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Archives and Special Collections
Collection Development Policy

Purpose of Archives and Special Collections

Oakland University Archives and Special Collections supports and advances scholarly and creative research, instruction, and engagement through its unique collections and inclusive services for faculty, students, staff, alumnae, and the general public.

It collects, organizes, preserves, and makes accessible the significant records that chronicle the university’s history as well as original materials on Oakland County history, Civil War history, women’s studies, and other fields that relate to the research and educational endeavors of Oakland University.

Oakland University Archives and Special Collections hosts OU classes across disciplines that offer students opportunities to explore and use historical materials, participate in hands-on activities, and develop critical thinking skills. In addition to research and instructional support, the university archives serves as an outreach tool and are frequently used in exhibitions, for university resources, and in support of fundraising events.'


Format of collections

University Archives and Special Collections acquires published or unpublished, analog and digital materials, including, but not limited to:

  • letters
  • diaries
  • art works
  • architectural drawings
  • reports
  • business records
  • photographs
  • videos and other visual media,
  • literary manuscripts
  • maps
  • sound recordings
  • ephemeral materials such as newsletters or pamphlets
  • periodicals
  • books

Special Collections collecting scope

While it is not possible to predict what the university’s teaching and research priorities will be in coming years, some subject areas are and will remain important. For collecting purposes, the following subject areas will therefore be prioritized:

Local history

Materials documenting the history of Oakland County and southeast Michigan from the 19th century to the present, with a special focus on the political, economic, socio-cultural and multicultural aspects of the region’s suburban history.

Such materials include, but are not limited to:

  • Original unpublished documents, photographs, maps, ephemera, and other materials of elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels who are connected to the history of Oakland County.
  • Original unpublished documents, photographs, maps, ephemera and other materials of other political, business and cultural leaders of Oakland County.
  • Other papers of individuals that document suburban history in Southeast Michigan.
  • Records of organizations based in Oakland County or whose mission is relevant to suburban history.
  • Oral histories documenting local history.

This collection is used by OU employees and students for instruction and research purposes, and is also useful for external researchers and general community needs.  


Materials that build on existing strengths in the collections:

  • Civil War and Reconstruction history (William Springer collection)

  • British and American women’s history and literature of the 17th-19th centuries (Marguerite Hicks collection)

  • LGBTQ studies (Robert Gaylor collection)

  • 19th century American first editions

  • 20th century Anglo-Irish literature

  • Children’s literature (Jane Bingham collection)

  • Crusades history (Jonathan Riley-Smith Crusades collection)

  • Folklore and witchcraft (Thelma James collection)

While books and periodicals are the priority in these collections, manuscripts will also be accepted if they are directly relevant to the topics of authors of the collections.  All these collections are used for instructional support, but some (the Springer, Hicks, and Riley-Smith collections) also draw external researchers.

Levels of collecting intensity


Research level:

  • Civil War and Reconstruction history
  • British and American women’s history and literature of the 17th-19th centuries
  • Local history
  • Crusades history

Instructional support level:

  • LGBTQ studies
  • 19th century American first editions
  • 20th century Anglo Irish literature
  • Children’s literature
  • Folklore and witchcraft

Rare books and periodicals

Special Collections maintains a small collection of rare books, including first or limited editions and inscribed copies in 17th-20th-century American and British literature, as well as in 16th-20th -century English and European history.

Rare books and printed materials should be acquired only if they build on existing strengths in the collections (see collecting scope) or complement themes of the manuscript collections, and have the potential to support the university’s research or instructional activities. Books are never collected solely for their monetary or market value, and a book is not considered rare only because of its market worth or its age.

A rare book that falls within the collecting scope is more likely to be included if:

  • It costs over $500
  • It is a rare first edition or a limited edition of 500 or fewer

  • It is of unusual format (e.g., broadsides, miniature books, artists’ books)

  • It has not suffered significant damage

  • There are fewer than 25 copies in WorldCat

  • If it has inscriptions or other evidence of dissemination or circulation

The physical copy of a book or periodical contains traces of its creation, dissemination, and circulation, and may include inserts or other materials not retained in digitized copies. The online availability of a book or periodical in digital format through open source platforms does not affect the decision to retain a physical copy.

University Archives collecting scope

University policy #480 defines the mission of Oakland University’s archives and the principles for collection development, access, and preservation.

The University Archives collects inactive official records created by university units as well as the papers of individuals that are judged to reflect significant events and aspects of the university’s history, including – but not limited to:

  • University publications, including catalogs and bulletins, newsletters, press releases, and promotional material
  • Inactive records of the administrative offices, academic departments, and governing bodies of the university, such as minutes, correspondence, memoranda, reports
  • Architectural and landscaping plans, blueprints, and artists’ renderings, maps, master plans and other campus planning documents
  • Personal papers of faculty and staff, including correspondence, diaries, memoirs, photographs, memorabilia and scrapbooks. The Archives prioritizes the acquisition of records from faculty that have made significant contributions to teaching, research, professional, or university service. Only faculty materials in areas in which there is evidence of significant contribution that is not well supported in the published record are accepted.
  • Records of student organizations and activities, including minutes, correspondence, publications, ephemera, and memorabilia, including scrapbooks, posters, and brochures
  • Audio and visual material, including photographs and photo albums, negatives, audio and video recordings
  • Material from alumni and their organizations, including organizational records, publications and ephemera

Other collecting areas

The University Archives also collects material not created in the course of university business but which documents the history of the university and its surrounding communities. This includes books and other publications about Oakland University and the surrounding areas, as well as unpublished materials created or collected by third-party individuals and organizations that expand knowledge of the history of the university.



Gifts are the main means of acquisition of Archives and Special Collections. Books from the university libraries’ circulating collection may occasionally be transferred to special collections if they meet the collection development policy criteria. Archives and Special Collections does not accept materials on loan from an external institution or individual; nor does it provide storage space for non OU institutions or individuals.

Archives and Special Collections accepts donations of materials initiated by the public provided they keep within the collection scope and have been approved by a librarian. Gifts of materials with mixed value may be accepted if the donor agrees to give the library the right to discard or otherwise remove unwanted items.

The University Library reserves the right to decline donations which carry donor restrictions, which are out of scope, or which are in poor condition. While there are no outright exclusions based on language, the library prefers materials in English, which will most likely be more widely used than materials in classical or modern foreign languages.

It is incumbent upon the donor to provide proof of their right to make the donation, and to demonstrate that the donation is not encumbered by ethical or legal issues. All donations must be represented on a legal donor form which includes a description of the materials; name, address, and signature of donor; date of donation; description of any restrictions attached with the donation, physical ownership and copyright; and the signature of the Oakland University representative accepting the donation.



Deaccession is an important part of the management of collections. Review of holdings should be conducted periodically to allow staff to focus on institutional strengths and deficiencies, to consider recent trends in libraries and scholarship, as well as research use of the collections. As the scope of the collection policy changes, reviews allow staff to identify out-of-scope materials.

Any collection can only be deaccessioned if the relevant donor forms and other legal agreements do not bar the repository from doing so.

For de-accessioned materials, sales to, or exchanges between, institutions should be explored as well as disposal through the trade.

Any proceeds made from de-accessions will go toward the care, maintenance or development of the existing archives and special collections.


Last updated and approved by faculty assembly 2019/02/26

Created by Name / Updated on March 1, 2019 by Name

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