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How to use our collections

This page provides an introduction to understanding and using the Special Collections & University Archives at Iowa State University.

About this Guide

This guide provides an introduction to understanding and using the Special Collections & University Archives at Iowa State University. You can search for collections via the internet but the actual materials have to be used in our reading room, with the exception of material that is available online. Use the tabs on the left to navigate the guide.

About Special Collections and University Archives

Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) was established at the Iowa State University Library in 1969. SCUA is home to Iowa State University Library's rare books, manuscripts, photographs, audio recordings, film, artifacts, archival records, and other historical documents. Our collections covers a large range of areas, including agriculture and rural life, life sciences, engineering, technology, and Iowa State University history. 

Our mission

The Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives collects, preserves, and shares documentation of the experiences, achievements, and memories of people and organizations reflecting the university's major research areas, with a special commitment to documenting the history of the university. Supporting the land-grant ideals of putting science, technology and human creativity to work, we strive to enrich learning and encourage investigation by a diverse community of users.

What do we do?

  • Collect and provide access to university records, rare books, and personal papers and organizational records in the fields of Iowa State University’s major research areas.
  • Maintain an active public service and outreach program. 
  • Assist visitors with their research.
  • Create virtual exhibits for online visitors as well as exhibits for the Reading Room area and other locations on campus.
  • Work with the University Library's Digital Initiatives unit to digitize selections from our collections.
  • House our records in a controlled environment to ensure their preservation.
  • Collaborate with university units and cultural institutions to promote our collections and develop cooperative projects.


What's the difference between Manuscript Collections & University Archives?

Both Manuscript Collections and University Archives contain the same types of materials, such as papersphotographs, film, audiovisual, artifacts, etc. Their primary difference relates to where the records originate. 

Manuscript Collections (the Special Collections part of our department) include personal papers and organizational records that have a strong emphasis on the major research areas of Iowa State University, but are not directly affiliated with the university.

University Archives includes Iowa State University administrative records, faculty papers, and alumni collections. University Archives are records created by the university -- by faculty, staff, students, colleges, departments, units, centers, institutes, programs, etc.


Contact us

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Special Collections & University Archives
403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University Library
Ames, IA 50011
515 294-6672

Contact us before you visit!

You will get access to the materials much faster if you contact the archives in advance. Here's why:

  • Off-site/Library Storage Building materials can take up to seven business days to retrieve. Please email to request material and schedule your visit.
  • Related materials: Even if you have something specific you want to see (and know how to request it), we may have suggestions for other materials.
  • Check the holdings: As with most archives, many of our collections don't have detailed descriptions. If you're looking for a specific document or piece of information, contact the archives before making a trip so that you won't be disappointed if the collection doesn't have what you're looking for.
  • Research Help: We understand that using archives can be complicated. We know our collections and are truly happy to help!