Special Collections manages the rare book collections of the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries. The subject matter of this extensive collection covers a wide range of topics including the Fugitive and Agrarian literary groups, American Civil War, Southern literature and civilization, performing arts, Vanderbilt University history, George Peabody College history, Meso-American codices, and religion.
Special Collections houses and maintains over 800 manuscript collections of primary research material. Collections may be centered around an individual, an organization, or a specialized topic. While the term “manuscript” technically refers to handwritten material, a collection may contain a variety of different formats including handwritten letters, typed articles or manuscripts, photographs, film reels, audio cassettes, reel-to-reel recordings, VHS cassettes or DVDs, floppy disks, and other material.
Collection strengths include Southern history and culture, the Fugitive and Agrarian literary groups, journalism, performing arts, fine arts, and Latin America.
The Vanderbilt University Photographic Archive contains approximately 300,000 photographs relating to the history and development of the university since its founding in 1875. Some of the photographic topics in this collection include faculty and staff portraits, athletics, the Nashville community, World War I and II, alumni events, campus buildings and features, and student activities.
The George Peabody College Photograph Collection includes over 20,000 photographs from the school's early beginnings as the University of Nashville to the school’s merger with Vanderbilt University in 1979. Among the photographic topics addressed in this collection are graduations, athletics, portraits, university events, campus buildings and features, Demonstration School, and student activities.
Photographs can also be found throughout the University Archives and in many manuscript collections.