librarian to the Art and Art History Department, at Please give us at least two weeks' notice before a proposed class visit as we have to check classroom availability and make a reservation.

To schedule a tour, either for an individual or a group, please contact us at:

Collection Development Policy and Procedures

Subjects and Formats:

Of particular interest are materials of archival value (i.e., evidential, informational, administrative, fiscal, and/or legal value) pertaining to, and in no particular order:

  • California State Politics
  • Social Activism and Organizations
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Women’s Studies
  • LGBTQ+ Studies
  • California and U.S. History
  • Other holdings of local, regional, and national significance

SC&A is dedicated to acquiring materials that enhance our department’s strengths as well as increase the diversification of our holdings, in formats as well as subjects. Common formats sought by researchers or instructors include:

  • original correspondence
  • original writings (e.g., drafts, unpublished manuscripts)
  • original photographs
  • financial and legal records
  • pamphlets
  • newsclippings
  • small artifacts
  • artist books
  • born-digital objects and electronic records MAY be considered, depending on many of the same above-mentioned determinations of archival value, as well as other factors such as uniqueness (e.g., are the materials already available online?).

SC&A Does NOT Collect:

  • Artwork such as framed paintings or otherwise large-scaled.
  • Analog media (e.g., LPs, audio cassettes, CDs, DVDs).
  • Large objects or artifacts.
  • Secondary research sources available in printed or online publications.
  • Duplications of materials from other repositories or already in SC&A.
  • Materials that have established collections at other repositories or which may overlap with materials collected by other University Library units, by the California Room, or by History San José.

Records Management:

University Archives collections, such as academic department records or faculty papers, are typically evaluated and acquired according to SC&A’s Records Management Program, under the purview of the University Archivist, and according to separate-if-overlapping policies established by the SJSU Records Management Advisory Council (RMAC).

The Acquisition Evaluation Process:

  • The best starting-point for a potential donor is to send an email to either Craig Simpson, Director of Special Collections & Archives, at, or Carli Lowe, University Archivist, at If unsure whether the potential collection falls under “Special Collections” or “University Archives,” then the donor can send the email to the main SC&A address:
  • To help us determine if a prospective collection aligns with SC&A’s Mission and Collection Development Policy, please include in your email the following elements:
    • What is the collection, and who is the donor (i.e., is the donor the same person as who is sending the message)?
    • Size: How many boxes, if applicable?
    • Scope: What is the date range of the materials?
    • Contents and Formats: What subjects are covered by the materials, and what types of materials are there? Does the collection include correspondence, photographs, manuscripts, or other materials? If you have a rough inventory or container list, sending it would also be helpful in our evaluation.
    • Any contextual information that would also be helpful.


Please bear in mind that collection development is a complex process. A “no” does not reflect negatively on the quality of the collection, or one’s emotional attachment to the materials. We understand that correspondence, photographs, artifacts, and other items may carry with them a deep resonance to whom they may have belonged, or the personal or historical era they represent. Sometimes it is a matter of finding the right repository, the right home. If we have suggestions, we will offer them.