The Special Collections Department advances the mission of Williams Libraries and Williams College by connecting rare books, manuscripts, and organizational records to teaching, research, and creative expression. The department includes two repositories: the College Archives and the Chapin Library. The College Archives documents the widest possible range of experiences that inform the history of Williams and promotes the highest standards of management of the College’s official records. The Chapin Library collects books, manuscripts, and other primary sources from antiquity to the present, as a resource to support the Williams liberal arts curriculum. Resources of all formats (including books, paper records, visual resources, audiovisual material, and born digital material) are collected for their informational value, physical characteristics, and potential to support teaching and research. We seek to balance acquisition with increased attention to the use of our collections. In doing so, we recognize diverse modes of transmission of human knowledge and aim for openness and accessibility to communities and descendents documented in our collections.
The consideration of a new acquisition is informed by:
- Relationship to current strategic directions.
- Potential to support current or projected educational and curricular needs at Williams.
- Cost of stewardship including processing, conservation, and preservation.
- Potential to support the broader scholarly and intellectual interests of the College community.
- The campus Records Policy, which ensures that records of long-term legal, fiscal and historical value are preserved.
- Specified purposes of endowed funds and gifts.
- Approval by the Special Collections Committee, for major acquisitions.
The strategic directions highlighted here represent our emerging strengths and areas of most active collecting, all of which aim to diversify the perspectives represented in our collections. These directions build on our existing strengths in order to best support the curriculum and community of Williams. We revisit these foci annually to respond to the evolving needs and priorities of Williams.
We seek to support scholarship on networks of artists, scholars, and other practitioners that are historically marginalized in traditional archives and antiquarian book collections, including the Stockbridge Munsee Community, on whose traditional homelands Williams is based; other local indigenous peoples; and historically minoritized authors, artists, and printers.
Global book history
Historically our collections have centered the history of printing and the written word in Europe and the United States. Today, we collect materials that support the global history of printing and communication, including books, manuscripts, and material evidence of textual technologies from Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and the Pacific.
Oral history records the voices and stories of people who may not be represented elsewhere in the written record of the Archives. We complement our textual holdings with interviews that highlight the experiences of Williams students, staff, faculty, and alumni. Read more about our oral history program.
The history of Williams College and its relationship to land, labor, and larger social and historical themes serves as a lens through which to support a wide range of curricular and extracurricular programs. We aim to collect material that represents diverse views on the history of the College, inclusive of those who may have been historically marginalized from the institution.
Intellectual output of the Williams community
We document and provide access to publications and other works created by Williams students, staff, faculty, and alumni. Our collecting in this area is informed by three priorities: 1) digital access to open scholarship including student theses; 2) scholarly and creative works not widely held in libraries; 3) student scholarship that directly addresses institutional and regional history.
Williams Special Collections is home to an extraordinary collection of books, manuscripts, and institutional records that represent the breadth of a liberal arts curriculum while delving deeply into areas of focused study. Visit our collection guides to learn more about our strengths. We continue to build on these historic strengths with a focus on how new additions intersect with our current strategic directions.
Special Collections has benefited from thoughtful and generous gifts that support the ongoing acquisition, care, and promotion of our collections. If you would like to donate books, manuscripts, or monetary gifts that support or complement our collections, please contact us.
Highly desired materials
- Materials that document the history of writing and printing outside of Europe
- Books that serve as artifactual examples of textual technologies
- Books with annotations and other evidence of use
- Correspondence written to or from Williams students
- Scrapbooks relating to Williams College
- Student-created zines and similar self-publications
- Photographs of co-curricular activities
- Documentation of student government and extracurricular organizations
Materials we do not generally accept
- Duplicates of materials already held in Special Collections
- Widely-available publications
- Publications that do not align with the current curriculum of the College
- Facsimiles of original materials, unless they serve a specific curricular need
- Non-book artwork
- Material without clear provenance
Tax deductions and appraisals
Gifts to Williams College are tax deductible as allowed by law. Tax deductions for gifts-in-kind of larger value may require an independent appraisal. In accordance with the Internal Revenue Code, Williams College, as an interested party (the donee), may not provide a statement of value to the donor, and in accepting an appraisal takes no position as to whether it is a “qualified appraisal” under IRS regulations. The cost of an appraisal is the responsibility of the donor and itself may be tax-deductible. In all such matters, donors are encouraged to seek guidance from a professional accountant or other tax adviser.
As a matter of policy, Williams College cannot recommend individual appraisers, but suggest that donors consult local directories, or websites through which appraisers may be found, such as the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America.
We withdraw (deaccession) materials infrequently, and only after full and scrupulous consideration of the public interest and the needs of the college community. This is done in as open a manner as possible, ensuring that withdrawal of the material is not restricted by conditions of its receipt, with expert advice from the Special Collections Committee, the Provost, the Development Office, or legal counsel, as appropriate.