The mission of Special Collections is to preserve, store and provide access to Vanderbilt University's impressive collection of rare books, manuscripts, photographs, memorabilia, and institutional archives.
The Contini-Volterra photographic archive database contains over 50,000 photographs of art objects created in Europe during the 13th through 20th centuries. It is especially strong in Italian art of the 13th through 18th centuries, offering a breadth and depth of coverage of each major Italian region and featuring both major (Botticelli, Tintoretto) as well as lesser known (Turino Vanni di Rigoli, Deodato Orlandi) artists of the period.
Baudelaire and Modern French Studies
The W.T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire Modern French Studies has exceptional strength in the work of Charles Baudelaire's life, works, and related studies. The critical focus of the collection is an exhaustive bibliography of writings by and about Baudelaire, many of which are rare first editions, with additional strengths in eighteenth century French popular fiction, French poetry, and twentieth century French theatre.
Vanderbilt is a focal point for nationally-significant collections on freedom rides and sit-ins, segregation and integration, and non-violent activism. Civil rights collections include the papers of several key figures, including the Reverends James Lawson and Kelly Miller Smith, as well as records from fundamental organizations such as the Southern Students Organizing Committee and the Nashville Peace and Justice Center. Interviews conducted by Robert Penn Warren with national leaders for his landmark Who Speaks for the Negro? are complemented by video lectures from the 1960s by such figures as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael.
History of Medicine
The Eskind Biomedical Library’s History of Medicine Collection was founded in the 1920s and has grown steadily ever since, with large donations in the 1980s. Over the intervening decades, thanks to the generosity of Vanderbilt friends, alumni, and faculty, the Historical Collection has grown to nearly 14,000 volumes of rare and historical books dating to the fifteenth century, with strengths in the history of anatomy, surgery, nephrology, botany, and nutrition. Along with the rare books, the historical collection also maintains a large collection of manuscripts on the history of nutrition and Vanderbilt, as well as hundreds of unique medical and surgical artifacts.
The journalism collections document more than a century of newspaper and television journalism by award-winning reporters, photojournalists, cartoonists, editors, and publishers from such major newspapers as the Tennessean, Washington Post, New York Herald, New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Atlanta Journal. Collections document Appalachian strip mining communities; the rise of science reporting beginning with the Challenger tragedy; the development of television news reporting at NBC from its early days to the Huntley-Brinkley Report; and sports journalism, with manuscripts covering fifty years of Olympics. The largest set of journalism papers are those of John Seigenthaler, editor of the Tennessean for more than three decades.
Latin American Collections
The Colombian history and culture collection is one of the largest and most wide-ranging in the United States. Materials are grouped into three separate categories: broadsides, 1825-1972; pamphlets (including novenas), 1785-1969; and programas, 1819-1914. Recent acquisitions focus on important twentieth century Afro-Hispanic literature and slavery in South and Central America and the Caribbean.
The extensive collections in music, dance, theatre and film speak to the development of twentieth century culture in America. Highlights include opera, especially Enrico Caruso memorabilia and documents from the Metropolitan Opera performances, mid-twentieth century correspondence with well-known actors, and the collection of Oscar-winning director Delbert Mann, whose work in early television and feature films brought him into contact with many of the major celebrities of the time.
The Vanderbilt University Photographic Archive contains over 500,000 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 also 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.
Politics and Social Activism Collections
Home to three presidents, Tennessee's political leaders continue to make their mark on the nation's history. Vanderbilt's collections provide key insights into the workings of the government through the pre-Senate papers of Senator Lamar Alexander in his roles as Secretary of Education, two-time governor and presidential candidate; in the collection of Senator James R. Sasser, former chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and Ambassador to China; and in the documents surrounding Alexander Heard's contributions to V.O. Key's seminal work, Southern Politics in State and Nation (1949). The papers of prominent social activists such as journalist John Seigenthaler, administrative assistant to Robert F. Kennedy during the Civil Rights era and founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, are complemented by those of women's rights activist Molly Todd and the records of the Nashville Peace and Justice Center.
Special Collections manages the rare book collections of the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries. The department houses one of the finest twentieth-century Southern literature collections in the United States and is the center for the study of the Fugitive and Agrarian literary groups. The subject matter of the rest of this extensive collection covers a wide range of topics including the American Civil War, Southern literature and civilization, playing cards and gaming, performing arts, Vanderbilt University history, George Peabody College history, Mesoamerican codices, and religion.
Southern Literature, History, and Culture
Anchored by one of the country's most extensive collections of materials by and about the Southern Agrarian and Fugitive literary collections, the southern history and culture collections also hold first and limited editions of more recent titles from authors Pat Conroy to Eudora Welty. Country music collections include hundreds of interviews with early country performers and WSM Radio and Television ephemera. Over 200 rare pamphlets and letters by and about President Andrew Jackson concerning the Battle of New Orleans and Native American removal are held, as well as documents regarding the Aaron Burr conspiracy and papers of Sam Houston, Davy Crockett and other early settlers. First editions and rare books about the Civil War are complemented by contemporary writings about integration, busing and the Civil Rights movement.
The mission of the University Archives is to preserve the historical memory of the university and to make this information available, primarily, to the Vanderbilt community and, secondarily, to the world at large. This is achieved through the collection and preservation of historical Vanderbilt University records and artifacts. The archives has approximately 12,000 linear feet of university records ranging in time from the founding of the university to near the present day.
Vanderbilt Television News Archive
The Vanderbilt Television News Archive is the world's most extensive and complete archive of television news. VTNA has been recording, preserving, and providing access to television news broadcasts of the national networks since August 5, 1968. The core of the collection consists of regularly scheduled newscasts from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News. Other news content is recorded as it happens beyond these newscasts, including material from other networks.