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Cornell University

Rare and Manuscript Collections: Find & Request Our Resources

Overview

Due to the current public health crisis the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections is closed. Staff are working remotely but there is no access to the physical collections. Please see the Library's COVID-19 Service Updates for complete information.

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (RMC) houses books, collections of archival material, bound manuscripts, and other resources. For an overview of our materials visit our collections overview page and for highlights of our collections visit our collection highlights page.

Once you've located resources of interest to you, please register and request them through the library catalog, as described below. If you're interested in ordering reproductions or obtaining permission for publication please visit the "Reproductions & Permissions" page.

How to Register and Request Resources

Follow the instructions below to register and request RMC material:

  1. Navigate to our online registration portal. You will first be prompted to indicate whether you have a Cornell NetID or are a public user, select the appropriate button.
    1. Cornell first-time users: after signing in with your NetID, review the pre-populated registration form and then click submit.
    2. Public first-time users: after clicking "First Time User?" enter the registration form's required fields and then click submit.
  2. Once your account has been created, click "New Request" on the page's menu. This will take you to the library catalog.
  3. In the library catalog, search for the collection name or book title in the search bar. Click the title from the search results to be taken to its catalog record.
  4. On the item's catalog record page click the "Request Item for Reading Room Delivery" button.
  5. Check off the boxes or volumes you would like to request. Materials that are stored off-site and require more time to retrieve say "Request two days in advance."
  6. In the box above the "Submit Request" button select the date you'd like to view the selected items then click "Submit Request."
  7. You will be prompted to log into the system. Even if you are already logged in, please click the appropriate button, or we will not receive your request. You'll know you've successfully completed the order when you are taken to a new page, listing your requests.

When possible, request materials one to two weeks in advance. Please note that some materials are stored off-site and will take at least a few business days to arrive. Also note there is a limit of 15 active requests. If you are traveling here for an extended period and anticipate consulting a large volume of items, please contact us at rareref@cornell.edu prior to your visit so we can discuss your priorities and help maximize your research time.

Restricted Collections

Please be aware that many of our materials have restrictions. These need to be addressed before you can access the material, and whenever possible, well before an in-person visit. If you see a restriction on material of interest to you, please contact us directly at rareref@cornell.edu.

A collection or work may:

  • be "By appointment only" and require prior permission of our curators
  • require permission of the donor or the office that created the collection
  • be restricted in part
  • be restricted for a certain length of time
  • be available for research, but not for reproductions
  • be currently "in processing" by our staff, and not immediately available
  • have digital content that may not be accessible on short notice

You can see the restrictions when you request material through the library catalog and in the "Information for Users" section of our Finding Aids.

Special Notice for Audiovisual Materials

Due to the fragility and potential degradation of moving image and sound recordings, viewing and listening is limited to items that have been digitized. If an item is in another media format, you may order and pay for a digital copy. See the "Reproductions & Permissions" page for more information. Please e-mail us in advance at rareref@cornell.edu if you plan to access digitized content in the reading room.

Searching the Library Catalog for RMC Collections

Almost all of our resources are listed in the library catalog. The catalog is the best place to start your search for published materials, bound manuscripts, and archival collections.

To search only the materials available at the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, select "Kroch Library Rare & Manuscripts" under "Library Location" or use this pre-populated search page.

You may further limit your search by using the "Limit your search" options listed on the left side of the catalog. For instance, you might limit the search to "Manuscript/Archive" under "Format," or for a particular edition of a book, you might adjust the search results' date range under "Publication Year."

Once you've located material in the catalog, follow the instructions in the "How to Register and Request Resources" box to request material for the reading room, or see the "Reproductions & Permissions" page to order scans.

For additional tips on finding RMC materials in the library catalog, visit the "Finding Materials" page on our website.

Searching Guides/Finding Aids

When deciding what items to request, it can be helpful to review a collection's finding aid, if one is available. If a collection has a finding aid, it can be accessed either through a link under "Availability" on the collection's library catalog record or by searching RMC's "Archival Guides" on our website.

While finding aids can differ in their level of detail, most include the following basic elements:

  • Descriptive Summary: lists the collection's title, the repository where the collection is held, the collection number or call number,  a brief description or abstract of the collection contents, creator of the materials, the size and extent of the collection, and language(s) represented in the collection.
  • Biographical Note: details the biographical information or organizational history relating to the collection.
  • Collection Description: provides a more detailed overview of the materials in the collection.
  • Information for Users: how collection should be cited and if applicable, details any restrictions placed on the access or use of collection materials.
  • Subjects: a list of terms, topics, names, etc., covered in the collection, and in the collection's library catalog record linked to other records with the same term.
  • Container List: a box-by-box, folder-by-folder listing of the materials stored in the collection. The level of detail in this section may vary.

Take note of which boxes or items have the most relevant materials for you, and then request them through the library catalog.

Researchers-for-Hire

We keep a list of local researchers-for-hire. They are not affiliated with RMC, so you will need to contact them directly if that option is of interest to you. Please contact us for more information.

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