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Family History and Genealogy: Using Special Collections

Using Special Collections

About Special Collections

The Special Collections Department of the College of Charleston was founded to support the teaching and learning mission of the College of Charleston and to promote scholarship on the South Carolina Lowcountry and the broader Atlantic World. It is located on the third floor of the Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library. Its holdings include over 600 manuscript collections related to the history and culture of the South Carolina Lowcountry, the archives of the College of Charleston, the Spoleto Festival Archives, and more than 40,000 rare books and pamphlets.

The primary mission of Special Collections is to evaluate, acquire, organize, preserve, and make available rare printed and archival materials.  Its faculty and staff are committed to utilizing a multi-faceted approach in support of that mission and are dedicated to employing modern archival practices to enhance access to our collections. These include online access to collection guides, a robust digital library, physical and online exhibits, and a commitment to public programming and education outreach.

Research and Reading Room Protocols

Everyone is welcome to visit Special Collections on the third floor of the Addlestone Library. While the majority of our holdings are not open for public browsing, retrieval of materials by our staff usually takes only a matter of minutes. Upon your arrival, you will be asked to comply with the following policies:

  1. All researchers must sign the registry.
  2. All personal articles are to be deposited in the lockers behind the reference desk. Only items necessary for taking notes may remain with you (notepads, laptops and pencils only please).
  3. Use of the material is confined to the research area.
  4. Researchers must fill out call slips to request material. The vaults are closed to everyone but staff. Researchers will be permitted only one folder of manuscript material at a time.
  5. All manuscript materials must be kept in the order in which they are found. Manuscript and other materials may not be leaned on, written on, folded anew, or handled in any way likely to damage them. Post-it notes may NOT be used to mark places, only acid free slips of paper (see reference desk).
  6. Photographing material may be arranged only under the supervision of Special Collections staff.
  7. Requests for a reasonable amount of photocopying may be made to the staff member on duty. Photocopy request forms are available at the front desk. Title 17, United States Code (Copyright Law) states the photocopied or reproductions are not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.”
  8. Researchers are asked to request no new material after 4:30 p.m. so that materials may be returned. Materials in use may be reserved for the following day.
  9. The library reserves the right to search book bags, briefcases, purses, etc. upon a researcher’s leaving the premises.
  10. Patrons assume all responsibility for adhering to existing copyright restrictions. Anyone contemplating publication of unpublished materials must obtain permission from the author or owner of literary rights. If permission is granted, the researcher must give appropriate credit to the Special Collections Department of the College of Charleston. The Special Collections Department assumes no responsibility in cases of infringement.

Research and Instruction Services

The goal of archival instruction sessions taught by Special Collections faculty is to give students the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to effectively and efficiently find, interpret, and use archives, manuscripts, and other types of unique primary sources. In addition to these archival literacy competencies, registration, proper handling of materials, research techniques, search strategies, intellectual property principles, and reproduction policies are highlighted.

Our sessions are tailored to the needs of particular classes or special interest groups and serve as an introduction to highlights from the holdings of both the College of Charleston and the South Carolina Historical Society related to a course topic. Special Collections archivists can also give informational seminars intended for departmental faculty and staff who wish to incorporate primary source materials into their course work.

After an archives instruction session, students will be able to:

  • Describe the procedures for using Special Collections and archives in order to properly access and handle primary source material in the holdings of both the College of Charleston and the South Carolina Historical Society
  • Apply evaluative criteria in order to identify if source material is a primary, secondary, or tertiary information
  • Search archival holdings in the online catalog and finding aids in order to retrieve holdings information necessary for completing call slips

If you would like to arrange for an instruction session, please contact our Manager of Research Services, Mary Jo Fairchild. Special Collections appreciates at least two weeks’ notice to arrange for instruction.

Research Services

We support research for the College of Charleston community as well as the public and welcome all inquiries. We can provide collection overviews, instruction on how to locate materials in the collection, and answers to basic research questions. For in depth queries we recommend that researchers visit Special Collections and make arrangements to view materials that will assist in their project. If you are unable to do your research on-site, Special Collections staff can provide a list of independent research consultants. Please note that this list is not an endorsement of the quality of the researchers’ work, and Special Collections is not responsible for any arrangement made with independent researchers. Such arrangements, including the character, extent, and cost of the work, are purely private, contractual matters between the independent researcher and you. It also is up to you to determine whether or not the researcher’s experience and qualifications meet your needs.

Visit the Special Collections website!

Using Special Collections