Eberly Family Special Collections Collection Development Plan

Position Statement

The Eberly Family Special Collections, located on Penn State's University Park campus, acquires, cares for, preserves and makes accessible significant research collections and primary source materials across the Commonwealth campuses and holds the university archives for all campuses. Our existing collecting strengths are rooted in the land-grant legacy of Penn State and the development of archival and rare book collections centering on University institutional history, local and state history, and materials for the study of American and English literature. Previously organized as three distinct units (University Archives, Historical Collections and Labor Archives, and Rare Books and Manuscripts), we are continually evolving as one department and strive to develop collections across focus areas in a respectful and responsible manner. We acknowledge the inherent power involved in the practice of collecting, and our implicit bias(es) as a predominantly white institution and as individual practitioners. We seek to learn from and partner with others to ensure a more representative historical and scholarly record.


We acquire materials of institutional, historical, and cultural value in order to support the Penn State University Libraries mission to make materials available for intellectual discovery, use, and learning that connects the Penn State community, scholars, and the public. In addition, we engage in instruction, outreach and interpretation in collaboration with partners across the campuses to support cultural literacy, critical engagement with materials, and pursue collecting and documenting opportunities that attend to gaps or erasures in the historical record. The Collection Development Plan outlines our collecting principles, focus areas, and priorities, and our commitment to respectful and responsible collection development.

Foundational Principles for Collecting/Documenting

We will:

  • Advance the research, educational, and service mission of Penn State
  • Provide rare, unique, and historically and culturally valuable resources across formats for use and study by scholars, students, and the public
  • Build on existing collection strengths that are distinctive and address gaps in the historical and scholarly record
  • Increase the diversity of social and cultural perspectives found in our holdings
  • Build new community partnerships to inform and collaborate on collecting and documenting
  • Avoid acquisitions that duplicate or overlap distinctive collections of regional and partner institutions
  • Conduct collecting and documenting in an ethical manner, respecting the rights of individuals and groups represented in collections, honoring commitments to donors, fulfilling obligations to the institution, and adhering to professional standards and best practices
  • Responsibly steward collections so that materials are preserved, discoverable online, and available for use in an equitable and timely manner
  • Critically reflect on our principles and practices of collecting and review our collecting plan and priorities on a regular basis

A Commitment to Responsible Stewardship

We commit to providing access and care for the materials under our stewardship. In deciding what materials to accept, we seriously consider the following factors as part of our obligation to collect and steward materials responsibly:

  • Alignment with institutional mission and obligations
  • Conditions of ownership and transfer
  • Material stability and preservation needs
  • Accessibility and potential barriers to future research
  • Requirements and resources for long-term maintenance

As part of the commitment to sustaining the collection as a whole, we are at times required to appraise and dispose of specific materials. We acknowledge that it is sometimes necessary to remove duplicate and unstable materials that may impact our ability to preserve and provide access to the collection in its entirety.

Collecting Scope

We focus our collecting on a number of broad focus areas that best support our mission and research communities, while also remaining adaptable to new trends and societal changes. The topical areas defined in this plan reflect our current priorities for active collecting, material we will consider selectively on a case-by-case basis, as well as material we no longer seek to acquire.

We place a high value on increasing the diversity of experiences, perspectives, and voices found in our holdings. In all topical areas, we place an emphasis on collecting material from historically marginalized communities, which have remained underrepresented in the historical and published record. We actively seek materials of historical and cultural value that document the lives of women, people of color, and those representing sexual and gender diversity, particularly when these categories intersect with each other and with the topical areas defined below. We welcome dialogue about new opportunities for collecting and documenting that diversify and strengthen our collections, and advance research, teaching, and learning.

Communities and Perspectives Prioritized for Collecting in All Topical Areas

Due to the historic lack of documentation for underrepresented communities, nothing is out of scope for the following collecting areas. However, all acquisitions will be evaluated selectively if they represent a national rather than localized focus.

African American Life and Culture

We seek to expand our holdings of both published and primary source materials related to African American experiences. Our existing collections related to African American history and culture primarily focus on published material. Significant collections include the Charles L. Blockson Collection of African Americana and African Diaspora and the Barbara Ann McCarthy Collection of African-American Women Writers. While we are interested in materials related to all topical areas, we are especially interested in materials representing the following areas:

  • Experiences of African American communities in Pennsylvania, and the campus community at Penn State
  • African American political and social activism
  • Critical philosophy of race and ethnic studies
  • African American authors and writers
  • African Americans working in STEM

Latin American Cultural History and U.S. Latinx Experience

Special Collections holds notable materials related to the political cultural, intellectual, and social history of Latin America in the 20th Century, as represented in the Luis Alberto Sánchez and Perónista pamphlets collections. We seek to expand our holdings related to political movements and the "political imaginary" in 20th century Latin America. We seek to expand our collections related to Latinx experience and recover the heritage and voices of these underrepresented communities in the United States with an emphasis on those in Pennsylvania. While we are interested in materials related to all topical areas, we are especially interested in materials representing the following areas:

  • 20th Century Latin American Literature
  • Manuscripts, photographs, personal libraries, publications and ephemera documenting 20th Century Latin American history
  • Latinx Experience in Pennsylvania, including materials related to the region of Hazleton
  • Immigration and the experiences of migrant/seasonal workers in Pennsylvania
  • Latinx political and social activism

LGBTQIA+ History and Experience

Our existing holdings documenting sexual and gender diversity are extremely limited, but include records of the Homophiles of Penn State, the Pennsylvania State University Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equity, as well as LGBTQIA periodicals and ephemera. While we are interested in materials related to all topical areas, we are especially interested in materials representing the following areas:

  • Materials related to the campus, community, and regional struggle for LGBTQIA+ rights and protections.
  • Periodicals and ephemera
  • Advocacy groups

Women's History and Experience

Women’s history and experience are represented across many historical collecting strength, including Art Education, Religion, Politics and Political Movements, and Literatures and Languages. Feminist theory and activism. While we are interested in materials related to all topical areas, we are especially interested in materials representing the following areas:

  • Culture of girlhood, including items that document the experiences of girls and their socialization to womanhood.
  • Women authors and women working in politics
  • Women designers
  • Travelogues and travel narratives providing global perspectives, such as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia

Topical Areas


Special Collections has traditionally collected agricultural university records, farm-related organizational records, and faculty papers documenting research contributions to the advancement of the agricultural sciences at Penn State.

Selective: Materials related to the modernization of agricultural practices in Pennsylvania, the transition from family farming to agribusiness, organic farming and the locavore movement.

Art Education

Collections in this area are primarily concerned with disciplined-based art education and feminist, participatory art pedagogy.
Selective: Materials related to discipline-based art education and feminist and/or participatory art pedagogy that complement and fill gaps in existing collections.

Business, Corporate and Management History

Collections in this area document the historical trajectory of several key manufacturing and economic sectors in Pennsylvania.

Active: Materials from individuals in historically marginalized communities who have served in prominent executive/administrative roles in Pennsylvania industries and business.

Selective: materials documenting Pennsylvania industries related to forestry, coal and coke, limestone and iron and steel companies.


Collections in this area are focused on Pennsylvania’s environmental history, with emphasis on the environmental, social and economic impacts of extractive industries.

Active: Materials documenting the societal impacts of natural gas development, focused on marginalized economic communities and grassroots activism in Pennsylvania. The history of environmental policy and advocacy in Pennsylvania. The impacts of climate change in Pennsylvania, including materials that document the Commonwealth's water, forest, and agricultural resources. Emphasis will be on acquiring material representing the central and rural regions of Pennsylvania.

Selective: The history of solar energy policy, industry, and technology in the U.S.

Labor and Working Class History

The history of industrial unionism and labor-management relations in the United States,  spanning the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Active: Emerging unions in the service sector (e.g. state, municipal, and county government workers, hospital and healthcare, clerical, hotel and hospitality, and graduate students) where those records have a strong Pennsylvania/mid-Atlantic focus and are not represented in a national-level collection housed at another repository. Immigration and the experiences of migrant/seasonal workers in Pennsylvania. Materials documenting anthracite mining history in Pennsylvania.

Selective: Disbanding or closed trade/industrial unions when those unions are consolidated into a union for which we are the repository (e.g. United Steelworkers). Disbanded unions that are not merging with larger entities will be considered for acquisition when they have a strong Pennsylvania or mid-Atlantic region focus, and are not represented substantially by records housed at other archives.

Inactive: Local union records where the records of the parent union have been substantially archived at another repository.

Literature and Languages

Our collections are strong in German language materials and works translated from German, Utopian Literature and Communitarian Traditions, 20th-century British Literature and Poetry, and Children's Literature, especially fairy tales, as well as Literatures of the Americas, especially the birth of American Literature as an academic discipline, African-American Literature, and 20th-century Latin American Literature.

Active: Utopian Literature, especially of the Americas, 20th-century Latin American Literature, Children's Literature, especially where it relates to visual culture or the culture of girlhood, and works in translation, all with an emphasis on world languages and works from historically marginalized communities. We also look to acquire archival collections of 20th-century women authors especially from the communities prioritized for collecting in all topical areas.

Selective: Prominent Pennsylvania-based authors and writers, 20th Century literature in English.

Inactive: Australiana

Military and the Home Front

Our collections focus on military service and home front experiences related to the American Civil War, World War I and World War II.

Selective: Materials related to the Civil War and World War I, with emphasis on the experiences of individuals and families on the home front. Materials and contemporary publications documenting World War II, including Pennsylvania-based veteran's experience, and materials that enhance our collections related to the Eighth Air Force.

Politics and Political Movements

Special Collections holds materials documenting the history of the political left and progressive movements, and personal papers from individuals serving in public office and other government capacities.  

Active: Materials documenting the contributions of women in politics and political movements.

Selective: Papers of politicians, including U.S. senatorial papers, U.S. congressional papers for representatives from the 12th, 13th, and 15th Pennsylvania districts. Early-to-mid 20th century radical and political leftist collections, records, and materials, especially materials that intersect with the labor movement and their working class communities. Materials documenting contemporary electoral issues in Pennsylvania.

Religion and Occult

Our collections are strong in historical Bibles and in documenting the varied traditions and practices of Christianity, especially those of Anabaptist groups in Pennsylvania, as well as in occult practices in Europe and the United States.

Selective: Materials documenting the beliefs and practices of world religions including Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, especially where materials are related to local practices in Pennsylvania. Materials related to African diasporic and Indigenous religions and spiritual practices, and materials related to folklore traditions and occult practices, such as witchcraft, shamanism, and spiritualism.

Inactive: Anabaptist sects in Pennsylvania (Amish, Hutterites, and Mennonites).

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Our collections focus on faculty papers and records of Penn State departments and research institutes related to Earth and Mineral Sciences, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering.

Selective: Fields of scholarship and research that have made significant impacts on the University community and the Commonwealth—and in turn U.S. policy and society. We aim to document the people and products, as well as the social and political effects of disciplines and industries including: aerospace engineering, agriculture, astronomy and astrophysics, biomedical engineering, civil and environmental engineering, energy and mineral engineering, geoscience, materials science and engineering, and meteorology and atmospheric sciences.

Sociology and Sociological Thought

Our collecting in this topical area is Inactive.

Sports History

Our collections document the history of the University’s athletic programs, and academic research in the fields of health, physical education and recreation, kinesiology, and biomechanics.
Active: The economic, legal, ethical, philosophical and psychological issues in sport. Outdoor recreation activities prominent in Pennsylvania, such as fly-fishing, hiking, and spelunking.
Selective: Materials related to Penn State sports history, including athletes from historically marginalized communities, sports such as gymnastics, swimming and diving, and volleyball, as well as the experiences of Penn State athletes in the Olympics.
Inactive: Materials broadly concerned with modern Olympics history.

University Archives

University Archives serves as the institutional memory of Penn State University, and maintains records of enduring value that chronicle the development of Penn State since its founding in 1855.

Active: Administrative and academic records from schools, departments, campuses, and offices of the University determined to have long term administrative, fiscal, legal, or informational value as defined by University policies AD35 and AD95 and their defined records retention schedules. Student and campus life, with a particular interest in student organization records that are currently active or were active in the second half of the 20th century. Of specific interest are those involved in political and social activism and students representing historically marginalized communities.

Selective: Local and regional history, where materials demonstrate intersections and interactions with university history. Papers of distinguished faculty who have demonstrated significant contributions to their respective fields, and whose expertise demonstrates a strong correlation to other collecting priorities. Publications produced by academic offices and other units on campus that are about those units and their activities, including directories, handbooks, and other published material.

Visual Culture, Arts and Architecture

Our current strengths include fine printing and artists’ books, the history of photography, graphic design, emblem books, moveable books and volvelles, advertising history, dance notation and the history of dance, architecture, especially pre-1800, and landscape architecture collections.

Active: Material book culture and history of the book, especially materials that document non-Western cultures, artists' books, visual and concrete poetry, moveable books, volvelles and other materials that showcase visual information design, graphic design history and practice, especially of women and people of color, and histories of dance and dance notation.

Selective: Pre-1800 architectural texts, manuals, and histories, and vernacular history of photography materials

Inactive: Emblem books

Out of Scope

The following types of materials are out of scope and will not be accepted.

  • Artifacts and realia
  • Duplicate copies of items, or materials that duplicate existing holdings. Duplicate published materials that are annotated, inscribed, or have a compelling provenance will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Fine art photography, framed materials, paintings on canvas
  • Papers of university faculty not affiliated with Penn State
  • Penn State-related scrapbooks
  • Sports memorabilia and souvenirs
  • Textiles
  • Widely available publications, including those found in the circulating collections of Penn State University Libraries or other academic research libraries.

Revision History (and effective dates):

October 4, 2019 -- Finalized and released by the Special Collections’ Collections Review committee.

Last reviewed October 2019