CSUF University Archives & Special Collection department houses rare resources

In Features, Lifestyle, Top Stories
(Bailey Carpenter / Daily Titan)

Whether students are researching a psychology paper, looking to browse first edition sci-fi manuscripts or in search of archival videos of the LA Riots, the University Archives & Special Collections department has resources to help.

Whatever the discipline, both grads and undergrads have access to the department located in the south wing of the Pollak Library.

“For graduate students to be able to do this kind of hands-on archival research is something that no other graduate program offers, unless you’re in a Ph.D. program,” said Associate English professor Ellen Caldwell, Ph.D. “For M.A. students to be able to do this is pretty amazing. For undergraduate English majors to be able to do this is unheard of.”

Among the archives is documentation of all the daily operations of CSUF since the department’s establishment in 1967. Campus publications, annual reports, meeting minutes and photographs are available for viewing in both physical and digital formats. Students reporting on campus trends can find this section useful for comparative research.

Patricia Prestinary, Special Collections librarian and archivist, said CSUF, along with other schools in the Cal State system, are required to have certain university records on site, and they are used all the time by faculty and students.

Political science, anthropology and history majors can make use of the Freedom Center, a division of Special Collections containing 20th century political, social and religious movements. Researchers have access to original multimedia documentation of the most controversial activism events in recent history.

The older, more rare materials are housed In the Special Collections area, which holds unique sources not found in the archives or in the Freedom Center. It includes rare books, manuscript collections, fine press books and local history collections, Prestinary said.

The extensive sci-fi collections containing the original manuscripts from Philip K. Dick and Frank Herbert are notable as well. The library stores early 20th century pop culture icons like “Amazing Stories,” “Weird Tales” and the production scripts of the original “Star Trek” television series.

English major Criss Vo discovered Special Collections while researching for a class assignment.

“Finding our way through that forbidden part of the library was really cool because it felt like you were in a different part of campus that no one really goes into,” Vo said.

For students with hectic schedules, researching in the archive’s Reading Room may not be convenient. Hours are limited and so is space, as the Reading Room can only support four researchers at once. The Pollak Library’s new online public access catalogue, OneSearch, holds most of the university archives and the Freedom Center materials. Other collections may also be viewed by appointment.

For faculty, instruction sessions are available to guide students in researching and evaluating primary sources. Sessions typically run 50 to 90 minutes and are requested via the library’s website. Class field trips also introduce students to sensory research opportunities. The class must view the tutorials to learn archival research etiquette before viewing materials.

“(Visits to the archives) have been wonderful experiences for students,” Caldwell said. “They were enthusiastic and thrilled about the possibility of being able to work with materials that otherwise they would never be able to see.”

While the south wing of the library is under renovation, access to the University Archives & Special Collections department may be confusing. However, the website provides a map.  as Informed librarians are also willing to answer questions. While student awareness of Special Collections is increasing through outreach and instructional sessions, there are still many who don’t realize the benefits of archival research.

“It’s very underrated because the library is used all the time but not the Special Collections. To get really nice, raw, rare material and have it in your essay, facilitation or conference, I feel like that’s special,” Vo said. “It makes me want to go back into the Special Collections place and see what else there is and what’s new.”

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