The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
For more than 200 years, the libraries at the University of South Carolina have been entrusted with collections from a wide range of disciplines and historic periods. The Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections acquires, preserves and makes available rare books, manuscripts and specialized research collections to students, faculty and others around the world.
The department is named for C. Warren Irvin Jr. and Josephine B. Irvin, who in 1999 made the first major gift toward new facilities to house the collections. In the past 25 years the Irvin department’s holdings have increased sevenfold. Resources exceed 150,000 volumes and 50 separate archival collections, many of which are considered the most comprehensive research collections of their kind in the world.
Major collections include those on John Milton, Robert Burns, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Charles Darwin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Heller, as well as an extensive collection of 19th-century American literature that includes the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Margaret Fuller.
The Hollings Library will enhance the ability of staff members to catalog and research the collections and make them more accessible through classes and teaching, exhibits, programs and conferences and digitization. The Smith Reading Room is spacious and wired to better meet the needs of researchers. Additional space will accommodate full-size sections of classes to learn about and use the collections.
The Irvin department has been a pioneer in making its collections better known and available to scholars and the public through digitization and its website: www.sc.edu/library/spcoll/rarebook.html. Each year, the website attracts millions of hits, sharing the array of internationally significant collections with scholars and others around the world.