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Special Collections Reading Room

Important Announcements:
The Special Collections Reading Room is now open to Smith students, faculty and staff who are in the campus COVID-19 screening program. Emeriti faculty, Five College students who are registered for a Smith course, and Smith research affiliates are also welcomed. Masks continue to be required in all indoor shared spaces.

Reading Room

Our reading room is open to anyone interested in using our collections for research. No appointment is necessary. In return we ask that researchers abide by our policies and procedures, which provide maximum access while preserving the unique materials in our collections.

Materials from the follwing collections are available upon request:


Please read our policies prior to your visit. Special Collections reserves the right to ask a researcher to leave if they violate the policies.


First time visitors must complete a research registration form; returning visitors must check in with a staff member. Once registered or checked in, you may fill out call slips for the materials you wish to see. The wait time for materials is usually between five and ten minutes.

When you are finished with the materials, you may leave them on the table in the same way you received them. You must check-out with a staff member before you exit the reading room.

Researchers are welcome to use the following at our research tables:

  • Pencils
  • Laptops, phones, and other devices
  • Loose-leaf paper
  • Notebooks
  • Tripods (Researchers must demonstrate that their use of the tripod will not put the materials at risk. Other objects that are not tripods, or that may damage materials, are not accepted within the Reading Room.)

Researchers can discuss their research interests with any staff member on duty. Feel free to explore our collections using our online finding aids prior to your visit.

Coats, umbrellas, bags, pens and laptop cases must be stored in our locker area. Food and drink must be left outside the reading room.

Requesting materials stored off site

While the majority of our collections only require a few minutes to access, some are maintained in our remote repository and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact our research archivist at with a list of collections you plan to review at least one week in advance of your visit so that any off site collections can be available when you arrive.

If, during your visit, you discover that something you would like to see is stored off site, the reference archivist on duty will submit a request for the materials. Delivery of materials could take up to two days.

Please note that some materials are restricted due to issues of privacy, state and federal regulations, and issues of fragility and preservation. These restrictions are outlined in the finding aid whenever possible.


We can provide photocopies of non-fragile materials at $.25/page. You can request photocopies online or speak with the reference archivist in the reading room to place an order. See our webpage on Rights & Reproductions for more information.

Research Equipment

Non-flash photography of materials is allowed during your research. Special Collections has three document cameras, one iPad, one small green-screen backdrop, and some specialty lighting available for use in the Reading Room.

The Special Collections Reading Room holds the only mircoform reader on campus. It can read microfilm, microfiche, create PDFs, and print. Printing under 40 pages is free; Special Collections charges $.05 per page after 40 pages and accepts cash and card for this payment.

Policy for Access to Oral Histories

Oral History Releases

Access to oral history interviews is governed by agreements between the person telling their story (the narrator), the person conducting the interview (the interviewer), the organization responsible for administering interviews, and Smith College Special Collections. Because some oral history interviews contain sensitive information, one or several parties may have requested that the interview will not immediately be available for research. Information about which interviews are accessible for research and which are not can be found in our online finding aids. If all parties have agreed to make an oral history available, we can provide access.

We have been collecting oral history interviews for many years. In some cases, our information about whether all parties have consented to make an oral history available may be ambiguous. If you would like access to an interview to which we do not have agreements, we will do our best to contact the narrator and interviewer to obtain a release. This process may take several weeks or even months, depending on how difficult it is to contact all parties. If we cannot secure permission, access to oral histories may be restricted until all parties are deceased.

Stakeholder Rights

If you have participated in an oral history interview that is now at Smith College Special Collections and you have questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at We are eager to respect the interests of oral history participants.