Access and Use of Materials
Materials in Archives & Special Collections do not circulate, meaning they must be accessed onsite. Learn more about what to expect when you visit us and work with collection materials.
Harmful Language & Content Warning
We acknowledge that problematic content exists in the material we collect and the methods we use to interpret those resources. We welcome respectful dialogue with those who may be harmed or impacted, and seek to engage in respectful practices that build trust and collaboration.
Special Collections provides access to cultural heritage materials that support original research, active learning, and public dialogue around issues and ideas that have shaped our world. Through historical resources such as rare books, manuscripts, photographs, and oral histories, we seek to enrich the university’s teaching curriculum and inspire interest in areas ranging from the art and history of the book to topics as varied as children’s literature, nature writing, Northwest fiction and poetry, and campus history.
Brief descriptions of our general collecting areas are available below. To search for specific materials, use the library catalog or Archives West, which contains guides to archival (non-published) collections. For further information or assistance, contact us directly.
Rare Book Collection
The Rare Book Collection contains materials dating back to the Middle Ages and beyond. Maintained primarily to support Western’s teaching curriculum and student research, it also provides materials for library exhibitions, public programming, and community engagement.
The collection is frequently added to and, at present, is particularly useful for teaching book history, medieval manuscripts, and the exploration and settlement of the Pacific Northwest. Materials documenting the relationship between print culture and Native Americans are a current area of collecting focus.
Campus History Collection
The Campus History Collection documents the history of Western Washington University since it first opened as the New Whatcom State Normal School in the fall of 1899. Holdings are primarily printed materials, including campus newspapers, magazines, yearbooks, and selected campus publications. Also available are historical photographs, oral histories, videos, and several archival collections.
For additional resources related to the history of WWU, contact University Archives & Records Management.
Originally established as a state normal school, Western Washington University continues to be a leader in the field of teacher training and is a natural home for a collection of books on the history of children’s education. Dating back to the eighteenth century, these collections provide insight into the cultural and social impact of children’s literature. Areas of strength include readers and primers, poetry for children and teens, and pop-up books. A major addition came in 2019 with the donation of about 1,200 antiquarian children’s poetry books by Jack Prelutsky, the first U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate.
Judaica / Holocaust & Genocide Studies Collections
Numbering 2,000 volumes and dating back more than 500 years, the Judaica Collection brings together rare books documenting the global Jewish experience. The collection includes texts in fifteen languages other than Hebrew.
The Holocaust & Genocide Studies Collection, begun by minister and theology educator Edward S. Setchko, was acquired to support WWU’s Ray Wolpow Institute. It consists primarily of materials documenting antisemitism, Jewish ghettos, and concentration camps. Also available are accounts by Holocaust survivors, histories of Jewish communities, and holdings on the Shearit’ ha-Pleta (“surviving remnant”), Displaced Persons (DPs), and post-war refugees.
Mountaineering & Fly Fishing Collections
The Mountaineering Collection traces the history of mountaineering as a sport as well as its complex relationship to larger social and environmental issues, including gender, race, class, conservation, and tourism development. Dating back more than 200 years, the collection contains books and periodicals from around the globe, with a focus on the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
The Fly Fishing Collections document the origin and development of this sport as well as its relationship to nature writing, art, ecology, and conservation.
Special Collections holds approximately 100 wide-ranging collections of unpublished archival material, relating primarily to campus and local history. Several collections complement printed holdings of rare books and historical children’s literature. Also available are materials on the history of fly fishing in the Pacific Northwest.
Wilson Library Building
Special Collections is located on the 6th floor of the Wilson Library building, located at 516 High St. on the north end of campus. The Wilson building sits at the corner the Old Main lawn and Red Square.