We've designed the following policies and procedures to ensure the wellbeing of our collections.

Reading Room Policies and Procedures

To ensure the wellbeing of our collections, we ask that you abide by the following policies and procedures:

  • To view materials housed in the Archives & Special Collections, schedule an appointment by emailing archives@davidson.edu. Once the appointment has been scheduled, we will ask you to complete a Registration Form. If you need to cancel or change your appointment, please let us know as soon as possible.
  • Access to materials is governed by our Terms of Access and Use.
  • You may request up to 10 boxes of materials (or the equivalent of artifacts or rare books) per appointment. We require at least 48 hours to pull materials.
  • When you arrive, you’ll be asked to leave coats, bags, food and drink, and other personal possessions in the lockers and coat rack outside the Reading Room.
  • You may bring pencils (not pens or markers), paper, notebooks, and approved personal computers, tablets, and phones into the Reading Room. Food and drink are not permitted.
  • You may view up to 2 boxes or 16 folders at one time. 
  • You may use pencil and paper or approved electronic devices to take notes. Photos of materials may be taken without a flash for personal research use only.
  • Items must be maintained in the order in which they are arranged. Out cards and flags are available for maintaining order and marking place in collections.
  • We will hold up to 5 archival boxes (or the equivalent of artifacts or rare books) for you for up to one week. You are responsible for noting materials you would like us to pull at a later date.

Terms of Access and Use


The Davidson College Archives & Special Collections is open to the public by appointment during the academic year and to college affiliates by appointment throughout the calendar year. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, outside researchers, and members of the community are provided equal terms of access to materials in the Archives & Special Collections. Our access and use policies and procedures are guided by the Guidelines on Access to Research Materials in Archives and Special Collections Libraries, a joint statement of the Society of American Archivists and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College & Research Libraries. These policies and procedures are designed to provide researchers with the greatest possible access to departmental materials while also protecting and preserving these special collections for future use. 

Terms of Access

Materials in the Archives & Special Collections are housed in closed stacks, do not circulate, and must be consulted by appointment during regular business hours in the Archives Office on the second floor of the E.H. Little Library. For those researchers unable to visit, a limited number of folders may be digitized according to our Services Catalog.

A growing number of items from our collections are born-digital or have been digitized; many of these can be accessed through Digital Davidson or Digital NC and others can be provided to researchers through a Google Drive link. In the case where a digital surrogate is available, it will be provided to researchers instead of the physical copy. Due to restrictions, some digital materials may only be viewed on site. 

Researchers who wish to view departmental materials must email archives@davidson.edu to schedule an appointment with at least 48 business-hours notice, complete the Registration Form, and agree to abide by these Terms of Access and Use and our Reading Room Policies and Procedures. 

Information about researchers’ work in the Archives & Special Collections, including their topics and materials referenced, is kept confidential and will not be shared outside our department without permission.

Access Restrictions

Some material held by the Archives & Special Collections is not accessible to researchers due to legal requirements, institutional mandates, condition of gift or deposit, or condition. The following categories of items have access restrictions:

  • Faculty Meeting Records: Minutes and supporting documents from faculty meetings are restricted for a period of fifty (50) years from the date of creation. Current Davidson College faculty are not limited by this restriction.
  • Presidential Records: Presidential records are restricted for a period of fifty (50) years from the date of creation. The college president and his or her appointees are not limited by this restriction. Requests from others to view these records must be requested to Archives & Special Collections staff and will require presidential approval.
  • Trustee Records: Trustee records are restricted for a period of seventy-five (75) years from the date of creation. Current Davidson College trustees are not limited by this restriction.
  • Confidential Information: Materials with confidential information are restricted to protect the privacy of individuals and to meet legal, institutional, and ethical mandates.  These include student records (protected by FERPA), personnel records, and items containing financial, legal, medical, or other personally identifiable information. When possible, we will redact confidential information from otherwise accessible collections. 
  • Unaccessioned and Unprocessed Collections: Collections must be accessioned before researchers are granted access to them. Unprocessed collections may be accessed in consultation with our staff and according to the terms of the donation or transfer agreement. 
  • Fragile Condition and Obsolete Format: Materials that are at risk of damage due to their condition may not be viewed by researchers. When possible, we will provide access to digital surrogates. We are unable to provide access to materials in obsolete formats as defined by the Museum of Obsolete Media.
  • Donor Terms: Some manuscript materials are restricted due to the terms of gift agreements. When negotiating these agreements, we seek to secure the greatest access possible and, when necessary, work with donors to stipulate an expiration date for restrictions so that materials may be available for future access. 

We will review requests for access to materials and will inform researchers if anything they want to view is restricted. If a collection contains mixed restricted content, we will provide researchers with the non-restricted materials. For access to college records in a restricted access category, researchers may email archives@davidson.edu, stating the reason for access and designating the portion of the collections for which access is restricted. Requests will be evaluated on an individual basis. 

For use restrictions on materials housed in the Archives & Special Collections, including copyright and intellectual property, see Terms of Use

Terms of Use

Access to departmental collections is given for personal research use and does not imply the right to use these materials for other purposes, including publication. Davidson College does not own the copyright to many of the items in the Archives & Special Collections; this is particularly true for manuscripts, published materials, and items in research files. Use of our collections is subject to the provisions of current intellectual property, privacy, and libel laws. Researchers assume full responsibility for their use of these materials. 


Researchers may request reproductions of materials in our collections according to the procedures listed in our Services Catalog.  We reserve the right to restrict reproduction of materials due to condition, donor restrictions, or legal requirements. Reproductions are intended for personal research only and cannot be published (in print or online) without the consent of the copyright holder. Researchers who wish to take digital images with personal cameras may do so only with our prior permission; like other reproductions, these images are for personal use only unless granted additional permissions by the copyright holder. 


If researchers wish to publish reproductions of materials housed in the Archives & Special Collections, they must secure appropriate permissions from the copyright holder. We are unable to confirm the copyright status of individual works. We will work with researchers in the case where Davidson College owns the copyright. Otherwise, it is the researcher's responsibility to obtain permission from the appropriate copyright holder. 

We do not charge publication fees, but we ask that researchers complete the Permission to Publish form and properly credit the Archives & Special Collections. If possible, we ask that researchers donate to us a copy of any publication in which departmental material is reproduced, referred to, or quoted. 

Credit and Attribution

The location and descriptions of collection materials referred to or quoted in published or unpublished works should be cited accurately and completely according to the appropriate style guide. 

Published reproductions should credit “Archives & Special Collections, Davidson College Library, Davidson, North Carolina.”


Materials used for research or quoted in published or unpublished works should be cited accurately and completely. The following entries are examples of citations for materials found in the Archives & Special Collections. Please refer to the relevant style guide for more specific information.

Archival Files:

Richards, J. McDowell. Letter to Walter Lingle. 3 June 1968. RG 2/1.14. President’s Office. D. Grier Martin. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson, NC.

Faculty Committee on Alcohol. Memorandum. 1 December 1965. RG 3/1.2.055. Faculty Committee on Alcohol Records. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson, NC.

Student Government Association. Senate Minutes. 13 February, 1969. RG 6/14.4. Student Government Association Records. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson College, NC.

Manuscript Collections:

Hamilton, T.H. Letter to John W. Hamilton. 29 January 1839. DC0116s. Thomas Hamilton Letters. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson College, NC.


Photograph of students in front of Rusk House. Photograph Collection, number 27-0031. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson College, NC.

Photograph of Dean Rusk in Davidson College basketball uniform. Dean Rusk Papers. DC004-9. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson College, NC.


Johnston, Frontis. Interview by John Scherer. 10 February 1989.”Vietnam War at Davidson College”. Audiotape Collection, number 59. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson College, NC.

“Poll on Sororities.” Interviews by Matthew Hobbie. December 1997. Videotape Collection, number 154. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson College, NC.

Davidsoniana Files:

Brunei, Cecil Flyer, Davidson College. 13 February, 1971. Alcohol Policy Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson, NC.

Milton, Ernest. “Detail Story of Cat-Tar Hell Contest.” Newsclipping, c.1926. Athletics History – Football Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson, NC.

Harrison, Mary Sparrow. “Football in the ‘90’s.” Unpublished Essay. Athletics – History – Football Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, Davidson, NC.

College Publications:

Davidson College Catalog, 1984-1985. Davidson: Davidson College Office of Communications. [1984].

Davidson College. Quips and Cranks Vol. 1. Davidson: Davidson College, 1895.

“Coeducation for Davidson.” Davidson Monthly March 1980: 32-33.

McCandlish, Laura. “’Lights Out’ Committee Strives to Keep Lights on in Chambers.” The Davidsonian. 6 October 1998:1.

Files and Documents Accessed Online:

A number of records of the types described above are available in digital formats online. Citations for online materials are identical to those below with addition of this line at the end of the citation: “Available at: http://www.example.edu.” where www.example.edu is the website URL from which you accessed the materials.

Collection Development Policy

The Davidson College Archives & Special Collections - like our Library - acquires, maintains, and preserves materials which advance learning and research, offer engagement with diverse perspectives, and reflect the distinctiveness of our community. In addition, our collections provide object-inspired learning, document local and community history, and maintain the institutional record of the college. These commitments are driven by the library’s enduring values of inclusion, discovery, openness, engagement, and stewardship and by the mission of the Archives, Special Collections, & Community team.

Archivists and librarians on this team manage our collections according to the standards outlined by the Society of American Archivists in their Core Values of Archivists Statement and Code of Ethics and by the Association of College & Research Libraries in their Code of Ethics for Special Collections Librarians.

Section 1: Guiding Principles

The materials in the Archives & Special Collections serve as the recorded memory of Davidson College and are designed to document its cultural, official, and unofficial history.  Additionally, our special collections chronicle the evolution of our local communities and provide researchers with the opportunity to study the material nature of information. It is therefore essential to the educational mission of our department to develop inclusive, responsible, and historically accurate collections. To steer these efforts, the following guiding principles for the development of Archives & Special Collections materials are employed:

Increase Institutional Transparency and Understanding

Our physical and digital collections document the founding and evolution of Davidson College with materials of historical, evidential, legal, fiscal, and administrative value to the institution. By collecting, preserving, and making accessible these documents, we promote knowledge of the history, programs, and goals of Davidson College. To increase understanding of Davidson’s origins and aspirations and to support the work of the Commission on Race and Slavery, we acquire collections that represent a wide range of college constituents, including administrators, staff, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, and community members.  We welcome the donation of historical materials that fill gaps in our collection while also actively acquiring collections that document current college activities.  

Document Our Communities and Represent Multiple Perspectives

We continue to broaden our collecting scope to acknowledge the changing demographics and curriculum of Davidson, to recognize the relationship between the college and communities around the region, and to provide an archival presence for those underrepresented groups that desire one. We also work with colleagues at other institutions to ensure coverage across geographic and thematic groups.

Additionally, our special collections must be developed to represent diversity in content and format across time, geography, gender, disciplines, and cultures.

Collect for the Present and the Future

The mission of our department necessitates collection development for both present and future researchers. Our collecting program, to the best of our ability, must consider the needs of both groups. When prioritizing collections, we seek to fill gaps in the historical record, complement the current curriculum, and inclusively document current Davidson initiatives and activities. The collection of digital records, including email, is especially challenging but also necessary for a complete view of college activities in the early 21st century. 

Foster the Use of Original Primary Sources in the Curriculum

We offer researchers the opportunity to engage with original archival documents, manuscripts, rare books, serials, maps, ephemera, and other primary sources. These materials are used for original research, inquiry-driven study, and object-inspired learning. Our collections encourage attention, curiosity, and an understanding of the material nature of information. 

Section 2: Collecting Methods

Everyone at Davidson - staff, students, faculty, and administrators - plays a role in maintaining and preserving the institutional memory of Davidson College. Institutional records are added to our archives by means of transfer according to the college’s established records management program approved by the Board of Trustees. Retention schedules created for each department clarify record keeping responsibilities and ensure that records of enduring value are saved and outdated files with no archival value are routinely destroyed or discarded.

Other materials are added to the Davidson College Archives and Special Collections through donation, purchase, and transfer from the general library collection. To ensure that collections align with our mission and guiding principles, all acquisitions must be approved in advance by Archives, Special Collections, & Community staff and are rigorously reviewed for the following:

  • Alignment with our guiding principles for collections;
  • Relevance to the history and evolution of Davidson College and the surrounding area;
  • Connection to the Davidson College curriculum and the research and teaching needs of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members;
  • Expansion of existing and desired Archives & Special Collections subject areas;
  • Representation of a diversity of perspectives, particularly where there are gaps documenting the lives and work of underrepresented peoples, groups, or subject areas; 
  • Demonstration of book history, book arts, or material culture; and/or 
  • Uniqueness of content or form.

Materials are unlikely to be added to Archives & Special Collections if they:

  • Do not align with our guiding principles for collections and departmental priorities or are not of enduring value, as determined by the Archives, Special Collections, & Community staff;
  • Cannot be adequately stored, protected, and preserved under conditions that ensure their availability for research and that are in keeping with accepted professional standards; 
  • Require staff time and expenses related to their arrangement, description, and preservation beyond the regular resources of the Archives, Special Collections, & Community department;
  • Are not legally owned by the donor or if the donor is unable or unwilling to transfer copyright or share a Creative Commons license;
  • Have excessive and unreasonable access restrictions;
  • Duplicate material already in our collections or in other accessible collections, unless they meet the exceptions outlined in our duplication policy; and/or
  • Compete with publicly available collections from other cultural heritage institutions.

Section 3: Collaborating Partners

The Archives, Special Collections, & Community team leads the work of developing inclusive, responsible, and historically accurate collections, but everyone at Davidson contributes to the collection, maintenance, and preservation of the records of Davidson College through both records management and donation. Our collection development can be done only in collaboration with partners, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members. To promote productive collaboration, we will:

  • Advocate for a robust records management program, with a special emphasis on digital records, across all divisions of the college;
  • Partner with faculty and student groups, including through our field archivist program, to connect our collections to curricular and co-curricular initiatives; 
  • Work with community members to support community-based archives and provide a fuller record of Davidson’s founding and evolution; 
  • Communicate with College Relations about collecting priorities; and
  • Collaborate with colleagues at local cultural heritage institutions to ensure coverage.

Section 4: Duplication

In the Archives & Special Collections, duplication of content or format is sometimes necessary for distributed preservation, comparative research, and reparative work.

We accession physical duplicates of materials already owned by the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections or the Davidson College Library only under the following conditions:

  • The publication is of an age or rarity which makes it difficult to replace;
  • A digital surrogate has not or cannot be made;
  • The condition of the item is significantly better than one already in our collection;
  • The item is of a different edition, language, or format and thereby stands as a complement to an existing item;
  • The work contains marginalia or other paratextual elements that significantly enhance our understanding of it; and/or
  • The materials are frequently used for donor and patron relations.

We do not collect duplicated (photocopied, digitized, etc.) materials without the original and for which we are not the repository of record, with the following exceptions:

  • When a donor has been negatively impacted by Davidson College or its affiliates and has significant concerns about housing original materials at the institution, we will work with the donor to create surrogates which we will accession as the repository of public record.
  • If an item or collection has been repatriated, we will work with the person or institution that has received the returned material(s) to create a surrogate copy for the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections, when deemed appropriate by all parties.
  • Duplicated primary and secondary sources may be added to Davidsoniana Files to provide a fuller picture of college and local history; these will not be digitized due to copyright restrictions.

Section 5: Evaluation and Retention

Materials added to the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections have been deemed to have enduring value and will be retained for as long as they meet this standard, as determined by the Archives, Special Collections, & Community staff.  Because collection evaluation is a continual process and the scope of our collections may evolve over time, we occasionally may have to decaccession items from our collections. Materials may also be deaccessioned due to repatriation, if they can no longer be properly stored or preserved, or if they are harmful to other objects in the collection. In these cases, attempts will be made to create surrogate copies prior to disposition.

All collections will be retained and/or disposed of according to the terms of the Deed of Gift. In the absence of a Deed of Gift, we will collaborate with the Davidson College Donor Relations team to identify the appropriate retention or disposition method, through return to the original donor, transfer to another appropriate institution, sale, or disposal.

Section 6: History of Collections

Davidson College was founded in 1837, but did not have a professional librarian until it hired Cornelia Shaw in 1907.  Shaw, who also served as the college’s first registrar and secretary to the president, oversaw the centralization of departmentally managed collections, some of which served as the beginning of our Rare Book Collection. As the author of several books about the history of Davidson College, she gathered reminiscences, personal letters, and family papers from faculty and alumni. These files are some of the earliest in our archives and while they are important collections, they also are narrow in scope: they largely reflect the perspectives of wealthy white enslavers or families benefiting from the institution of slavery with little related to working class and Black residents. 

In 1936, Shaw retired and Dr. Chalmers Davidson was hired as library director and part-time history professor, positions which he held until 1974 when he transitioned into his role as the college’s first full-time archivist. As a 1928 graduate and as a descendent of the family for whom the college was named, Davidson had a deep connection to the college, which he cherished. Throughout his 58 years in the library, Davidson published many books dedicated to the history and lives of the college’s early founders. With his personal and professional connections, Davidson received numerous donations to the college archives, including plantation records like wills, receipts, and letters, as well as administrative documents about the founding of the college, such as property and financial records, maps, photographs, and speeches. These materials serve as the foundation for our archival collections. They capture life at a 19th-century and early 20th-century Presbyterian institution of higher learning in the American South and detail the connection between the college and the town through the introduction of running water, electricity, local mills, and other economic endeavors. It is important to note that Davidson’s collecting efforts were designed to support a largely celebratory narrative. These materials do little to address the perspectives of those who lived in the area before the college was founded, those who labored - and were forced through enslavement to work - for the college, and those who worked in the town mills.  

In 1994, Dr. Jan Blodgett was hired as the first professional college archivist and records management coordinator. Like her predecessors, Blodgett authored books on the history of Davidson, but rather than centering them on the college, she focused on an inclusive look at the town. She also donated her research to the college archives. The oral histories Blodgett conducted document the mid- and late-20th century experiences of Davidson town residents, including those not affiliated with the college: changes brought by the construction of Lake Norman, integration and the civil rights movement, and town and property development. Her work until her retirement in 2017 led to a more inclusive and community-centered archives, a legacy which the Archives, Special Collections, & Community team continues.

Our collections continued to evolve when, in 2009, Sharon Byrd became the first Special Collections Librarian at Davidson. The Rare Book collection, which had been solely donation-driven and mostly reflected the sensibilities and interests of 19th- and 20th-century Davidson alumni, had received little attention until Byrd made connections to our curriculum and pursued donations and purchases that reflected diversity across geography, theme, and format.    

Today, the Davidson College Archives & Special Collections reflects the work of library and archives staff, faculty, students, researchers in college, local, book, and map history, and donors. Because historically there was no acquisitions budget, our collections were developed almost solely through records transfer and donation. We are currently attempting to fill gaps in the record that were overlooked during earlier collecting initiatives.  

Section 7: Description of Collections

Archival Collection

The Archival Collection documents the history and operations of the college and includes records of permanent administrative and curricular value, such as trustee and faculty committee minutes, Davidson College publications, records of student and faculty organizations and committees, office records, and photographs and multimedia productions related to the college. With the increase in born-digital documents, an additional priority is the identification, management, and preservation of electronic archival records. College records are maintained according to the college’s records retention schedule. 

College scholarship is included in the archival collection when it adds substantially to our understanding of Davidson College and is assessed in collaboration with colleagues in Digital Learning according to our guiding principles

Manuscript Collection

The manuscript collection supplements the archival documentation of the college’s activities and offers a rich variety of sources for college history, local history, and other curricular initiatives. College related materials include the personal papers of retired faculty and staff and collections from alumni documenting key events in college history and changes in student life. Local materials include papers of civic organizations and of the town’s numerous book clubs, records of local churches, documentation for local businesses, oral histories, and town commission minutes.

We are working with community members, faculty, and students to diversify the content and format of our manuscript collection to support the current and future needs of our evolving community.

Rare Book Collection

The Smith Rare Book Room houses rare and unique materials and representative examples for the study of book history, including the Fugate Collection of First Editions, the Bruce Rogers typography Collection, the Golden Cockerel Press Collection, and  publications from the Iron Mountain press. Additional items of note include travel literature, the Arabic Bible of Omar ibn Sayyid, cuneiforms, early American Bibles, artist’s books, Diderot’s Encylopedie, as well as first editions of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Patrick Gass’ journals from the Lewis and Clark expedition. 

Archives, Special Collections, & Community staff partner with faculty to connect these materials to the curriculum and diversify the collection.

Music Library Collection

The music library collection supports the interdisciplinary needs of students and faculty through a focus on instrumental and vocal performance, theory and composition, history and literature, and digital music studies. Reference materials, CDs, scores, DVDs, books and journals reflect the culturally diverse curriculum that spans the genres of world music, film music, American musical theatre, traditional music of the southern Appalachians, and music of Latin America. In addition to a unique denominational hymnals collection dating to the mid 1800s, collection strengths include soundtrack recording collections and scores of film music, and Latin American music.

Davidsoniana Files

Davidsoniana Files, also known as “D-Files,” primarily contain secondary source information and are housed in Archives & Special Collections. They include newspaper articles, scanned memos, brochures and pamphlets, memorial speeches, and booklets. These files also hold scans of primary documents, such as diaries and letters, from other institutions.

Davidson College Collection

The Davidson College Collection contains secondary sources written about Davidson College. It includes histories of the college; memoirs, biographies and genealogies of students, faculty, staff, and trustees; and anthologies of related works. It also contains publications created by students, faculty, and staff of the college, including magazines, newspapers, yearbooks, handbooks, catalogs, alumni directories, and phone directories.

Local Collection

The Local Collection contains histories of and information about the town of Davidson and surrounding counties, especially Mecklenburg, Iredell, and Rowan, that have impacted - or been impacted by - Davidson College. It also includes biographies, memoirs, and genealogies of people who live in these communities, historical information about local businesses and institutions, and sources on the Revolutionary War and Civil War in North Carolina and South Carolina.

Map Collection

The William Patterson Cumming Map Collections includes maps dating between 1540 and 1876 with a particular focus on the early southeastern United States, as well as maps of other parts of the world. Archives and Special Collections also has a collection of maps related to Davidson College, the town of Davidson, and Davidson’s Lake Campus on Lake Norman.

Presbyterian Collection

The Presbyterian Collection contains information about the denomination and local churches that were instrumental in the founding and development of Davidson College. It includes records of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, session minutes, cemetery indices, and histories of local Presbyterian churches.

Reference and Professional Development Collection

The Reference and Professional Development Collection contains books and periodicals that support researchers and the professional work of the staff of the Archives, Special Collections, & Community team. Topics include theoretical and practical approaches to archives, public history, records management, preservation, collections care, community-based archives, memory studies, and book history.

Section 8: Content Statement

To maintain and preserve an historically accurate record of Davidson College’s founding and evolution, it is necessary for the Archives & Special Collections to house materials that include racist, oppressive, and outdated representations. The following statement is added to collections when appropriate:

The Davidson College Archives & Special Collections contain materials originally published in yearbooks, newspapers, and other Davidson College publications. You may encounter upsetting racist, oppressive, and outdated representations in these documents. They are included for historical accuracy and do not represent the views of the current Davidson College community, which honors the dignity of all persons and commits itself to a quest for truth and the building of a more just and humane future.