Special Collections & University Archives
Call Special Collections at (775) 682-5665.
The Special Collections and University Archives Department houses, preserves, and provides access to unique, specialized, and historically significant resources to support research, teaching and learning at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Members of the public are welcome to use the collections.
Most of the materials in Special Collections pertain to the history and cultures of Nevada and the Great Basin. University Archives preserves the history of the university in documents, photographs, books, and memorabilia.
Images of Lake Tahoe
Nevada in Maps
Just Passin' Through
Special Collections Search
The catalog lists collections in the Special Collections Department and University Archives, as well as books and other materials the library owns or that you may access.
This keyword search looks for words IN the title, author, subjects and notes in the catalog record.
For more search options, search the Library Catalog directly.
More information about the Photograph Collection
Manuscript Finding Aids
More information about Manuscript Finding Aids
More information about Architectural Records
Special Collections News
Online Local History
Two recent new projects have come to fruition in Special Collections. An online exhibit on the interesting history of the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics is now up. Special Collections also has a new blog to share local history stories we encounter in our collections of manuscripts, photographs and other materials. Recent blog posts are:
- Operation Haylift
- The Last Ditch Campaign
- Water in the Tahoe Basin
- Nevada, Fossils, and the 1893 World’s Fair
- What Went Up is Coming Down
Extended Hours: Second Saturdays
Special Collections is now open from 1 – 5 p.m. on the second Saturday of each month during spring semester for students and other researchers. The expanded schedule is an experiment to gauge the interest of our visitors. Weekend parking is free in the Whalen Parking Garage near the library, and in metered lots. We hope to see some new and familiar faces in the reading room during the extended hours on these days: March 8th; April 12th; May 10th
Highlights of 2013
2013 was a significant year for Special Collections. In addition to our daily operations during which we provide dedicated, customized research assistance to our users, process and describe manuscript and photograph collections and create on-site and online exhibits, these are some of the milestones we reached:
- Jacquelyn Sundstrand, our Manuscripts Librarian, was nominated by President Obama and approved by the U.S. Senate to serve a 5-year term on the board of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. See the Nevada News article for more information.
- In other staff news, Kimberly Roberts received her master's degree in History and began a new position as our Photo Curator. Jessica Maddox, our Library Assistant, began a master's degree program in Library Science at San Jose State University.
- The university's yearbook, the Artemisia, is now available online, thanks to a grant from the Sloan Foundation and the efforts of Betty Glass, our University Archivist.
- The long-awaited online archive of oral history transcripts was completed.
- Over 50,000 of our digital items are now available in the Digital Public Library of America.
- A new Special Collections blog was launched and our Facebook page gained followers.
- Several popular exhibits and well-attended events were sponsored by the department throughout the year(see below).
We are looking forward to another excellent year in 2014, providing online access to more of our materials and making them easier to find, and developing exhibits and events to help celebrate Nevada's 150th anniversary of statehood. Watch for the launch of the Reno Historical mobile app in the early spring. Happy New Year!
Can You Dig It?
“Can You Dig It? Building Nevada,” is currently on display on the third floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. The exhibit highlights historical materials from Special Collections, illustrating the larger-than-life, ambitious projects that built the infrastructure for farming, mining, transportation, and the development of cities and a state university.
The current exhibit is the first in a series of three Special Collections exhibits celebrating Nevada’s 150 years of statehood with the fascinating stories of Nevada’s transformation from a territory to the state we enjoy today. The three exhibits are scheduled during the year leading up to Nevada’s official 150th anniversary on October 31, 2014.Through photographs, maps, unpublished papers, rare publications, and artifacts, the exhibit focuses on
- The grand 6-mile Sutro Tunnel that drained and ventilated mines in the 1870s;
- The massive lumbering operations that entombed magnificent Sierra timber in Comstock mines;
- The Virginia & Truckee and Carson & Colorado Railroads;
- The Newlands Project that opened up tens of thousands of desert acres to irrigation;
- Hoover Dam, with original oil paintings of construction scenes by Maynard Dixon;
- Reno’s development, from the origins and growth of the University of Nevada, the development of Virginia Street, to its public transportation system and the city’s celebration of the Transcontinental Highway Exposition of 1927.
The exhibit is open to the public 9-5 Monday through Friday through January; admission is free. For more information about the exhibit and Professor William Rowley's related talk, Nevada. . . “This Territory . . . Not Worth Living In” read the December 12th Reno News and Review article.
The Art of Gaming +
The Special Collections department at the University Libraries invites you to an exhibit showcasing over 80 pieces of imaginative and whimsical interpretations of gambling and casino life, along with conceptual and advertising art of the industry. The show centers around sculptures that were commissioned by the Stremmel Gallery for Harrah’s in 1995. It also features the artistry of slot machines, casino shows, showgirls, neon signs, historical photos and more.
The exhibit will be located throughout the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center and open for viewing during regular library hours.
Opening reception: Sunday, July 7, 2013 3–5 p.m.
Meet the artists, guided tours, light refreshments and commemorative booklet.
Featuring these artists and collections:
- Bob Adams
- Kathleen Akers
- Joan Arrizabalaga
- Dwight Davidson
- Paul DiPasqua
- Mary Lee Fulkerson
- Mick Sheldon
- Peter Shire
- Therman Statom
- Larry Williamson
- Will Durham neon signs
- Karen Burns showgirl costumes
- Mistinguett showgirl art
- IGT conceptual drawings
- Special Collections photographs
- Marshall Fey collection
- Joe McKenna gambling ephemera
- Steve Stremmel slot machines
Staking a Claim on Education
Closing June 11.
Stop by and see the new exhibit in Special Collections and in the Whittemore Gallery on the first floor of the Knowledge Center. Exhibit cases on the third floor tell the stories of "tiny schools," rural schools, early school districts in Northern Nevada, Reno schools, Indian schools, Bishop Whitaker's exclusive finishing school for girls, the first kindergarten in Reno, the College of Education, and continuing education opportunities for early teachers.
Historical photographs of schools and students illustrate the exhibits and decorate the walls. "Teachers who made a difference" are honored in the gallery niches on the first floor.
Read the Nevada Today news article.
Dishin' the Old Political Dirt
What Really Happened in Nevada Politics
Get a glimpse into Nevada's political past as a panel of former Nevada politicians discuss the events, the people and the decisions behind the state's political scene—all from an insider's perspective. We don't know quite what will come out during the discussion, but we know we'll hear things we haven't heard or read before!
- Richard H. Bryan—Former Nevada Attorney General, Governor, and U. S. Senator.
- Patricia D. Cafferata—Attorney, member of the Nevada Assembly, and the first woman to hold the office of Nevada State Treasurer (1982-1986)
- Keith Lee (Moderator)—Attorney, lobbyist, political operative and former campaign manager
- Marlene Lockard—Chief of staff serving under Governor Richard H. Bryan, and as Senator Bryan's State Director
- Sue Wagner—Member of Nevada Assembly and Senate, and first woman to hold the office of Nevada Lieutenant Governor (1991-1995)
This event is brought to you by the Special Collections department, in conjunction with their current exhibit "Politics of Our Past."
Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 3pm
Admission & Parking: Free
Wells Fargo Auditorium
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, 1st Floor
Seating is limited, please RSVP:
- call Special Collections at 775-682-5665; or
- email email@example.com
Nevada Writers Hall of Fame: 25th anniversary
Special Collections has been involved in several ways with preparations for the gala event on November 8th celebrating the first 25 years of the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. Due to a large response, the event itself has been moved to the Raggio Building, but a special exhibit featuring some of the Hall of Fame authors and their works is located in the Whittemore Gallery on the first floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. Special Collections also contributed photographs and biographical information to a commemorative booklet that will be available at the event. A Special Collections intern, Amelia Thibault, has been updated the bibliographies for Hall of Fame writers. Photo from the Virginia Coffman papers in Special Collections.
Happy Anniversary, Phi Kappa Phi!
An exhibit case near the south entrance of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center features University Archives photographs and documents relating to the University of Nevada, Reno chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi honor society, which this year celebrates its 100th anniversary on campus. Many of the students and faculty who were inducted into the society are well-known figures in Nevada history.
New Exhibit: Politics of Our Past
Through the use of selected photographs and manuscript materials held in Special Collections, this third floor exhibit highlights Nevada's democratic processes and the decisions made that influenced our future. It celebrates the candidates and their successful, as well as unsuccessful, campaigns for public office at the various levels of government. As usual, admission is free! Hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Call us for more information at 775-682-5665.
University Archives Guides are Searchable!
Reading Room Hours Extended
The Special Collections Reading Room is now open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Jessica Maddox, our new Library Assistant III, will help staff the service desk on a regular basis.
We are pleased to welcome Jess to her new position. She is no stranger to the department and our researchers, having been a student assistant for four years and then a temporary, part-time staff member.
Special Collections goes Social
A Facebook page for Special Collections keeps our researchers and friends up to date on the latest events, exhibits, and new collections. Facebook users who "like" the page will get updates in their news feeds. If you prefer Twitter, you can follow @unrSpC to receive our Facebook updates as tweets.Facebook pages for University of Nevada Alumni Joe McDonald and Leola Lewis continue to share the latest news from the campus and town in 1913, as Leola begins her teaching job in a one-room school south of Reno and Joe returns to the university as a Junior after working in Tonopah in the mining industry for the summer. Leola currently has 810 fans and Joe has 769.
Closing Soon: Far Out! The University Art Scene | Reno, Nevada 1960–1975
The current Special Collections exhibition will close September 9th. Far Out, featuring the works of 35 local artists active on the University art scene in the 1960s and early 1970s, is located throughout the Knowledge Center. Pick up a free copy of the 68-page accompanying booklet, made possible by a grant from Nevada Humanities and a gift from Molly Toral. Information about the artists and their scene is also available in our Online Exhibit.
Sagebrush Conversations with Local Researchers
In conjunction with our current exhibit "Where the Sage Meets the Sky," Special Collections is proud to host Sagebrush Conversations, a series of stimulating free talks relating to the Great Basin environment by eight distinguished local authors and researchers. All sessions will be held in the Faculty and Graduate Room on the 4th floor of the Knowledge Center, and free parking is available. More information
- Sunday, Feb. 26, 3:00 p.m.
-"Mapping the Great Basin" Linda, Newman, UNR Geoscience & Map Librarian Emerita
-"Searching the Big Empty," William L. Fox, Director, Center of Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art
- Wednesday, Feb. 29, 7:00 p.m.
"Collecting Testimonials About Wild Nevada," Scott Slovic, Director, UNR Core Writing Program, English Dept., and Roberta Moore, Ranger (retired), Great Basin National Park
- Wednesday, March 7, 7:00 p.m.
"Photographing and Mapping the Black Rock Desert," Peter Goin, UNR Professor & Chair, Art Dept., and Paul Starrs, UNR Professor & Chair, Geography Dept.
- Sunday, March 11, 3:00 p.m.
-"Nevada's Changing Wildlife Habitat," Sherman Swanson, UNR Professor, Department of Environmental & Resource Sciences
-"Nevada's Environmental Legacy," James W. Hulse, UNR Professor of History Emeritus
Where the Sage Meets the Sky: Great Basin Landscapes
Opening in October-and running through April 20, 2012, the Special Collections Department hosts an exhibit offering a wide-ranging view of Nevada's landscapes: Where the Sage Meets the Sky: Great Basin Landscapes. Through the use of maps, photographs, films, letters and writings from Special Collections, the exhibit presents views of Nevada's past still relevant to today's understanding of our extreme, yet beautiful land. The exhibit is free and open to the public. Coming in 2012: "Sagebrush Conversations" with local experts and authors.
Edw Martinez, former chair and emeritus faculty member of the Art Department and an acclaimed printmaker, is famous for his annual Valentine prints. University Archives now has a set of these Valentines, dating back to 1974, thanks to a donation by Jim McCormick (another former Art Dept. chair and emeritus faculty member and acclaimed artist) and his wife, Loretta Terlizzi.
A small exhibit in the breezeway on the second (main) floor of the Knowledge Center through February provides more information, along with commentary by Nevada Writers Hall of Fame author William Fox. Exhibit hours vary according to the Knowledge Center schedule. Other Martinez valentines will be on display in the Special Collections Reading Room, Monday through Friday, 9am to 4pm, through February 17th.
Happy 100th Birthday, Manzanita Lake! A New Exhibit
In late November, 1911, a campus dam was completed, creating a lake in place of a small pond. Since that momentous occasion, the popular Manzanita Lake has been a center of tradition and recreation and a destination for relaxation, romance, and movie making. For historical information, see The Jewel of the University of Nevada, Reno, by public history student Douglas Boedenauer or an article in Nevada Today. Contemporary and historical photographs of the lake are included in the Campus Images collection.
A small exhibit in the breezeway on the second (main) floor of the Knowledge Center through February provides photographs and interesting facts about the history of the lake. Exhibit hours vary according to the Knowledge Center schedule. For more information contact the exhibit curator, Betty Glass.
Book Artist and Printer Peter Koch Featured
Books and prints by the well-known book designer and printer Peter Koch of San Francisco are on exhibit in the Whittemore Gallery on the first floor of the Knowledge Center through January. Visit the artist's website for additional information about his work, or contact Bob Blesse, professor of Art and the exhibit curator, for more information. Exhibit hours vary according to the Knowledge Center schedule. Peter Koch is well-represented in our rich Book Arts collection.
Artown Exhibit: Post-War Bohemians in Northern Nevada
Mid-century Northern Nevada art was full of surprises. From July 1st through September 16th, Special Collections is sponsoring a showing of abstract and experimental works that emerged from an active arts community after World War II. Works by sixteen Northern Nevada artists are displayed on the upper floors of the Knowledge Center, and photographs and papers from our collections, in the Special Collections exhibit area, offer insights into the artists' social and creative lives.
An online exhibit and a 44-page booklet enhance the exhibit, providing previously-unpublished information about the artists and their milieu. The booklet and a self-guided itinerary are available at various locations in the Knowledge Center. Follow us on Twitter to receive tweets about the 16 bohemian artists during the last 16 days of Artown, beginning on July 16th.
As part of Reno's Artown celebration, on July 9th sons and daughters of some of the artists shared remembrances of their younger lives during a panel discussion in the Knowledge Center, and a short film from 1949, "What is Modern Art" was screened.
Update: This exhibit was spotlighted on the KRNV news. Watch the news report here.
Budget News and Service Hours
An agreement between the Library administration and the University administration resulted in the removal of Special Collections from the list of campus closures proposed by the Provost to meet the budget deficit. Special Collections will NOT close, but one part-time staff position was transfered to another department. The reduction in staffing requires an adjustment of the reading room hours. The new hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Other hours are possible by appointment. A strong show of support from faculty, students, researchers and donors of Special Collections was instrumental in the successful outcome.
New Exhibit: WOW! You Have That Here?
Treasures and Uses of Special Collections & University Archives
A new exhibit showcases just a few of the exceptional items in Special Collections including very old treasures such as a cuneiform tablet and a book by Petrarch printed in 1478 in a convent in Italy, as well as rare and unique items such as the Bible left in a California cave by an emigrant during an overland journey in 1849, the beautifully bound Book of the Oath signed by all UNR graduates from 1920 to 1965, books relating to Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), and a 1908 photo of Reno taken from a balloon. Also on display are many of the books by researchers who have used photographs, manuscripts, maps, and other materials in Special Collections.
The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, 9 am to 5 pm on the third floor of the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center through June 23rd.
Dan De Quille: Correspondent
Special Collections recently received a mini-grant from Nevada Humanities to participate in a project to uncover the importance of Dan De Quille as a correspondent. De Quille (pen name of William Wright) was one of Nevada's best-known authors, who until recently has been remembered mainly for his contributions to the Virginia City Territorial Enterprise, his friendship with Mark Twain, and for The Big Bonanza, his famous book about Comstock mining. The grant pays for a student assistant to transcribe newly-collected and largely unknown handwritten personal letters to and from his friends, family and acquaintances, and "correspondent" accounts in various newspapers from the late nineteenth century.
Remembering The Misfits
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of its release, Special Collections sponsored a screening of The Misfits, a timeless movie that was filmed in Northern Nevada and was full of Nevada themes and Nevada characters. Reno's well-known film critic Robin Holabird shared fascinating stories about the filming. After the screening, Robin moderated a discussion with three members of the audience who were involved with the movie and its sets, along with Nevada's former State Archivist, Guy Rocha, on hand to dispel myths about the movie. A video of Robin's presentation and the discussion is now available online.
Shop Online in Special Collections
This holiday season, Special Collections makes it easy to tailor an inexpensive gift for the history enthusiast on your list.Choose a historical image (or series) from a special selection of our most popular photographs, and order a high-resolution digital copy online. Then, transfer the image to your computer and edit, print (or have printed) and frame a customized, lasting, hand-crafted gift. Selected images are restored and ready for you to print for an additional small fee. We also offer new and out-of-print used Nevada-related books and UNR yearbooks on our shopping site.
In 1911, young Joe McDonald, a freshman at the University of Nevada, probably would have had a Facebook page if he could have. Special Collections provides a new opportunity, 99 years later, for Joe (who passed away in 1971 after a successful career as a reporter, then editor, and finally the publisher of the Nevada State Journal) to have that page. A rich supply of source materials from the University Archives, the Joseph F. McDonald, Sr. photographs and manuscript collection, and his oral history allowed Drew Gerthoffer ('09 History) to project how Joe would have participated in social networking. Within a month on Facebook, Joe already had 22 friends, most of them his enthusiastic descendents. Visit his page on Facebook to friend him and keep up with his past.
Revisiting Will James Haunts and Legacy
A group of about 20 local history enthusiasts met at the Knowledge Center on Sunday, October 3rd for a Will James afternoon. After a screening of the documentary film "The Man They Call Will James" by local filmmaker Gwen Clancy, a car caravan transported participants back in time to the places in the Washoe Valley where Will James lived, worked as a ranch hand, wrote, and drew, including a rare opportunity to see the cabin where he and his wife Alice made their first home and where he wrote his Newbery-award-winning book Smoky. Tour guides were Gwen Clancy and Pat Klos. After the auto tour, participants visited Special Collections to view our entire Will James collections of photographs, letters, manuscripts, books, and original art.
New Exhibit: Honoring the Horse
Exhibit areas on the first and third floors pay tribute to the horses that have helped shape Nevada's history and image, and some of the people who were their advocates and storytellers. Cases and walls in the Whittemore Gallery on the first floor feature horses in books and movies, including The Misfits, filmed in the Reno area 50 years ago. On the third floor in the Special Collections Department, exhibit areas feature horses on guest ranches and at summer camp and portray the many contributions of working horses. Viewers will find information on the 150th anniversary of the Pony Express, rodeo horses, and various horse breeds, as well as horse-oriented student organizations at UNR. Also on display are materials relating to the historical role of Reno's "Wild Horse Annie" and local photographer Gus Bundy in the fight to protect wild horses in the West from inhumane treatment. The first floor exhibits are open when the building is open. Third floor exhibits are open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (above photo by Gus Bundy).
University Budget News
As many people have heard, Special Collections is one of the units on campus that would be closed as part of the Provost's proposal to reduce expenses to cover the university's budget shortfall of $59 million.The department is preparing a response that is due April 1st to the Curricular Review Committee charged to evaluate the proposal. For more information, please contact Donnie Curtis.
Online Exhibit Highlights Special Collections Photos of Historic Fight
Special Collections and the Nevada Historical Society have pooled their resources to present an informative online exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Johnson-Jeffries fight in July 1910 in Reno. The exhibit highlights 140 photographs from both collections, including a 360 degree panorama of the crowd in the stands prior to the fight. In conjunction with the exhibit, the library is sponsoring free showings of two films, the Ken Burns documentary Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson in two parts on July 19th and 20th, and The Great White Hope, a 1970 biopic starring James Earl Jones as Jack Johnson on July 22. All showings begin at 6:00 p.m.