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 at the CU Heritage Center in Old Main

Alchemist's Corner


Alchemist’s Corner:  the Public and Private Life of John Barrymore is presented by the CU Heritage Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, the Archives and Special Collections Department of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. 


John Barrymore is best known for his dashing stage and screen presence and for his often flamboyant personal life.  This exhibit, however, also reveals the actor’s lesser-known, contemplative side, as reflected in his creation of the Alchemist’s Corner, his quiet attic studio that Gene Fowler described as Barrymore’s “last sustained expression of medievalism.”  Original sketches, photographs, and memorabilia highlight a few of the many attributes of the actor’s life. 


The exhibit draws on the Gene Fowler Collection, held in Special Collections.  Fowler briefly attended the University of Colorado for one year prior to working as a journalist for the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Post, and the New York Daily Mirror.  A biographer and screenwriter, too, Fowler’s work drew inspiration from his life in Hollywood.  He counted among his cronies W.C. Fields, Red Skelton, and stage and screen legend John Barrymore. 


Fowler’s most famous work, Good Night, Sweet Prince (1944) was published as a tribute to his close friend John Barrymore, who died in 1942.  Source material for this book comprises a large part of the Gene Fowler Collection. 


The exhibit dates have been extended through September 12, 2014 at the Heritage Center, 3rd Floor, Old Main.  Hours are Monday – Friday, 10 am – 5 pm.  Admission is free.  We hope you will enjoy this brief journey into both the very public and very private worlds of John Barrymore. 


Alchemist’s Corner: the Public and Private Life of John Barrymore is co-curated by Roxxy Duda, of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Allyson Smith and Mona Lambrecht of the CU Heritage Center, and Susan Guinn-Chipman of Archives and Special Collections, University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.  A large debt of gratitude is due to Timothy Orr of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Dean Jim Williams and Sr. Associate Dean Leslie Reynolds of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, the staff of Archives and Special Collections, including Bruce Montgomery, Deborah Hollis, Dave Hays, Greg Robl, Chris Levine, Kris McCusker, Louis Zeller, Cheryl Koelling, Elizabeth Newsom, Amanda Brown, Katelyn Cook, and Anna Slover, and the staff of the Heritage Center including Allyson Smith, Mona Lambrecht, and Annika Amundson.  Many thanks are also due to Andrew Violet, Patrick Mulcrone, and Holly Long.  Without their vision and expertise, this exhibit would not have been possible.  We would also like to thank Micah Abram and her staff at the University of Colorado Office of Advancement and Clay Evans of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival.   



Current Exhibit in Special Collections

poster for World War One exhibit showing men standing in the snow by a ruined building



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