Archives and Special Collections (ASC) preserves and provides access to primary resources for research, study, and teaching within the University's instructional programs, and offers distinctive and unique resources for the region and the scholarly community worldwide. The curatorial units of Archives and Special Collections: University Archives and Records Center, which also administers the University's Oral History Center, Photographic Archives, and Rare Books, may accept gifts, in any format, which support this mission. While the curatorial units are somewhat format-based, there is considerable overlap: all of the units hold books, photographs, and personal and organizational records, while recognizing and relying on each other's expertise and experience.
ASC seeks to build on its strong tradition of collecting materials from members of the Louisville Metro community who may be underrepresented in other archives. This includes African American communities and communities of religious minorities. We have several foundational collections that document the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ communities in our region, and seek to build on that foundation. Similarly, women and women-centered organizations are well-represented in our collections, but much remains to be done to document the life and work of women in our community. Louisville is home to a robust grassroots political environment, which is documented in our collections – however, we are aware that the work of earlier generations is better-represented than more recent struggles.
Areas where we acknowledge weakness – and seek to amend it – include our Asian American/Pacific Islander and Latinx communities. We also recognize we do not give sufficient voice to many of our community's religious minorities.
Our collecting areas are outlined below. The current strengths of our collections are highlighted, as are the areas where we seek to improve.
These collections are intended to support University teaching and research, as well as research by community members and scholars of the region.
Current collections: Archives and Special Collections holds significant primary resources for research in late nineteenth century history through the present, although its strengths are in the 20th and 21st centuries. We seek to document our community comprehensively. All types of materials may be found in collections from individuals and organizations, from print documents and photographs to email and Word files. The life of our community is also documented through oral histories. ASC is known for its urban history collections, nineteenth and twentieth century records of significant Louisville-area businesses, political and cultural organizations, social service agencies, and churches, and personal papers of political figures, scholars, and members of the Jewish and African American communities. ASC's Photographic Archives holds significant collections of regional and historic images, including those of major local commercial studios active in the first half of the twentieth century. Collections such as these contain photographs of Louisville and the surrounding region that were taken for Louisville architects, builders, banks, wholesale and retail merchants, advertisers, government agencies, public utilities, and private individuals.
Desired collecting level: Archives and Special Collections seeks to build on this foundation of diversity by better documenting the lives of people with disabilities; immigrant and refugee communities; Asian and Pacific Islander and Latinx communities; religious minorities; and conservative voices, and by continuing our commitment to document our African American and Jewish communities. We also seek to strengthen the representation of LGBTQ+ voices, in the region as well as in the immediate Louisville area.
The Photographic Archives, part of Archives and Special Collections, holds internationally significant collections of documentary photography. These materials are used by faculty and student researchers, but are also used extensively by researchers from around the globe. They form the bedrock of the Photographic Archives' international reputation.
Current collections: The Photographic Archives holds a number of collections relating to Roy E. Stryker, one of the most prominent figures in the development of American documentary photography. These include his Farm Security Administration papers (including photographs, shooting scripts, and correspondence), photographs from the Standard Oil (New Jersey) project, and Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation, his last major project. Building on this foundation, the Archives holdings include Kentucky photographs by Robert Doherty, Edward Steichen WWII Navy photographs, Lewis Hine study collection, Urban Renewal image collections, and select photographs from the Kentucky Documentary Project.
Desired collecting level: The Photographic Archives seeks to build on its existing strengths in this area, with a particular focus on projects that document the people, places, and events of Louisville and Kentucky We are particularly interested in collecting the work of diverse photographers from a range of backgrounds.
Maintained in support of the teaching program in the Allen R. Hite Art Institute as well as for exhibitions, this collection contains original prints by photographers who have used photography as a medium for artistic expression.
Current collections: The Fine Print Collection includes work by Ansel Adams, Shelby Lee Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Harry Callahan, Julia Margaret Cameron, Peter Henry Emerson, Betty Hahn, Lewis Hine, Gertrude Kasebier, Andre Kertesz, Helen Levitt, Danny Lyon, Vivian Maier, Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Cranston Ritchie, Aaron Siskind, Jerry Uelsman, Edward Weston, Minor White, and Gary Winogrand.
Desired collecting level: While funding limitations continue to constrain purchases, ASC seeks to enhance this collection with the work of more contemporary photographers.
Archives and Special Collections provides resources for study and research on LGBTQ-related topics. These materials, which include organizational records, personal papers, books, periodicals, videos, and realia, are used to support faculty and student research, as well as research by the community writ large.
Current collections: LGBTQ-related collections include the Williams Nichols Collection, which emphasizes regional movements and organizations based in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee; the records of the Fairness Campaign; the records of VOICES of Kentuckiana; and the Laundry Book, a 1920s compilation of holograph and typescript essays, poems and watercolors that documents an artistic community of young people, including allusions to homosexual relationships and potential prosecution.
Desired collecting level: ASC seeks to build on the existing foundation of collections, and seeks to collect broadly to document the region in depth. We seek to strengthen the voices of our trans communities, in particular.
The rare books collections emphasize literature, history, and popular culture. They also include fragile materials and some materials printed in Louisville and likely to become rare or ephemeral in future, as well as texts relating to photographic history. These materials are used frequently in support of classroom teaching, for exhibitions, and by researchers from within the University as well as the larger community.
Current collections: Areas of strength for our rare books collections include Irish Literary Renaissance literature, rare mathematics and astronomy, LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) studies, and authors Edgar Rice Burroughs, Graham Greene and J.D. Salinger.
Desired collecting level: We look to add significantly to our collections relating to LGBTQ studies. While funding has significantly constrained purchases, we seek to further build our rare mathematics and astronomy collections, particularly with significant works by mathematicians, physicists and astronomers representing more diversity. We welcome rare books that document life in the Louisville Metro area. Because of the existing size and exhaustiveness of our Edgar Rice Burroughs-related collections, we seek to add very selectively in that area. Significant comprehensive collections which provide primary source support for instructional programs will also be considered.
As "The Memory of the University," the Archives preserves and makes available for research the official records of the University of Louisville, one of the oldest municipal universities in the United States, in accordance with state and federal law and university policy. The Archives also documents the “unofficial” life of the University, such as student life outside the classroom. In addition to satisfying state requirements for the preservation of government agency records, these materials are used by faculty and students for teaching and research. Staff use these records for administrative purposes, including histories of their units. The wider community uses them for research, including genealogical research.
Current collections: Strongest from the mid-20th century to the present. Records from the earliest days of the University, and of its predecessors, are scant.
Desired collecting level: State records schedules mandate the permanent retention of some University records. We collect selectively beyond those requirements, where materials have historical value even if they are not considered permanent in an official sense. We seek representative collections documenting student life and faculty, staff, and alumni. In this area, the voices of white, male, and straight students remain privileged, as a result of cultural norms and systems. We are thus particularly interested in collections that help tell other stories of the student and employee experience. Similarly, the experiences of faculty and administrative staff tend to be well-represented in our current collection, and those of staff are under-represented, and we seek to fix that gap.
The following is a list of types of materials we do not accept. Materials may be considered out of scope because of they do not align with our geographical focus, or because they require conservation or preservation conditions we cannot provide. Our goal is to have primary source materials available in a repository where they are most likely to be used, appreciated, and well taken care of, even if that is not Archives and Special Collections. In some cases, material is considered out of scope because it is not rare or unique, such as readily-available mass-produced publications.
Please note that this list is not exhaustive.
If you are a University of Louisville faculty member and are interested in donating your papers and/or books, we have a guide just for you. Please see Transfer Guidelines for Faculty Papers.