The mission of Special Collections and Archives is to collect, preserve, and provide equal access to information resources that document the modern history of Baltimore, Maryland. Special Collections and Archives strives to meet the research and instructional needs of students, faculty, scholars, and the general public.
The collection is comprised of two primary programs: the Baltimore Regional Studies Archives (BRSA) and the University Archives (UA). The BRSA documents the making of modern Baltimore, particularly through the records of 20th century local philanthropic, civic, nonprofit, and quasi-governmental institutions. The UA documents the history of the University of Baltimore through its institutional records. For more information about University Archives, please refer to the University Archives Collections Development Policy.
Collection strengths in the Baltimore Regional Studies Archives include urban planning and architecture, economic development, neighborhood oral histories and community association records, local television history, Baltimore area nonprofits, and grassroots organizing, particularly related to the issues of education, housing, and highway construction. Secondary areas of collection development include statewide poetry societies, state and national social work organizations, and national lineage groups.
The existing collection reflects a legacy focus on documenting institutions and organizations. As a result, the history of individuals, loosely organized groups, and social movements is less emphasized in the collection. Underdeveloped collecting areas include the civil rights, women’s liberation, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, and labor organizing movements, as well as an overall unevenness in documentation of city neighborhoods. Special Collections and Archives is committed to addressing these weaknesses and pursuing collection development in these areas.
Function & Users
The collection supports several programmatic functions, including: research, community engagement, and exhibition creation. The primary role of the collection is to support research by our diverse user groups. Users of the collection include scholars, graduate students, undergraduate students, and the general public. University faculty interested in instruction sessions related to the collection are encouraged to view the Class Visit Policy. Community outreach is also a cornerstone of the department. Ongoing relations with community groups supports collection development and encourages collaborative projects. Exhibits, particularly online digital exhibits, rely on collection material to create a bridge of access to our users and the broader public.
Acquisitions & Deaccessions
A small percentage of the total collection was purchased by the University, including literary manuscripts related to Maryland poets. The majority of the collection was donated to the University of Baltimore Foundation. Select groups, including lineage societies and some active local organizations, retain ownership of their records and place them on deposit in Special Collections.
At this time, the Baltimore Regional Studies Archives is accepting additional accessions of material related to existing collections, as well as new material on a limited basis. Please refer to the Acquisition Policy for additional information.
The department retains the right to transfer collections from the repository to other archival agencies when material falls beyond the scope of the collection development policy. Please refer to the Deaccession Policy for further information.
Cooperation with Other Institutions
Beginning in the early 1970s, approximately one third of the collection was acquired by the Baltimore Regional Institution Studies Center (BRISC), a grant-funded experimental archives at the University, which ceased operations in the early 1980s. Many of these records, focusing on urban planning and economic development, overlap with municipal records at the Baltimore City Archives. Special Collections and Archives acknowledges this shared provenance and makes every effort to provide collaborative access and direct researchers to complementary material at this sister repository.
An ethos of cooperative collecting will guide collection development in Special Collections and Archives. The relative collection strengths and active acquisition activities of local archival institutions will be taken into consideration in our acquisition decisions, with every attempt made to avoid competition with our peer institutions.
For information regarding the transfer and destruction of University Records, please see the University Archives Records Management Policy .