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Guide to Using Special Collections at Yale University: Home

Special Collections Units at Yale-- Reading Room Reservation Policies (Updated May 2023)

Special Collections units at Yale University are open to Yale-affiliated faculty, students, staff, and the public. Please see individual repository websites for information on whether appointments are required to visit specific reading rooms. Yale's Covid Visitor's Policy contains up to date information related to Yale's pandemic response. Please contact the reading room you are visiting if you have any questions or concerns about your visit.

Special Collections staff are available to assist and answer any questions about their collections. Please see the email information to contact specific special collection units below.


The purpose of this guide is to introduce you to the wealth of special collections available for research and teaching at Yale Library and Yale Center for British Art. There are special collections repositories within many of the libraries and museums at Yale, and all are available for use by Yale students, faculty, and staff, and independent researchers from the New Haven community and around the world.

This guide will provide information on:

  • Yale's special collections and their locations
  • How to register as a special collections user
  • How to find special collections material
  • How to requesspecial collections material for use in a reading room
  • How to visit a special collections reading room
  • How to obtain facsimile reproductions of special collections material
  • How to learn more about the copyright status of special collections material

The Primary Sources at Yale site provides additional information that will help you identify, find, and explore primary sources in all of Yale's libraries and museums.

What are Special Collections?

There is no single, comprehensive definition of special collections, but at Yale, all special collections share a few common characteristics:

  • Rarity: Books, archives, manuscripts, or other materials that are unique, often unpublished, and for which very few or no other copies exist. Because of their rarity, special collections materials are often irreplaceable and require higher levels of security. At Yale, special collections materials are stored in secure facilities only accessible by staff, do not circulate, and may only be used in secure reading rooms under staff supervision.
  • Format: Materials such as photographs, maps, handwritten texts, or physical artifacts that require special handling and storage environments to ensure longterm preservation and access for researchers.
  • Comprehensiveness: Collections of materials that aren't necessarily individually unique or valuable, but which together constitute an important body of information on a particular topic.

Similarly, there is no single definition of the types of materials that determine what special collections are. At Yale, special collections may consist of (but are not necessarily limited to) any or all of the following types of materials:

  • Manuscripts
  • Archives
  • Rare Books
  • Audio-Visual Materials
  • Artifacts and Artwork
  • Electronic files

At Yale, special collections are held by several of our libraries and museums. Some, like Manuscripts and Archives and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, only hold special collection materials. Others, like the Yale Center for British Art, hold special collections and museum collections, which are managed separately. Still others, like the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, hold special collections along with more conventional, circulating library materials.

Reservations and Contact Information: Special Collection Units at Yale

Arts Library Special Collections, Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library

Email contact: | Phone contact: (203) 432-1712 | Staff Directory | Appointment required

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Email contact: beinecke.library@yale.eduPhone contact: (203) 432-2972 | Staff Directory | No appointment required

Divinity Special Collections, Divinity School Library

Email contact: divinity.library@yale.eduPhone contact: (203) 432-5289 | Staff Directory No appointment required

Lewis Walpole Library

Email contact: walpole@yale.eduPhone contact: (860) 677-2140 | Staff Directory | No appointment required

Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library

Email contact: mssa.reference@yale.eduPhone contact: (203) 432-1735 | Staff Directory | No appointment required

Medical Historical Library, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library

Email contact: historical.library@yale.eduPhone contact: (203) 737-1192 | Staff Directory | No appointment required

Music Library Special Collections, Irving S. Gilmore Music Library, Sterling Memorial Library

Email contact: Phone contact: (203) 432-0492 | Staff Directory | No appointment required

Yale Center for British Art Institutional Archives, Yale Center for British Art

Email contact: Phone contact: (203) 432-8395 |  Staff Directory | No appointment required

Yale Center for British Art, Department of Prints and Drawings, Yale Center for British Art

Email contact: | Phone contact: (203) 432-2840 |  Staff Directory | No appointment required

Yale Center for British Art,  Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Yale Center for British Art

Email contact: | Phone contact: (203) 432-2815 |  Staff Directory | No appointment required

See the Additional Collections at Yale tab on this guide for information regarding other Yale University special collections that do not share the Aeon registration/request system.