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How to use special collections

About Special Collections

We have a dedicated area where you can use original material and rare printed material from the Library's collections, including:

  • manuscripts
  • pictures
  • oral histories
  • maps
  • realia.

Visit the Special Collections area in the Mitchell Library Reading Room to request, collect and use original material and rare printed material.

You need a Special Collections card before you can use special collections material. See staff at the Special Collections desk to get a card.

Staff in the Special Collections area can help you with your research and with using the Library's collections. Can’t come to the Library? Ask a Librarian.

Things to know when you visit

You need to follow the PDF iconSpecial Collections conditions of use (101KB)  when in the Special Collections area. We have these guidelines to protect and preserve the Library’s collections for future generations.

You are not able to bring any bags into the Special Collections area. This includes handbags, camera bags and laptop bags. Lockers are available for hire in the Mitchell Library. 

Other items that you're not able to bring, include:

  • food and drink including bottled water
  • scanners including hand-held scanners
  • pens, ink and highlighters.

You can bring in your own books and material by completing a form. The forms are available at the entrance of the Special Collections area. Staff at the desk can help if you have any questions about bringing in your own materials.

You can also use material from other collections here. Speak to staff about having all requested material delivered to the Special Collections area.

Requesting material

You will need a Special Collections card to request material.

Complete a stack request slip for each item, box or album and give to staff. You can request up to five at a time. 

Need to request material before you visit? Complete the Access to collections form. We will get back to you within 4 working days.

Some material has restrictions and you may need permission to access the material. Check the catalogue record and if there are restrictions, complete the Access to collections form.

Offsite material

You can request some offsite material through the catalogue. Complete the Access to collections form to request material that's not requestable through the Library's catalogues.

You can also request offsite material when you’re at the Library. Complete an offsite request form to give staff. 

Material requested from offsite will be available after 4 pm the next working day. Material is not delivered to the Library on weekends and public holidays.

Collecting material

Collect requested material from the Special Collections desk. Staff may need to weigh and record the weight of the material.

Staff will give you a microfilm or the digital copy if available. This is to preserve the original.

Material will generally be issued one item at a time. You will need to keep the material in the same order or folder.

Requested material that's not original material and rare printed material? Pick the material up from the ‘collect shelves’ in the Special Collections area. Ask staff about having all requested material delivered to the Special Collections area.

Handling material

When handling collection material:


Staff and client using special collections material
  • have clean, dry hands and wear gloves when asked
  • rest items on the table
  • use pencils only
  • do not mark documents or take notes on top of the material
  • do not use post-it notes to mark pages.

Speak to staff at the desk if you’re unsure or need any help with handling material. 

Staff can provide resources to help with handling material, including:

  • weights
  • book rests
  • item supports
  • cushions
  • gloves
  • alcohol hand wipes
  • acid free paper markers.

You might be asked to move material, use a specific table or change seats when handling material. Material is not to be removed from the Special Collections area.

Material is not able to taken out of the Special Collections area. Other clients are not able to use material you’ve requested without speaking to staff. 

Copying material

Ask at the Special Collections desk before you photocopy or photograph material. Some material is not able to be photocopied or photographed because of copyright, restrictions or the material's fragility.

You will need to complete a form before you can copy material with your own equipment. You are not able to use flash and tripods must not be placed on or directly over material.

Scanners including hand-held and flat-bed scanners are not allowed in the Special Collections area.

Returning material

Return material to the Special Collections desk. You may need to wait while the material is weighed.  

Staff will need to weigh:

  • all manuscript material
  • albums and boxes of pictorial material
  • boxed printed material.