Special Collections - Frequently Asked Questions

General Information

Special Collections and Archives is a department within the University of Idaho Library specializing in the acquisition, preservation, and availability of archival materials which document the history and culture of Idaho and the University.

Our materials include personal papers, business records, publications, photographs, artifacts, and much more! For a more detailed description of the different types, please see our Descriptions of Collections page.

We can be reached by email at libspec@uidaho.edu, or by phone at 208-885-0845.

Archival materials can be viewed in our patron Reading Room by appointment or walk-in. Researchers can also search our digital collections for digitized materials. All research requests must be made 48 hours prior to research appointments.

Appointments are strongly encourage but not mandatory. However, all research requests must be made 48 hours prior to research appointments. In most cases 6 boxes of materials will pulled per visit. Some requests may be fulfilled digitally.

No, not every collection or item is digitized. However, we are continuously working to digitize select collections and make them available online. To browse our digitized materials, check out our digital collections and the Idaho Harvester blog.

We are located on the first floor of the University of Idaho Library. For directions to the Library, see our directions page. For a general campus map, see campus maps.

No, please see our Plan Your Visit page for the most up-to-date information.

We sometimes accept volunteers or interns on a case-by-case basis depending on current needs of the department. Please contact us with this inquiry.

The Library has designated exhibit spaces on each floor. Exhibits are created from historic materials found in Special Collections and traveling exhibits. These rotate on a semi-regular basis.


Search for materials on our homepage or check out our Research Tools.

A finding aid is a detailed description and inventory of an archival collection. It is similar to a Table of Contents or Index and is meant to tell you what is inside a given box or folder of an archival collection.

The Reading Room is a designated space on the first floor of the library where you may view archival materials. For more information, please see our Reading Room page.

Yes! We realize archival research can be confusing and intimidating. Please contact Special Collections staff and we’ll be happy to help!

Primary sources are documents, audio/visual materials, or artifacts that provide first-hand accounts of evidence about a historical topic or event. Thwy allow current researchers to learn what actually happened in the past. These can be diaries, letters, photos, etc.

Typically, secondary sources rely on primary sources to analyze or interpret the past.Secondary sources interpret primary sources. They analyze a historical event after-the-fact, by people who were not present during the time period or event in question. Secondary sources may include books or scholarly publications about a topic, or documentaries.

Yes. Primary sources and other archival materials are still subject to intellectual property rights, copyright, and trademark laws in the United States. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to use your own words (do not copy text verbatim) and cite all of your sources!

If your professor or publisher does not require a specific citation style, here is a general guide. Here’s an example from one of our collections: “Three men and loaded gun rack inside tent,” undated. Priest Lake Museum Association Photographs, photo #17-01-26. University of Idaho Library, Special Collections and Archives, Moscow, Idaho.


Yes, we are happy to have your class visit our Reading Room! Here we can show materials from our collections to demonstrate our holdings and discuss what we do as archivists. We are also happy to work with professors to support class projects and assignments. Please contact us by email or phone to discuss instruction opportunities.

Reproductions & Permissions

Yes, but you must ask Special Collections staff for permission before any scanning. Materials will be reviewed based on quantity and fragility. Personal portable scanners and other digital imaging equipment must be approved by our staff prior to use. Feed scanners are strictly prohibited. Please note:

  • If scanning or taking photos of materials for commercial purposes, you must obtain permission from whoever holds copyright to those materials and properly cite materials.
  • To avoid potential copyright or plagiarism violations, please view our Reproduction and Copyright and Citation Policies.

If you are unable to visit our Reading Room, digital scans may be provided for research purposes on a case by case basis. See our policies page for more information on cost and restrictions. Additionaly, check our digital collections for items that may already be digitally available.

Reproduction requests that total less than 25 pages, require a low resolution for scanning, are easily handled in a flatbed scanner, and are in stable condition are provided at no charge. A $25 fee will be assessed in half-hour increments if a request falls outside those parameters.See our policies page for more information.

Yes, and please note we cannot always grant permission. We cannot grant or deny permission to publish or otherwise distribute materials if we do not hold the copyright to them. If the materials fall under the legal category of public domain, you may publish or distribute them freely. Users are solely responsible for ensuring that they are observing Fair Use as defined in the United States Copyright Act.


For all donation inquries, contact please contact us.

Fortunately, we already house have several full sets of Gem of the Mountains. If you have something else to donate, please contact us.

Archival collections frequently need cash donations to enable timely processing and underwrite the costs of long-term high security storage. Such funds are used to organize, maintain, and care for our collections so that they may be preserved and made available for future generations. Gift funds may be used to honor an individual, a family, a company, or an organization, and the Library will work with donors to employ appropriate means to publicly acknowledge donations. To discuss setting up endowments or bequests, please contact Ben Hunter, Dean of University of Idaho Library, at bhunter@uidaho.edu or call (208) 885-5858. More information is also available on the Giving website.

Offensive Content

Archival collections can contain language and materials from history that reference beliefs, norms, and values that are no longer (or never were) consistent with those of the University of Idaho. Special Collections and Archives works to describe collections in an inclusive way that is respectful to the communities they represent (created by, created for, created about) and warn users about collections containing materials that may be offensive. Please see our Offensive Content Policy for more information.

Fun Facts!

We have a few ancient Babylonian tablets with hieroglyphic writing on them! We believe they came to us through an archaeology professor who worked here.

Our earliest bound manuscript book is titled Dialogorum libri quattuor from 1492.