Eberly Family Special Collections Collection Development Plan

Position Statement

The Eberly Family Special Collections, located on Penn State's University Park Campus, builds, stewards, and facilitates engagement with significant research collections and primary source materials across the Commonwealth campuses and holds the University Archives for all campuses. We continue to acquire materials of institutional, historical, and cultural value in order to support Penn State's land-grant mission and the Libraries’ mission to make materials available for intellectual discovery, use, and learning that benefits the Penn State community, scholars, students, and the citizens of Pennsylvania and beyond. In addition, we engage in instruction, outreach, and interpretation in collaboration with partners across the campuses to support information literacy, critical engagement with materials, and pursue collecting and documenting opportunities that attend to gaps or erasures in the historical record. We acknowledge the inherent power involved in the practice of collecting, and our 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. The Collection Development Plan outlines our collecting principles, focus areas, and priorities, and our commitment to respectful and responsible collection development. Please see our companion Statement on More Inclusive Archival Collections for more information on how we work to align our practices with our values.

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

The Eberly Family Special Collections commits 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
  • Condition of materials and preservation needs
  • Accessibility and potential barriers to future research
  • Requirements and resources for sustainable maintenance

As part of the commitment to sustaining the collection as a whole, we are at times required to appraise and deaccession 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 subject areas that best support our mission and research communities, while also remaining adaptable to new trends in scholarly communication and societal changes. The subject areas defined in this plan reflect our current priorities for active collecting, material we will consider selectively on a case-by-case basis, and sometimes material we no longer seek to acquire.

The Eberly Family Special Collections places a high value on increasing the diversity of experiences, perspectives, and voices found in our holdings. In all subject areas, we will place an emphasis on collecting material from historically marginalized communities, which have remained underrepresented in the historical and published record. While our focus is on rare materials, 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 subject 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.

Histories and Experiences Prioritized for Collecting in all Subject 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.

Black Life and Culture

We seek to expand our holdings of both published and primary source materials related to the experiences of Black people, preferably by Black people in the U.S. and throughout the Black Diaspora. 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, both of which focus primarily on published materials. While we are interested in materials related to all subject 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 and Latinx Collections

Current holdings comprise rare books, manuscripts, periodicals, and visual materials from the colonial period to the 20th-century, including the Luis Alberto Sánchez Papers (guide in Spanish and English), and the recently launched Latin/o/a/x Student Experience at Penn State Oral History Project. Current collecting priorities include:

  • Colonial Latin America
  • 19th- and 20th-century Latin American literature
  • Cultural, political, and literary periodicals from Latin America, especially those that document visual culture
  • Political ephemera and materials related to social movements and activism in Latin America
  • Materials in indigenous languages
  • Items that represent Latin American book history and material culture
  • Materials in areas that provide greater understanding of historical, cultural, social, and political experiences and contributions of Latinx communities in the United States, particularly in Pennsylvania
  • Latinx experience oral histories including Penn State students and Pennsylvania communities

LGBTQIA+ History

Existing holdings documenting sexual and gender diversity are limited but growing: current holdings include records of the Homophiles of Penn State, the Pennsylvania State University Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equity, as well as rare books, periodicals, and ephemera by and/or about LGBTQIA+ people. While we are interested in materials related to all areas with LGBTQIA+ alignment, 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
  • Archival materials that document LGBTQIA+ lived experiences (such as scrapbooks or personal papers)
  • Oral histories from those affiliated with Penn State and/or residents of the Centre region

Women's History

While women’s history and experience are represented across many collecting strengths, we are especially interested in the following topics and categories across formats:

  • Girlhood studies, incuding materials that document the experiences of girls and their socialization to womanhood
  • Women authors, especially Black women authors, and women working in politics
  • Women graphic designers
  • Feminist theory and activism

Subject Areas

Education and Pedagogy

Collections in this area are concerned with disciplined-based, participatory, and feminist art education, as well as the history of educational theory broadly construed.

Selective: Materials related to discipline-based art education and feminist and/or participatory art pedagogy that complement and fill gaps in existing collections; materials that document the history of educational theory, especially liberatory approaches to teaching and learning


Collections in this area are focused on Pennsylvania’s environmental history, with emphasis on the environmental, social, and economic impacts of extractive industries and energy development. Emphasis will be on acquiring material representing the central and rural regions of Pennsylvania.

Active: Artists’ books and other limited editions from small presses on environmental concerns; Materials documenting the societal impacts of natural gas development and nuclear energy, focused on marginalized economic communities and grassroots activism in Pennsylvania; the history of environmental policy and advocacy in Pennsylvania

Selective: The history of solar energy policy, industry, and technology in the U.S; the impacts of climate change in Pennsylvania, including materials that document the Commonwealth's water, forest, and agricultural resources

Labor and Industrial History

Collections in this subject area document industrial and business history, the evolution of work and production processes, the historical trajectory of labor-management relations, unions and collective bargaining, and working-class organization and activity in building communities and strategic alliances to advance workers and working families.

Active: Historical industrial and corporate records containing documentation on employee relations and employment practices, and the impact of industrial operations on working-class communities; Materials documenting marginalized workers and their communities; Records focusing on unions and organizational activity within the growing service sector with a Pennsylvania/ mid-Atlantic focus, and that 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: Collections and materials documenting Pennsylvania extractive industries such as forestry, coal and coke, limestone and iron and steel companies; 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 focus and are not represented substantially by records housed at other archives

Literature and Languages

Our collections are strong in Literatures of the Americas, especially American Literary Studies, 19th-and 20th-century African-American Literature, and 20th -century Latin American Literature. We also hold significant German language materials and works translated from German, including fairy tales, Children’s Literature, and 19th -century German writers, as well as Utopian Literature in English.

Active: African American Literature, especially 19th- and early 20th-century published works by Black women; 19th- and early 20th-century Latin American Literature especially where it intersects with visual culture; Utopian Literature in English; Children's Literature where it relates to material and/or visual culture or experiences of girlhood; Archival collections of 20th and 21st-century women authors that increase the diversity of perspectives in our holdings; German language or German in translation materials that are materially noteworthy such as moveable books and artists’ books

Selective: Prominent Pennsylvania-based authors and writers

Military and the Home Front

We hold significant letter collections, books, personal papers, veterans’ oral histories and diaries, photograph scrapbooks and military records documenting America at War. Beyond collecting materials related to combat and military operations in theaters of war, our focus is on the social history of American at war and the home front experience.

Active: Second World War II Era with an emphasis on acquiring more diverse and inclusive collections relating to the wartime service and experiences of African Americans, Indigenous Americans, LGBTQ+ service members, and women. In addition, we also prioritize the acquisition of veterans’ personal papers and collections documenting the history of the U.S. Army Eighth Air Forces, supported by established endowment funding.

Selective: Materials and contemporary publications related to the Civil War, World War I, and post-World War II conflicts emphasizing veterans’ and family history during the respective war eras.

Politics and Political Movements

We hold diverse political collections and personal papers documenting legislative history as well as political movements, including documentation of political activists and reform movements with a Pennsylvania focus. We also hold the papers of prominent Pennsylvania legislators at the state and federal level, documenting their service and accomplishes in office.

Active: Materials documenting the contributions of African Americans, individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+, Latinx, and women in government service and their roles in political and social reform movements, especially when these materials overlap with our Visual Culture, Arts, and Architecture collecting area

Selective: Papers of significant political leaders and legislators including U.S. senatorial papers, U.S. congressional papers for representatives from Pennsylvania; Early-to-mid 20th century political collections and personal papers documenting third-party movements, grassroots political organizations, and political reform activists that intersect with working-class political issues and contemporary electoral issues in Pennsylvania.

Religion and Occult

Our collections are strong in historical print 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 African diasporic and Indigenous religions and spiritual practices; materials related to folklore traditions and occult practices, such as witchcraft, shamanism, and spiritualism; Christianity and Christian Theology in Colonial Latin America

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, as well as rare books that combine history of science and visual culture. We aim to document the people and products, as well as the social and political effects of disciplines and industries

Selective: Works that document the fields of scholarship and research that have made significant impacts on the University community and the Commonwealth—and in turn US policy and society; African Americans working in STEM; Artists’ books that engage with STEM subjects.

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: Materials related to the history of sport, including economic, legal, ethical, philosophical, psychological, and social justice issues in sport; events that impact Penn State and local sports

Selective: Materials related to Penn State sports history, including athletes, coaches, trainers, managers, and research faculty, and the experiences of Penn State athletes and related participants in the Olympic Games

Inactive: Materials broadly concerned with modern Olympics history

University Archives

University Archives serves as the institutional memory of Penn State, 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, especially those that are hand printed, the history of photography, archival collections related to graphic design such as the Chip Kidd papers, emblem books, moveable books and volvelles, dance notation and the history of dance, and pre-1800 Italian and Baroque architecture rare book collections.

Active: Material book culture and histories of the book, especially items that document African American, Latin American, Latinx, and non-Western manuscript and print cultures; artists' books, especially those that document environmental histories/activism and political activism; moveable books, volvelles, and other materials that showcase interactive visual information design; graphic design history and practice, especially by women and people of color; histories of dance and dance notation

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

Out of Scope

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

  • Artifacts and three-dimensional objects, including plaques, medals, and trophies
  • 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 (except when in books, such as dye samples)
  • Widely available contemporary printed works, except when there is a compelling reason to support the histories and experiences we are prioritizing in our collecting (see above)

Revision History (and effective dates):

November 2, 2022:  Finalized and released by the Special Collections' Curatorial Team

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

Contact:  Clara Drummond, Lead Curator, cjd86@psu.edu