UCB Libraries

Daguerreotype from Photo Collection

Special Collections

Special Collections at CU-Boulder houses rare books, artwork, and primary source materials for undergraduate and graduate research.  The general rare book collection is strongest in Western literature while the special subject collections allow us to welcome classes and researchers involved in both the humanities and the sciences.


Patrons are welcomed to the reading room Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4 pm. Email spc@colorado.edu or call 303-492-6144 to schedule an appointment. Materials may need to be paged from our off-site storage facility through an advance request in Chinook.


Gifts & Donations
Many of the important works in the collection are gifts, or their acquisition was made possible by donation. Deborah Hollis, the Associate Faculty Director, would be pleased to consult with anyone interested in making a contribution. Call Special Collections at 303-492-6144.


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Current Exhibit: 29 September - 19 December 2014


The Material Past: Negotiating the Spiritual and Secular in the Medieval and Early Modern World


The Department of Special Collections and Preservation at the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries presents The Material Past: Negotiating the Spiritual and Secular in the Medieval and Early Modern World.  Please join us in a tour of the past viewed through a lens of texts and artifacts held in the Department of Special Collections. And visit our YouTube channel for related videos. 


The Material Past features manuscripts dating from the 11th through the 18th centuries created by scribes and artisans for the Church, royalty, and the elite of society.  The works on display highlight not only the materiality of the texts themselves but also the artistry, practices, and traditions of their creators and owners.  Christian, Islamic, and Hebraic religious texts reveal a sense of spirituality and belonging once conveyed to their readers.  Legal documents reflect the presence of both Church and political authority in the lives of medieval and early modern men and women.  The works of Sacro Bosco, Alfonso X, Biringuccio, Agricola, and Gilbert shed light on how the sciences reflected and shaped understanding of the natural world among an educated elite.  Together these works illuminate both the spiritual and the secular in the medieval and early modern world.


The Material Past draws from the collections and donations of private individuals and esteemed former faculty, including the well-known Chicago calligrapher James Hayes (1907-1984); University of Colorado Boulder Professor Emeritus of Medieval History Samuel Harrison Thomson (1895-1975); CU alumnus Sam Tour (d. 1966), well-known in the field of research and development of metals, plastics, and industrial chemicals; the former dean of the Cleveland Institute of Art Otto Ege (1888-1951); Professor Emerita of Medieval Art History Amy Vandersall; Professor Emerita of Early Modern European History Marjorie Keniston McIntosh; and well-known collector of medieval and early modern manuscripts and printed leaves John Feldman. 


This exhibit is co-curated by Kimberley Smith, M.A. Candidate, Department of History, University of Colorado Boulder; Abby Lagemann, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University of Colorado Boulder; Sean Babbs, M.A. program, Department of History, University of Colorado Boulder; Keri Myers, International Studies, Colorado State University, ’14; Louis C. Zeller, Film Studies, University of Colorado Boulder, ’13; and Susan Guinn-Chipman, Ph.D., Department of Special Collections, University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.


With special thanks to Prof. Deborah Hollis; Gregory Robl, M.A.; Katelyn Cook; Anna Slover; Lauren Stapleton; Michael Harris, Ph.D.; Michael Riberdy; Patrick Mulcrone; Holley Long; Andrew Violet; Cheryl Koelling; John Dziadecki; Rani Machoi; Justin Van Voorst; Dean of Libraries, James F. Williams II; and Sr. Associate Dean, Leslie Reynolds, University of Colorado Boulder Libraries for making this exhibit possible. 


The exhibit coincides with and supports Medieval Materiality: A Conference on the Life and the Afterlife of Things, Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Colorado Boulder, 23-25 October 2014.


Planning your visit  

Please join us in the Department of Special Collections, Norlin Library N345, during our open hours, Monday-Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Appointments are highly encouraged.  Special Collections will host an open house 23 and 24 October in support of Medieval Materiality:  A Conference on the Life and the Afterlife of Things.  For more information or to schedule an appointment, email: spc@colorado.edu or call: (303) 492-6144. 



Past Exhibits




With an active instruction program we are dedicated to enhancing the student experience by collaborating with instructors from the university and community to incorporate rare materials into their courses. These sessions are designed to provide context and increase engagement with the course through the opportunity to read and study primary and historical materials. Students are encouraged to return to the reading room to use our materials in their coursework.


Instruction for late afternoon or evening classes is possible; requests must be submitted at least three weeks in advance.  Please contact susan.guinn-chipman@colorado.edu to discuss instruction needs. 



Please note that many materials housed in Special Collections do not have online records in Chinook, the Libraries' online catalog.Access to materials not found in Chinook is provided here on the Department webpages and in the card catalog and finding guides kept in the Department's reading room.


Search the Special Collections webpages




Goethe: Faust Hurley: Antactica Cameraman New Receipts Monsson