At a glance

Special Collections & University Archives


About our servicesLibrary information window

About our collections and exhibits

About Stanford

About our services

Who may use Special Collections and University Archives?
Our primary constituency is the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of Stanford University, however we welcome all researchers and visitors.

I've never done research in Special Collections before. What should I expect?
We have a web page that will give you an idea of what to expect when you come to our reading room, but you may also find the Society of American Archivists' published guide helpful as well: Using Archives: An Effective Guide to Research by Laura Schmidt. This online publication outlines the functions and procedures of archives, and is designed both for first-time archives users and scholars who have already conducted research in archives.

How can I search the collections?
You can consult Stanford Libraries' online catalog called SearchWorks.  Also, you can find our finding aids on the Online Archive of California.

How do I get materials and how long does it take?
All of our materials are located in remote storage facilities off campus. Thus, paging materials must be done 2-3 days in advance. Once materials are paged, they do not circulate and are used exclusively in our reading room. We ask that you fill out a registration form and show photo ID before using your requested materials.

How can I get reproductions of your materials? How much does it cost? How long does it take?
Requests may be made in person, by phone, or by email and the turnaround time varies based on size of order, format and condition of the originals.  For more information on reproductions, please see our webpage on requesting copies.

Do I need an appointment?
An appointment to conduct research in Special Collections is not needed, however, none of our materials are onsite so paging in advance is required.

Why do I need to fill out a registration form?
Because of the rarity and value of our materials, all patrons are required bring a current government or university issued photo I.D. and fill out a registration form before they can begin to work in our reading room. This registration occurs first at the entrance of Green Library and then again in Special Collections. The registration process for both locations happens in person.

What materials can I bring into the reading room?
We allow single sheets of paper, a pencil and a laptop in the reading room. To learn about our policies for using the reading room, click here.

If I travel to Stanford University to do research, where can I stay? Park?
Information on traveling to Stanford can be found on our Traveling to Stanford page.

I can’t travel to Stanford University. Can someone do my research for me?
Although reference librarians are happy to try to answer questions to the best of their ability, the staff of the library cannot perform research for patrons due to limited staffing. We are always happy to refer you to independent researchers (not affiliated with our Department) when possible.

How do I search for a thesis and/or dissertation? Can I get a copy?
Please consult the University Archives' web page on using and duplicating these resources.

How do I obtain permission to use an image or a quote from your collections in a publication?
Permission to publish must be obtained by copyright holders and often times, Stanford is the property rights holder, but not the intellectual rights holder. Please see our permissions page for more information.

How do I cite the items from your collections that I am using?
Please cite: [Identification of item], [Collection Name] (Collection Number), Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries.

I have an old book/manuscript. Can you tell me how much it's worth?
Special Collections and University Archives do not appraise items. The Rare Books and Manuscripts section of the American Library Association maintains an excellent site called Your Old Books with many answers about what kinds of books are valuable. The easiest way to find an antiquarian bookseller is to visit the website of their main professional organization, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA).

About our collections and exhibits

How big are your collections? How many items do you have?
Special Collections and University Archives currently exceed some 50,000 linear feet of manuscript/archival material and nearly 300,000 books (antiquarian and contemporary).

How does Special Collections & University Archives acquire materials?
Special Collections acquires materials through either by gift or by purchasing items with endowed funds and donations from alumni and friends of the University.  Often times, our materials come from individuals, organizations, dealers, book stores, book fairs.

All materials that come into Stanford's Special Collections and University Archives are appraised/reviewed by a cognizant curator/archivist or bibliographer and are "selected" for the collections (which is to say that we cannot and do not accept all gift offers) based on the item’s relevance to Stanford’s teaching and research programs.

Our collections contain materials in many languages and come from all over world.  Additionally, our materials come in many formats:  books, manuscripts, photographs, and audio/video/film recordings.  Some are "born digital" and come to us as digital files coming from individuals, organizations, dealers, book stores, book fairs. 

Who curates exhibits?
The Special Collections Department has a manager of exhibits who works with the Department Head to review exhibition proposals from Stanford Libraries curators, bibliographers, faculty, and students (both graduate and undergraduate) and then schedule exhibits for research, design, and installation. Often, we publish exhibition catalogs (most are illustrated and include scholarly essays or text).

Every exhibit and catalog has a designated curator who works with our exhibits manager to fully plan and schedule shows.  We currently plan for three exhibitions per year and schedule them two and three years out so that there is enough time for research, writing, materials and exhibition case preparation, installation, etc.  If you have a good exhibit idea please contact us.

Can I volunteer for Special Collections and University Archives?
At the present time only Stanford alumni can volunteer in the University Archives. For more information check out the Alumni Association's volunteering website.

You have modern books that don’t appear to be rare or valuable. Why are they here?
Materials can be deemed part of Special Collections for many reasons. Some items are here due to their provenance; others because they are very rare (antiquarian or just rare in terms of the number of copies of any given work or any item may "rarely" come up for sale from any dealer or auction house), and some have even been acquired because of unique publishing characteristics or publishing history. Sometimes items are here because they have marginalia from an important person or that is otherwise important. Still others are here because they form an important part of a larger collection.  In all cases, it is important to note that materials found in Special Collections are important to the research and teaching programs of Stanford University.

About Stanford

My ancestor attended Stanford. How can I get a copy of his/her transcript?
Transcripts and other student records are maintained by the University Registrar. All transcript requests should be directed to that office.

Who spoke at Commencement three years ago? 
The University Archives maintains a list of Commencement speakers. Links to transcripts and video are included when available.

When was tuition first charged at Stanford?
Tuition was first charged in January 1920, at the rate $40 per quarter. For more information, see this overview of tuition rates by year.

Is there a list of items in the Main Quad class time capsules?
The University Archives does not have a comprehensive list of items in every class time capsule. We do have lists for a few recent ones. Try checking the Stanford Daily for articles published during Commencement Week of the year in which you’re interested. There is no established date for the opening of time capsules.

How many Nobel prizes have been awarded to Stanford faculty? How many Pulitzer prizes?
As of October 2013, thirty Stanford faculty members have received the Nobel Prize. Five have received the Pulitzer Prize. For more information, see the university’s Nobel Laureate page.  For information on other honors received by faculty, see Stanford Facts.

When were women first admitted to Stanford?

Stanford University opened as a fully coeducational institution in 1891. Women comprised twenty percent of the student body in the first year and twenty-five percent were science students. Women participated in sports, club activities, and literary groups.

On May 31, 1899, Jane Stanford, the sole surviving founder of the university, amended the Founding Grant to limit the total number of women students at Stanford. In an address to the Board of Trustees, she directed that no more than 500 women be allowed to enroll at any given time. Although the total number of women students remained at this level over the next three decades, the percentage of women declined due to an increase in the overall student body.

On May 11, 1933, the Board of Trustees resolved that the number of women students be increased, maintaining substantially the same proportion of women to men as obtained in 1899. In 1973, the Board of Trustees successfully petitioned the Court to remove the restrictive provision on the enrollment of women from the Founding Grant.

Were Leland and Jane Stanford snubbed by the president of Harvard University? Did Leland Jr. attend Harvard before his death in an accident?

A widely-circulated tale describes Leland and Jane Stanford's supposed visit to Harvard University's president, dressed in a suit of homespun cloth and a faded gingham dress. Harvard's president, the story goes, rebuffed their offer of money for the University (to be given in memory of their son, Leland Jr.), and so the couple went west and founded Leland Stanford Junior University.

Leland Stanford Junior was just short of his 16th birthday when he died of typhoid fever in Florence, Italy on March 13, 1884. He had not spent a year at Harvard before his death, nor was he "accidentally killed." Following Leland Junior's death, Leland and Jane Stanford determined to found an institution in his name that would serve the "children of California."

Detained on the East Coast following their return from Europe, the Stanfords visited a number of universities and consulted with the presidents of each. The account of their visit with Charles W. Eliot at Harvard is actually recounted by Eliot himself in a letter sent to David Starr Jordan (Stanford's first president) on 1919 Jun 26. At the point the Stanfords met with Eliot they had not yet decided whether to establish a university, a technical school or a museum. Eliot recommended a university and told them the endowment should be $5 million. Accepted accounts indicate that Jane and Leland looked at each other and agreed they could manage that amount.

The thought of Leland and Jane Stanford, by this time quite wealthy, arriving at Harvard in a homespun threadbare suit and faded gingham dress is amusing, but highly inaccurate. It also is unlikely that Leland Stanford, a former governor of California and well-known railroad baron, and his wife Jane were knowingly kept waiting outside Eliot's office. The Stanfords also visited Cornell, MIT, and Johns Hopkins.

Leland and Jane Stanford established two institutions in Leland Junior's name - the University and the Museum, which was originally planned for San Francisco, but moved to adjoin the university.

How many students attended Stanford in [year]? How many faculty members were there?

Stanford Facts includes historical data on the growth of the student body and faculty

Who was the first president of Stanford?

David Starr Jordan, renowned ichthyologist and president of Indiana University, was chosen to serve as Stanford's first president. See also this list of Stanford presidents and provosts.

I'm a former student. Are you interested in my Stanford memorabilia? Photographs? Diaries?

The University Archives regularly accepts gifts of memorabilia, photographs, diaries, and other materials from former students. More information is available here