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Jean & Alexander Heard Libraries

Special Collections
and University Archives

Collection Development Policy


Special Collections serves as the repository for rare materials in the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries system. The collections support research by a wide range of scholars including undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and other researchers whose work relies on primary resource materials, rare books, and manuscripts. Over the years Special Collections has built collections of manuscripts, books, films, photographs, sound recordings, and other formats in a number of specialized areas. These areas have been chosen with faculty and other specialists and in response to various opportunities to obtain primary research materials. Many of them continue to be focuses for targeted collecting and are profiled below.

Special Collections features a temperature and humidity controlled environment and fire detection and suppression systems. The collection is non-circulating and maintained in closed stacks. Security measures include limited access by staff and an electronic security system throughout the department. Exhibits from materials in Special Collections are created by the division and are rotated several times a year.

Acquisitions that do not fall into existing collecting areas sometimes are made in anticipation of new emphases. In addition to scholarly research value, staff may also take into account items' exhibit and/or outreach potential.

Special Collections accepts from other divisions of the Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries system transfers of materials that require special protection and care. Criteria considered in such transfers include fragility, age, association values, and market value. These materials are accepted regardless of whether the subject area(s) represented are ones targeted by Special Collections as collecting emphases.

Collecting Rationale

Special Collections' primary responsibility is to serve the research needs of Vanderbilt University's faculty and students. To this end, Special Collections seeks to collect in subject areas receiving substantial and sustained attention within the University community, those representing ongoing departmental research interests, or those areas that are the focus of interdisciplinary programs.

Special Collections also considers service to scholars on the national and international levels to be an important part of the mission. Special Collections seeks to play a role in the broader research community by building collections in areas not well covered by other repositories. Consequently, Special Collections draws visiting scholars to the Vanderbilt campus and enhances the University's overall reputation as a center for scholarship.

Collecting Methods

Responsibility for collecting materials for Special Collections rests among members of the department who, to complement their own subject expertise often consult with resource specialists elsewhere within the Heard Libraries system. The Head of Special Collections is responsible for the general supervision and coordination of collection development activities.

Donation is the preferred method of acquisition for Special Collections, which solicits gifts of materials from individuals and organizations. Vanderbilt alumni, faculty members, and other members of the university community provide assistance in identifying potential donors.

When materials are not available through gifts, acquisitions are made through the purchase of items selected from dealer catalogs, by way of auctions, and from private individuals or organizations. Purchases are funded by endowment income, gifts, Friends of the Library donations, and library appropriations.

Subject Areas Collected

Collecting areas are regularly reviewed and modified by the Special Collections' Collection Development Team. As circumstances change, the collecting areas will be reevaluated and modified as appropriate. Brief collection development statements for individual subject areas follow.

Primary Collecting Areas

Fugitive and Agrarian Writers

Existing Collection Strengths: Jesse Ely Wills Collection of published works by the Fugitives and Agrarians and by their protégés; manuscript collections of John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson, Andrew Nelson Lytle, Jesse Ely Wills, Herman Clarence Nixon, Walter Clyde Curry, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, Peter Taylor, Brainard Cheney, Richard Weaver, and Marion O'Donnell, among others.

Current Collecting Focuses: Manuscript materials previously unattained or works published by these two literary groups and their protégés. Items to fill in any gaps in primary or secondary published works.

Southern Literature

Existing Collection Strengths:The Sam M. Fleming Southern Civilization Collection of primary and secondary published works by leading southern writers, works on southern education, history, politics, religion, and civil rights; manuscript collections of John Egerton, Robert Drake, Alfred Leland Crabb, Alice Randall, Peter Taylor and others add depth to this collection, reaching from the early twentieth into the twenty-first century.

Current Collecting Focuses: Papers and published works of southern literary figures, criticism and secondary works, and projects associated with the creation and development of southern literature.

Southern History and Culture

Existing Collection Strengths: The Sam M. Fleming Southern Civilization Collection of history and culture of the South from 1865 to the present using primary and secondary published works; featured topics are religion, civil rights, journalism, history of women, politics, and education. Manuscript collections of note include James G. Stahlman, Father James H. Flye, George N. Mayhew, Kelly Miller Smith, and Alexander Heard.

Current Collecting Focuses: Southern scholars, clergymen and professors of religion, and leaders in business, education, race relations, social change and reform.

History of Education in the South

Existing Collection Strengths: Records of the University of Nashville, George Peabody College, the Peabody Education Fund, the Wallace University School, and the voluminous manuscript collections of prominent professors of education; the University of Nashville Book Collection supplements this history with a complete library of a nineteenth century southern university.

Current Collecting Focuses: Published and unpublished (manuscripts and records) material on the development of education and educational needs in the South.

American Civil War

Existing Collection Strengths: The Harris D. Riley Civil War Book Collection, the Stanley F. Horn Book Collection along with numerous American Civil War era manuscripts, diaries, Confederate imprints, and the anti-slavery pamphlet collection.

Current Collecting Focuses: Confederate imprints, as well as materials relating to the history and figures of the Civil War.

Civil Rights in the American South

Existing Collection Strengths: The manuscripts and records of Kelly Miller Smith, Edwin Hamlett, Mary K. Todd, Martha Sue Thrasher, Nashville Peace Action/Peace and Justice Center, Southern Student Organizing Committee Collection, Rainbow Community Center, Donald F. Beisswenger, and John Seigenthaler; extensive primary and secondary published American Civil Rights materials in the Sam M. Fleming Southern Civilization Collection.

Current Collecting Focuses: Adding to and filling in gaps in primary published materials and deepen the secondary published items. Locate activist's manuscripts and strengthen women's rights collections.

Journalism (American South)

Existing Collection Strengths: James G. Stahlman, Grantland Rice, Fred Russell, James Squires, John Seigenthaler, Frank Sutherland, Louis T. Nicholas, Christine Sadler Coe, and John Egerton. Newspaper cartoonists Charles Bissell, Tom Little, and Fred O. Seibel.

Current Collecting Focuses: Southern journalists' manuscript collections, southern journals, and imprints from small presses.

Politics (American South)

Existing Collection Strengths: Alexander Heard Papers, Southern Politics Collection, Edmund M. Morgan, Jr., J. Dewey Daane, John Seigenthaler collections; an extensive collection of primary and secondary publications in the Sam M. Fleming Southern Civilization Collection.

Current Collecting Focuses: Southern politicians, especially from Tennessee, as well as materials about state and local government officials and women in politics.

Performing Arts and Fine Arts

Existing Collection Strengths: Performing arts collections - Francis Robinson, Delbert Mann, John Lark Taylor, Francis Craig, Louis T. Nicholas, George W. Boswell, and the Blair School of Music papers and records; collections of sheet music and music textbooks. Fine arts materials- Self Taught Artists Resources (S.T.A.R.) records, Contini-Volterra Photographic Archive, and the Fletcher S. Brockman Collection.

Current Collecting Focuses: Twentieth century artists, performers, critics, and patrons of the arts.

Latin America

Existing Collection Strengths: Colombian history, J. León Helguera Colombiana Collection, Brazilian history, 17th through 19th century Latin American travel accounts, Mesoamerican facsimiles of codices, Argentine tango and Argentinean and Chilean history, Sol Biderman Brazilian Art and Poster Collection.

Current Collecting Focuses: Primary and secondary materials on Latin America and Caribbean subjects with an emphasis on Colombian and Brazilian history and Mesoamerican and Andean archaeology and anthropology. Collecting in areas designed to support the teaching and research needs of the Center for Latin American and Iberian Studies and the Center for the Americas.

University History

Existing Collection Strengths: Papers of alumni, faculty, and administrators of Peabody College, Vanderbilt University and its antecedents. For more information on the Archives and its holdings, see the University Archives web site. To view the collection development policy for the Archives, see the University Archives Collection Policy.

Current Collecting Focuses: Vanderbilt University alumni, faculty, and administrators manuscripts and printed materials are collected as a means of documenting the internal life and culture of the University community. External and internal papers, records, photographs, artifacts, and published items pertaining to Vanderbilt University as a major institution.

Secondary Collecting Areas

Vanderbilt Family

Existing Collection Strengths: Commodore Vanderbilt scrapbooks, Harold S. Vanderbilt, Cornelius Vanderbilt IV, and William H. Vanderbilt papers and research materials from published genealogies of the Vanderbilt family.

Current Collecting Focuses: Papers and published materials by and about the Vanderbilt family, especially the early generations.

Tennessee History

Existing Collection Strengths: James G. Stahlman, James Robertson, and the Walter Durham Papers; the McGaw Tennessee map collection; and the Stanley F. Horn Collection.

Current Collecting Focuses: Tennessee politicians, historians, and journalists along with published materials about the arts in Tennessee.

Small Press Books

Existing Collection Strengths: British and American small press books and pamphlets, history of small press publications, and Palaemon Press broadsides.

Current Collecting Focuses: British and American small press books, especially southern presses. History of small press publications.