Special Collections
UCLA Library Special Collections

Collection Development Policy and Current Priorities

UCLA Library Special Collections (LSC) acquires archives, rare books, manuscripts, photographs, ephemera, audiovisual materials, digital files, and other primary source materials of a rare or unique nature. We acquire new holdings predominately through donations and transfers and also purchase a select amount of material. We also create new scholarly documentation through conducting oral history interviews that support our current collecting priorities.

The nature of stewarding special collections holdings requires LSC to be selective in what it acquires and makes available for research. This document outlines LSC's philosophy, collecting scope, and current priorities, along with the criteria it applies in evaluating potential acquisitions.

Guiding Principles

Our collection development approach is based on the following guiding principles:

  • We develop collections in order to engage with research, teaching, and learning.We place an emphasis on acquiring rare, unique, and valuable materials.

  • Our collections serve UCLA faculty and students, and visiting researchers.

  • We seek to develop world-renowned collections in selected areas.

  • Our collections are national and international in scope, but we place a distinct emphasis on collecting materials that document the history, society, and culture of UCLA, Los Angeles, and Southern California.

  • We support existing research areas in multiple disciplines and anticipate emerging and future research trends.

  • We acquire materials that provide rich documentation within our collecting priorities, regardless of format.

  • We create new scholarly resources by conducting in-depth oral histories in areas that cannot be adequately documented through traditional special collections formats.

  • We work collaboratively within a network of other institutions to collect materials and preserve cultural heritage and do not seek to develop new areas that duplicate the collection strengths of others. 

  • We make a full stewardship commitment to materials we acquire and make acquisitions decisions with the expectation that we will be able to preserve materials adequately and make them discoverable and available for research.

  • Our collecting priorities and emphases evolve over time. This policy will be reviewed periodically.

Current Collecting Areas    

History of UCLA

The UCLA University Archives selectively acquires university records, the professional and research papers of UCLA faculty, oral histories of UCLA administrators and faculty, and other archival materials affiliated with UCLA (1919- ) and with its predecessor, the Los Angeles State Normal School (1881-1919). The University Archives has systematically documented UCLA's history, decision-making processes, and cultural history since 1948.

University Archives Research Guide

Current collecting priorities:

  • Official university records in accordance with the University of California records management policies
  • Papers of UCLA faculty who have had an exceptional impact on research in their disciplines and/or on society
  • Student life

Los Angeles History and Culture

For decades, UCLA Library Special Collections has been documenting the breadth of Los Angeles area history and culture, going back to the Mexican and Spanish eras. Traditional strengths include Californiana, early photography, historical periodicals, maps, literature, the arts and fashion, the papers of outstanding civic figures, and ethnic communities, especially Japanese Americans, African Americans, Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans, and Native Americans. In 2009, the UCLA Library created Collecting Los Angeles, which places an emphasis on broadly defined communities whose history is overlooked but crucial to understanding the development of the metropolis.

Current collecting priorities:

  • Ethnic community history
  • Bohemian and literary history
  • Social justice movements
  • Civic history and infrastructure of modern Los Angeles
  • The environmental movement
  • Punk culture, including music

History of Medicine and the Sciences

Library Special Collections documents the history of scientific discoveries and inventions, research trends, communities and communications, and teaching methods and materials in medicine and its allied health fields and the biological sciences. Traditional strengths include anatomy, human health and disease, physiology, botany, and zoology.

History of Medicine and the Sciences Research Guide

Current collecting priorities:

  • Basic and clinical neurosciences
  • Pain research and treatment
  • Popular medicine
  • Emergency medical services
  • Portrait and commemorative medallic art
  • Medical and scientific philosophy and ethics

Global Histories and Cultures

UCLA Library Special Collections's holdings cover a range of geographical areas beyond the United States. Traditional strengths include medieval and Renaissance manuscripts from Western Europe; Hebraic, Persian, and Arabic manuscripts spanning the twelfth through the nineteenth centuries; Mexican manuscripts, pamphlets, and ephemera from the colonial era through the twentieth century; and  historical photographs, independence-era publications, and literatura de cordel from Latin America.

Current collecting priorities:

  • Western European medieval and Renaissance manuscripts
  • Ethiopic manuscripts and scrolls
  • Armenian manuscripts
  • Latin American history and photographs
  • Travel and exploration, including women travelers and the Antarctic

History of Printing and Publishing

UCLA Library Special Collections’s holdings support research in the history of printing, the book trade and book making, and the graphic arts. Traditional strengths in our collections include Western European medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, Middle Eastern manuscripts, and early printing (1465-1600), in particular early Italian printing (including the foremost collection in North America of the Aldine Press). Our collections of British and American children's books (many of which date back to the eighteenth century) and artists' books also exemplify the craft of book making and publishing.

Current collecting priorities:

  • Early Italian printing, including the Aldine press
  • Fictitious imprints, such as Pierre Marteau
  • Historic children’s books, games, and books with moveable parts
  • Contemporary artists’ books

Performing Arts (Music, Film and Television, Theater, and Dance)

The performing arts collections are a major resource for the study of music, film and television, theater, and dance. The collections provide extensive, in-depth documentation of American popular culture, particularly in the Los Angeles region during the twentieth century.

The majority of the music holdings cover the Los Angeles region in the twentieth century and include American popular music, papers of Los Angeles émigré composers, oral histories and papers of Los Angeles jazz musicians, and the music industry. Antiquarian music holdings date back to the ninth century and include music manuscripts, Italian libretti, early printed editions (including first editions) of full scores and piano vocal scores of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century operas, and original editions of musicology texts.

Film and Television
The film and television collections document film and television in both their aesthetic and technical aspects and span the history of those media from their beginnings to the present day. The holdings include the papers of artisans, writers, directors, and performers; the records of producers and studios; and a variety of posters, ephemera, and stills.

Los Angeles theater is represented by the records of local theater groups and includes collections of playbills, scripts, and assorted production materials.

Dance holdings support UCLA's long-standing participation in the creation, study, and reconstruction of modern dance, contemporary ballet, dance for stage and screen, kinesiology, dance therapy, and dance performance reflecting cultures throughout the world. Formats include choreographic notes, contracts, correspondence, moving images, musical scores, oral histories, personal journals, photographs, programs, and rare books.

Performing Arts Research Guide

Current collecting priorities:

  • New Music (composers and performing groups)
  • American popular music from the nineteenth century to the present
  • History of television, with concentrations in animation and game shows
  • Film and television industry crafts
  • Los Angeles theater
  • Contemporary dance forms that echo the diversity of dance expressions and cultures
  • Women in entertainment
  • Comedians

Visual Arts

UCLA Library Special Collections has built in-depth collections that reflect trends in arts and architecture in the Los Angeles region, especially as the metropolitan area grew during the Modernist movement. The current emphasis is on the late 1960s to the present, a period of vital political and artistic change in Los Angeles art galleries, museums, and art education.

Current collecting priorities:

  • Visual arts and artists (painters, sculptors, printmakers, conceptual artists)
  • Prominent teachers of art, gallery owners, and curators involved in the development of the art culture of Los Angeles from the 1970s to the present
  • Graphic design and designers
  • Photography and photographers
  • Landscape architecture and architects
  • Southern California architecture