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Special Collections and Archives Collecting Guidelines

Date last edited May, 2023



Knox College Archives and Special Collections seeks to provide students, faculty, and researchers access to unique materials that include, highlight, and demonstrate our diversity. We believe education is a social good and should be accessible as a space, connecting people to the past through primary source materials and a variety of teaching methods. Our goal is to excite exploration, curiosity, and inclusivity by collecting materials that highlight the diversity of our shared experiences. 


We acknowledge that owing to past collecting practices and attitudes, our current holdings and collections are lacking representation and information related to underrepresented and marginalized communities. To develop a more inclusive archival practice, we are taking necessary steps and building essential relationships across College communities to ensure that voices and stories from marginalized communities are part of Knox College Archives and Special Collections. 


College Archives:


Knox College Archives collects and preserves materials that exemplifies Knox’s history and documents the people, places, and events that tell that story. These materials include, but are not limited to: 


  • Student life: records of student activities on campus including correspondences, scrapbooks, photographs, programs, administrative records, programming, memorabilia and more. 


  • Publications: publications that mention the College or provide historical context and background information into the College's history. 


  • Materials that highlight the College collected by people or organizations not connected to the College, but that still demonstrate intellectual and cultural life of Knox. 


  • College publications and student newspapers: published materials created by Knox College for internal and external purposes. Examples include the Gale yearbook, serial publications, student newsletters, and reports. 


  • Faculty, staff, alumni personal and professional materials: The Knox College Archives collects materials from faculty, staff, and alumni who have either made major contributions to their field or to the College. The materials can include letters, diaries, biographical material, journals, research papers, publication drafts, speeches, syllabi, photographs, audio visual materials, and digital and born digital records. 


  • College Records: The Knox College Archives seeks to collect departmental records that preserve institutional knowledge and memory of different campus offices to ensure that records of historical, fiscal and/or legal value are identified and preserved for the future. Records donated to the Archives should be inactive–no longer used for routine business–following a set record schedule.   


  • Examples include: end reports, substantive correspondence, organizational charts, newsletters, pamphlets, brochures, digital and born digital materials. 


Special Collections:


Special Collections include one of a kind material such as objects and rare books on a variety of topics ranging from medieval manuscripts to literary first editions. These collections, while not directly related to the College, help us fulfill our goals to excite exploration, curiosity, and inclusivity, and are used to facilitate our mission of teaching and learning. 


Moving forward, we will selectively collect books, manuscripts, unpublished manuscripts, objects, and pamphlets in these areas:


  • books, pamphlets, maps, and prints on the history and culture of the upper Mississippi River Valley

  • pre-1861 printed books and maps on the early exploration of North America

  • Slavery and abolition in the United States

  • The American Civil War and Reconstruction 

  • Literary collections related to the19th century, 20th century, and in particular the Lost Generation writers


In addition, Special Collections has material related to the local history and community of Galesburg, with particular strengths related to its founding and history in the early 19th century. We will continue to collaborate and build a strong connection with the Galesburg Public Library and Archives to share our finding aids, and assist researchers and community members seeking information on the city of Galesburg. We will refer material related to genealogy to the Galesburg Public Library and Archives. 


We will selectively collect items of manuscripts, unpublished manuscripts, pamphlets, and research materials in the following areas:


  • abolition movement in Galesburg

  • the Underground Railroad

  • anti slavery societies founded near and around Galesburg


 We will refer material related to genealogy to the Galesburg Public Library and Archives. 


What we Don’t Collect 


  • Non-College records 

  • Student transcripts 

  • Personal files of students 

  • Personal files of employees

  • Raw electronic big research data

  • Human and animal remains

  • More than three duplicate copies of most serial publications and other items (determined on a case by case basis). 

  • Materials from minors without explicit written consent from a parent and/or legal guardian 

  • Large items that are better suited for museum displays

  • Materials exhibiting mold or exposure to rodents/pests 

  • Severely damaged or extremely fragile items

  • Material unrelated to the College outside of our collecting areas

  • Materials to which access is restricted in perpetuity or for a period of time deemed by the College Archives staff to be beyond a reasonable limitation




Deaccessioning is a crucial function and tool of collection development. Materials selected for deaccessioning may be returned to donors, gifted/transferred to a more appropriate repository, or discarded. In identifying materials for deaccessioning (whether organized and described or not) the Archives staff considers the following: 


  • Does the material in question fall within the scope of our collection development policy and collecting practices?

  • Has the material deteriorated in such a way that it cannot be reproduced or is beyond being useful due to its condition? 

  • Have the materials been subjected to poor environmental conditions, resulting in mold, water damage, fire damage, or show evidence of being exposed to rodents/pests?  

  • Do any established externally imposed restrictions such as records retention schedules, disposition authorizations, or donor agreements apply to the material?