Gifts and Donations

Our Collection Development Mission

Archives and Special Collections serves as the repository for special collections materials at Mount Holyoke and supports a wide range of patrons including undergraduates, faculty, and other researchers whose work relies on primary source materials, including rare books, manuscripts, media, digital files, and archival records. 

Archives and Special Collections develops its collections primarily to support the curricular and research needs of the faculty and students of Mount Holyoke College; thus the collections encompass the broad sweep of a liberal arts education. The Head of Archives and Special Collections is primarily responsible for the development of the collections, in consultation with the department staff, colleagues in the Library, and members of the faculty.

Since 1996 the department has also been designated by the Board of Trustees as the repository for all records of the College of permanent historical value, and in support of that mission collects a wide range of materials documenting the history of the College, including records pertaining to academic programs and courses of instruction, academic departments and committees, administrators and administrative offices, and College museums. Further, the department collects a wide range of historical and biographical materials relating to students, alumnae, faculty, staff, and other individuals connected with the College.

Our collecting mission is:

1. To preserve the official records of administrators and administrative offices; academic programs and courses of instruction; and academic departments and committees, insofar as they have permanent historical value.   

2. To acquire, preserve, and provide access to a wide range of primary research materials in their original formats, including books, manuscripts, archives, audio-visual materials, objects, realia, and other items in support of the educational and research activities of our various constituencies.

Our mission to acquire and preserve materials is coupled with a strong commitment to outreach and access. Materials are described according to national standards established by the American Library Association and the Society of American Archivists. Archives and Special Collections curates exhibitions both in our physical space and online. We are committed to collaborating with the LITS Digital Assets and Preservation Services department to digitize collection materials and make them freely available online. We participate in a variety of social media platforms, including Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter, to highlight collection materials and to engage with our community. We regularly host group visits for tours and classroom instruction sessions, and we actively seek to collaborate with faculty and students to incorporate Archives and Special Collections materials into the undergraduate curriculum.

Archives and Special Collections' primary responsibility is to serve the research needs of Mount Holyoke College faculty and students. To this end, the department seeks to collect in subject areas receiving substantial and sustained attention within the College community, those representing ongoing departmental research interests, or those areas that are the focus of interdisciplinary programs.

Service to scholars on the national and international levels is also an important part of our mission. Archives and Special Collections seeks to play a role in the broader research community by building collections in areas not well covered by other repositories. Consequently, Archives and Special Collections draws visiting scholars to the Mount Holyoke campus and enhances the College’s overall reputation as a center for scholarship.

Subject Areas Collected
Throughout its history, the College has acquired interrelated collections of exceptional depth in various fields. These areas are described below, and form the core of our retrospective and ongoing collection development efforts.

College History
Existing Collection Strengths: From its founding in 1837, Mount Holyoke has played a unique and important role in the history of women’s higher education. In addition to our role as the official repository for College records of enduring value, we also seek to thoroughly document the history of student life and activities, the evolution of the College curriculum, and the activities of Mount Holyoke alumnae. Areas of particular strength include the development of College traditions, policies, athletic activities, and the debate over co-education. In addition to serving historians of the College, we aim to support the work of scholars of higher education more generally. 

Current Collecting Focuses: College history materials in the archives richly document Mount Holyoke’s founding, its major milestones, the development of the curriculum, and many aspects of student life. We actively acquire student correspondence, diaries, scrapbooks, photographs, photograph albums and ephemera from any period, as well as audio or motion picture recordings. We seek objects of various kinds insofar as they document student life, particularly if they are exhibitable. We selectively acquire students’ course notebooks, especially those from the 19th century. Because our coverage in most College publications is strong, we now generally accept only those issues or titles that fill in known gaps. We selectively acquire faculty papers if they demonstrate exceptional scholarly or teaching activity while a member of the Mount Holyoke faculty. Other topical areas of especially strong interest currently are: student activism; student diversity with regard to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, etc.; student-faculty collaboration, both academically and socially; and artistic expression on campus. We selectively collect materials related to the history of the town of South Hadley, with preference for materials with some direct link to College history.

Missionaries and Travel
Existing Collection Strengths: One of the goals of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary at its founding was that its graduates would serve as missionaries both within the United States and around the world. We hold extensive documentation of these activities in the form of diaries, letters, published books, and other archival material. In addition to the obvious religious activities, these materials also provide unique accounts of international travel and politics during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Current Collecting Focuses: We seek to add manuscript and published material related to missionary activities by Mount Holyoke College students and alumnae. Personal diaries, correspondence, and photographs are of particular interest in this area.

Types of Materials Collected
Archives and Special Collections collects books, journals, newspapers, yearbooks, annuals, manuscripts, archives, ephemeral materials, film, video, and a variety of other original materials. Emphasis is placed on acquiring items in their original states. Facsimiles are purchased, but sparingly. Most facsimiles should be purchased by the general stacks.

We accept archival collections that contain a very broad range of formats and material types including, but not limited to, paper documents, photographs, slides, film, computer files, sound recordings, and objects. 

Duplicate copies
Given the limitations on storage space for our collections, we cannot accept duplicate copies of items already held in Archives and Special Collections. Exceptions may be made in instances where a second copy has unique features, but the general rule is against adding redundant copies of published works. In the case of Mount Holyoke College publications and ephemera, we retain a limited number of copies of each item and are generally not interested in acquiring additional copies of yearbooks, class albums, student publications, etc.

Other Resources
Archives and Special Collections is complemented by nearby collections of rare materials and primary sources. Included among these other collections are the College Archives, Mortimer Rare Book Room, and the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College; the Archives & Special Collections at Amherst College; the Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Massachusetts; and the Archives at Hampshire College. Our goal is to develop our collections in such a way that we do not duplicate holdings of nearby institutions or enter into direct competition with them for collections and resources.

Why Donate?

The Archives and Special Collections collect the papers and records of individuals, institutions and organizations associated with Mount Holyoke College. The records are maintained as primary resources for teaching and research. The manuscript collections document the social history of this country and other countries primarily as seen through the eyes of women and the educators of women. The collections also document the social history of Mount Holyoke College through the letters, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks and course records of faculty and students. Each year these collections are consulted by thousands of researchers from around the world. With the donation of each new collection, we are able to the increase the breadth and depth of our resources to better serve the educational needs of the College and of scholars who are drawn to our collections due to Mount Holyoke's prominent place in the history of women's education. Each donation helps to enlarge the documentation not only of the effect of Mount Holyoke on the world, but of the effect of individuals on the institution itself.

The Archives and Special Collections collect rare books related to a wide variety of areas, fields and disciplines. The rare book collection serves as a primary resource for teaching and research conducted by student, faculty and other researchers. Donations to this collection, or monetary donations for the purchase of rare books, help us to increase the breadth and depth of our collections and thus allows us to better support the curricular needs of the College.

What Should I Donate?

While the Archives and Special Collections is always looking for complete collections that document the life and work on an individual or the history of an institution/organization associated with the College, we are also happy to receive single items as well. In general the Archives and Special Collections staff prefer to work closely with donors, prior to the donation of a collection, to determine what records or documents within their papers have continuing historic interest. The importance of records and documents diminish if they are removed, reordered or rearranged. Donors are encouraged to contact the Archives and Special Collections prior to sorting or rearranging materials they wish to donate.

Below are two lists of some types of materials that we collect. Please note that this list is not definitive and there may be other types of documents or records not included here that may have continuing research value.

Personal and Family Papers:

  • Letters
  • Diaries
  • Scrapbooks
  • Speeches
  • Research Notes
  • Lecture Notes
  • Syllabi
  • Still Images
  • Moving Images
  • Biographical Information
  • Genealogical Information
  • Professional Files
  • Audio Recordings

Institutional and Organization Records, including Student Organizations:

  • Articles of Incorporation
  • By-laws
  • Annual Reports
  • Correspondence
  • Meeting Minutes
  • Legal Documents
  • Financial Documents
  • Planning Documents
  • Press Releases
  • Publications
  • Still & Moving Images
  • Audio Recordings 

Rare Books

The Archives and Special Collections main rare book collections include: American history, illustrated editions of Dante Alighieri's Divina commedia, 19th century text books which are known to have been used in the courses of study at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, rare children's books, published works related to the Collège de 'pataphysique, Renaissance Science books, and fine press books. Because our collections cover more than these main areas, gifts of books that fall outside of these areas will be considered on an individual basis. Both small, single volume, or larger, multi-volume, donations will be considered.

How Do I Make A Donation?

The first step in making a donation is to contact the Archives and Special Collections. In cases where the donation is relatively local or is large in quantity, the Archives Special Collections staff may wish to see them before they are physically transferred.

Ownership is transferred when the donor signs a deed of gift. While the deed of gift is a standard document, it can be customized to suite the needs of individual donors. In most cases the Archives and Special Collections will not accept gifts unless the ownership and copyright are transferred to Mount Holyoke College.

Restrictions on Access

The Archives and Special Collections encourage full access to all collections. On occasion access to certain materials within a collection may be restricted for a set period of time. In these instances the Archives and Special Collections staff will discuss with the donor reasonable restrictions on access in accordance with the policies of the Archives and Special Collections.


Copyright usually belongs to the creator of records (letters, diaries, photographs, etc.). Donors may wish to consider transferring copyright of their papers to Mount Holyoke College. Transfer of copyright can greatly assist researchers who might wish to quote or cite references in the collection.

Monetary Appraisal for Tax Deductions

Donors may be able to take a tax deduction for the donation. Donors wishing to have more information on this matter should speak with either a tax consultant or an attorney. College policy prohibits the Archives and Special Collections from providing monetary valuations of collections. Donors wishing to hire an appraiser can contact the Archives and Special Collections for a list of for-hire appraisers.

Care for Collections

The Archives and Special Collections is managed by professional archivists and librarians whose first priority is preservation of and access to historic materials. The Archives and Special Collection staff arrange, describe and catalog collections to ensure ease of access by researchers.

Should a collection require repair or other conservation work the Archives and Special Collections will consult with professional conservators. No primary source materials circulate and only Archives and Special Collections staff may retrieve materials for researchers.

Monetary Donations

The cost of caring for, describing and giving access to rare and historic materials is extremely high. Donors are encouraged to consider making a monetary donation toward the arrangement, description and preservation of their donation.

Further Information

For further information on donating your papers or records to the Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, please contact Leslie Fields, the Head of Archives and Special Collections at:

Mailing Address: Mount Holyoke College
Archives and Special Collections
8 Dwight Hall
50 College Street
South Hadley, MA 01075