Special Collections Research Center

The Special Collections Research Center (SCRC, also known as “Spec” within the library) collects, preserves, and provides access to over 21,000 linear feet of rare and unique historical materials. These include the university’s archives, as well as manuscript, and rare book collections in specific subject areas including history of Washington, D.C., history of labor, history of education, history of transportation and broadcasting, Judaica and Hebraica, and history of printing and book arts.

The SCRC is open to all researchers, regardless of institutional affiliation or the purpose of their research. Users of SCRC include the GW community, outside scholars, journalists, family historians, and the general public. The Center is staffed by librarians, archivists, and technologists and depends heavily on student assistants.

Major duties of the SCRC team include:

  • Collection development: The SCRC team works closely with the GW community and local organizations to identify and acquire materials of enduring historical value in order to build robust and useful research and teaching collections. The team selectively purchases rare printed materials. Read the collection development policies for each of the major collecting areas.
  • Collection arrangement and description: The SCRC organizes collections and creates online guides to facilitate discovery. The team works closely with the Resource Description Group to add or enhance catalog records for archival collections and rare books. Most of SCRC’s holdings are represented in the GW Libraries catalog.
  • Using the collections: SCRC materials are used in the 7th floor secure reading room and do not circulate. Researchers register and are instructed on proper handling of materials before use.
  • Digitization: The Digital Services unit fulfills patron scan requests and large scale projects aimed at widely-disseminating our rich collections to a global online audience. The Digital Services unit can provide consultation services on digital project planning on topics such as choosing a platform, formats, metadata, and long term stewardship.
  • Research support: The SCRC team provides assistance for both onsite and remote researchers to identify, select, and use materials relevant to their research topics.
  • Instruction: The SCRC team works with faculty to integrate rare books, archives, and manuscripts into coursework. The team also provides instruction on conducting effective research utilizing primary sources and collaborate with the Research and User Services division to support library-wide instruction efforts. Classes and tours are also provided for groups outside of the GW community.
  • Outreach: The team works continuously to increase awareness and use of collections using strategies including social media, events, tours, workshops, and pop-up exhibits.

View the social media channels to learn more about specific items in the collections as well as follow news and events:

For more information, contact the SCRC team at speccoll@gwu.edu.