Skip to Main Content

Special Collections Research & Access

Quick guide for WashU students, faculty and staff, as well as community researchers


  • All research visits are by appointment only. Reading room space may be limited for health and safety requirements. 
  • WashU faculty, staff and student researchers have  priority for appointments.
    • If you are not affiliated with Washington University see Additional Info tab
  • All on-site patrons must follow University health and safety requirements, including mask-wearing and self-screenings.

After you have an appointment, you are ready to start researching!

Where to Go


Special Collections is located on Level One of the John M. Olin Library.  After entering the library, go past the grand staircase and look for the wooden doors on the left marked "Julian Edison Department of Special Collections."

Julian Edison Department of Special Collections door


The closest parking garage is the Danforth University Center (DUC) Garage at 6475 Forsyth Ave., St. Louis, MO 63130

Reading Room

Staff will retrieve all materials from storage for your use in the reading room.

  • As a general guideline you can ask for 6 boxes or 6 books for each day you plan to visit.
  • use the Paging Request Form (or type this same information into an email)

All researchers are expected to:

What to Bring

  • Completed Patron Form (if it is your first visit this year)
  • required campus screening, mask , etc (as required per campus health and safety)
  • Laptop, tablet, camera (optional) 
  • Pencil and paper (we have some you can use too)

For the safety of the collections:

  • Store bags, coats, and any food/drink (including water bottles) in the provided closet
  • Use ONLY pencil when writing notes.
  • Keep all materials flat on the table, or in provided book rest

Just ask if you have any questions or concerns!

Documenting your research

A phone, tablet or digital camera can help you capture the information during your visit.

  • This is the fastest way to get a copy of items from Special Collections
  • Hint: Take a photo of the container (box, folder, etc) along with the page you are interested -- this helps with citations later!
Always check with reading room staff before making scans/ using your camera at any archive.

Consider an app to help organize your images

Not able to visit and want a copy?

  • Items may be digitized, but not yet linked and online.  
    • Email and ask us if we have a digital copy -- if we do, we can email it to you (usually at not cost)!
  • Or, you can put in a request for digitization
    • If its a few pages, usually fees are waived
    • For larger amounts, there can be a small charge.
    • Requests can take a few weeks, but we will give you an estimate. 

Why is this so complicated?

We want you to use the materials at Special Collections, however extra steps are needed to protect the materials so researchers can access it in the future.

  • Advance appointments give the staff time time to locate your items in storage.
  • Special Collections has millions of items, and digitizing them all is not practical.  So finding aids provide an online way to see what is availle to access when visiting.
  • Filling out paperwork documenting what you use and for what purpose helps us keep track of what items are being used.
  • No food, drink, or pens are allowed in the reading room to prevent any accidental spills that could damage unique or fragile items.