Academic Program Support

Special Collections supports a broad range of research and teaching in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Materials in Special Collections are collected because they hold long-term, historical research potential; possess unique physical characteristics, such as binding or printing; are seminal, original works in a relevant area of study; or are inherently rare or scarce. Particular items acquired will vary considerably according to the intrinsic qualities of the material itself, or the research needs of a particular program. Whatever the rationale — rarity, unique physical characteristics, seminal nature of contents, or particular significance to an academic program — all materials in the collection are deemed to have especial value to UWM academic programs. The purpose of Special Collections, therefore, is to preserve these materials within a secure and climate-controlled environment where their availability in usable condition to the UWM community and to the general public can be ensured for current and future generations. Special Collections is a department in the Division of Archives and Special Collections. In order to highlight its collections and encourage its use by students, scholars, and others, the Division of Archives and Special Collections offers public services such as lectures, exhibits, and publications.

Collection Level

Advanced study.

Collection Profile

Collection development in Special Collections entails cooperation with the library’s other collections, but most especially with the UWM Archives. Areas of particular collecting emphasis include:

American Nursing History

The UWM History of American Nursing Collection documents the rise and development of American nursing issues, practice, and education through primary printed sources published from the mid-nineteenth century to the late 1950s. Areas of concentration within the collection include early technical skills and general nursing care; the legal and ethical aspects of nursing and its development; obstetrics, pediatrics, and family planning; community and public health; nursing education; nursing and the military; Wisconsin and Milwaukee-area nursing history. Developed through both gift and purchase.

Art & Architecture

Materials in this collecting area include a broad range of topics that support the research, teaching, and making of visual art and architectural design. Materials relating to Frank Lloyd Wright, including primary and secondary material on his works and projects, are collected as comprehensively as possible. Developed through both gift and purchase.

Aviation History

The George Hardie Aviation and Aerospace History Collection documents the development of modern aviation and aircraft, especially as they relate to contemporary society and popular imagination, through primary printed sources published from the 1890s to the mid-1960s. Areas of focus include military, commercial, instructional, and hobbyist aspects of aviation. Developed through gift and non-state funds.

Book Arts

The UWM Book Arts Collection endeavors to document and demonstrate the use of the book form as an art medium. As such, it forms part of the larger Printing & Publishing History concentration in Special Collections. The book arts collection focuses primarily on examples of artists’ book works from the late nineteenth century to the present. Emphasis is placed on examples of American book arts, especially those of the Upper Midwest, although selected examples of non-American book work, especially British, are also represented. The collection includes artist-designed and handmade books; examples of fine printing; uses of handmade papers; examples of fine binding; innovative book structures; typographic design and experimentation. Emphasis is placed on the multiple or editioned work, although one-of-a-kind artist’s books are selectively acquired, especially those produced locally or regionally. Collection development is through gift and purchase.

Civil War Regimental Histories

This collection documents combat and support units on both sides of the American Civil War through primary printed sources published from the mid-nineteenth century to the early 1920s, or within the lifetime of those who would have witnessed or participated in the conflict. Areas of concentration within the collection include combat, medical, administrative, and civilian aspects of the war. Materials include military unit histories and rosters; published diaries, memoirs, and personal records; official government publications; reports, proceedings, and transactions of military societies and unit reunions; biographies of individuals engaged in the war. Developed through both gift and purchase.

Dogs and Dog Breeding

The John S. Best Collection focuses on the breeding, raising and showing of dogs, primarily in the United States and Great Britain, through materials published from the 1880s to the1970s. Collection development is through gift and non-state funds.

Jewish Studies

Materials in this collecting area document Jewish life, culture, and religious thought, primarily through materials published from the 1840s to the 1960s. Materials outside these parameters are acquired selectively, such as finely-produced facsimiles of Hebrew illuminated manuscripts, or signed, first, and special editions of novels by contemporary Israeli or other Jewish writers whose works reflect Jewish life and thought. Developed through gift and purchase.

Jewish Latin America Collection

This collection, supported by the Louis P. and Ethel S. Setlick Fund for the Study of Jewish Society and Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, acquires published, primary-source materials that serve as documentary evidence of Jewish life in Latin American and Caribbean culture, from newspapers and announcements to original community-generated accounts to first and special editions of fiction and literary works.

The collection documents both historical and contemporary Jewish culture in Latin America and the Caribbean, and includes not only Jewish-generated materials, but also non-Jewish responses to Jewish communities, including anti-Semitism and pro-Jewish literature. Literary works include first and special editions by Jewish authors that focus primarily on Jewish themes.

The collection holds materials in several languages, including Spanish, French, Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, and English. Generally, the collection does not hold secondary-source materials. The collection is developed through both purchase and gift.

Native American and Hawaiian Literature Collection 

This collection endeavors to be a comprehensive collection of American Indian and Native Hawaiian thought and literary effort consisting of materials written or created by native peoples of the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and Canada from all historical and contemporary periods. Materials in the collection include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, journalism, transcriptions of oral literature, and native language materials. Special Collections does not collect materials on Native American and Hawaiian themes and issues by non-Native writers, except in the case of anthologies, edited collections, translations, and collaborations with Native authors, where the intellectual content of the publication is primarily of American Indian or Native Hawaiian creation. The collection is developed through both gift and purchase.

Irish Literature 

This collection has emphases in three areas: eighteenth-century Irish imprints; materials from the Irish Literary Renaissance; and contemporary Irish poetry, particularly from Irish small presses. Developed through gift and purchase.

Shakespeare Research Collection

Originally developed to support the Modern Language Association’s New Variorum Shakespeare Project, the Shakespeare Research Collection consists mainly of editions of the works of William Shakespeare from the Second Folio onward. Developed through gift and non-state funds only.

Science Fiction Serials

This collection consists of comprehensive runs of science fiction periodicals published from the 1920s to the 1980s. Developed through gift and non-state funds only.

Small Press Publishers

This collection focuses on literary works published in the southeastern Wisconsin region. Developed through gift and purchase.

Comic Books

The collection of Comic Books consists of thousands of comic and graphic-novel serial titles mainly from the late 1960s to the present. Developed through gift and non-state funds only.

Martín Fierro

The Walter Sava collection on Martín Fierro consists of multiple editions of José Hernández’s nineteenth-century epic poem on the legendary Argentine gaucho, Martín Fierro. Developed through gift and non-state funds only.

LGBTQ+ Collection

Materials in this collecting area document pre-Stonewall gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer life and culture, as well as the historical and contemporary Milwaukee-area LGBTQ+ community. Materials in this area are generally published before 1969, with the exception of local publications and pre-Stonewall autobiographical experiences. There is a particular emphasis on gay and lesbian fiction, especially pulp fiction and romance novels. Developed through gift and purchase.

Printing and Publishing History and the History of the Book

This broad category encompasses several areas of collecting emphasis, including the UWM Book Arts Collection described above, that demonstrate the development and uses of the book from the manuscript through the printing traditions. Many of Special Collections’ pre-nineteenth century imprints fall within this collecting rubric. There are several significant collecting areas, including the following:

Manuscript Facsimiles of medieval and Renaissance originals document early uses of the book form. These are collected selectively, primarily through gift and non-state funds.

The collection of Incunabula, or books printed before 1501, offers examples of the earliest printed books. These are collected very selectively, primarily through gifts and non-state funds.

The J. Max Patrick Literature Collection focuses primarily on seventeenth-century imprints. Additions to this collection are made mainly through gift and non-state funds.

The collection of Milwaukee German-Language Imprints attempts to be comprehensive in documenting Milwaukee as a center for German-language publishing in the United States. There is a particular emphasis on collecting the imprints established by George Brumder. This collecting area is developed through gift and purchase.

Social Justice, Labor, and Radical Movements

The Fromkin Memorial Collection acquires monographs, pamphlets, newspapers and similar published materials documenting the history of the quest for social justice in the United States from approximately the end of the Civil War (1865) through the end of World War II (1945). Particular areas of emphasis include communism, socialism, the American labor movement, prison reform, women’s rights and suffrage, the temperance movement, and civil rights. Collection development is through gift and purchase.

UWM Authors

The UWM Authors Collection is intended to be a comprehensive collection of monographs and of audio, video or film production that have been written, co-authored, edited, translated, illustrated, compiled, performed, recorded, or directed by UWM faculty or staff while they are employed at UWM. Developed through gift and purchase.

Women’s Studies

This broad collecting emphasis cuts across all of the collecting areas detailed above in an effort to demonstrate the changing roles of women in all facets of human endeavor. There is a special emphasis on collecting materials that represent the struggle for women’s social, political, civil, military, sexual, reproductive, and employment rights, and that demonstrate women’s creative and intellectual activity. Developed through gift and purchase.


Gifts will be accepted and added to the collection only if they:
1. Relate to the collecting agenda or academic program as outlined in this collection policy
2. Enhance the quality and usefulness of the collection
3. Are in very good to fine condition
4. Do not pose any preservation hazards (e.g., mold, insect infestation, dampness, etc.)

Special De-Selection Criteria

Materials in Special Collections undergo continuous evaluation by the Special Collections librarian to determine if they remain relevant for the collection. The librarian will consult with subject specialists as needed. To remain in the collection, all materials must meet two basic criteria as reflected in these questions:

1. Is this item of special value to the long-term teaching and research needs of a UWM program?
2. If so, are the needs of the program best served by preserving this item in its current (or better) condition in perpetuity?

If these questions are not answered affirmatively, then the librarian may identify the material for possible transfer to the appropriate collection within the library, or may have the material withdrawn entirely from the library collections. Exceptions may be made for rare or seminal material outside the scope of UWM programs, with the concurrence of the Library Director.

Another factor for withdrawal or transfer from the collection is Physical Condition:

1. If despite the best efforts at preservation, an item has physically deteriorated beyond renovation and usefulness
2. If the item poses a preservation hazard to other material (e.g., active mold, insect infestation, water damage, etc.)
3. If another copy of the same edition is acquired that is in better condition, and is a more favorable candidate for long-term preservation storage.


English language materials predominate. French, German, Hebrew, Irish, Italian, Latin, and Spanish are also represented.

Related Subject Collections

Africology, American Indian Studies, Anthropology, Architecture, Art, Art History, Classics, Comparative Literature, Comparative Study of Religion, Education, English, Film, Foreign Languages and Linguistics, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies, Health Sciences, Hebrew Studies, History, Jewish Studies, Library and Information Science, Nursing, Peace Studies, Philosophy, Sociology, Urban Studies, and Women’s Studies.