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Selected Sources in the Sophia Smith Collection

The Women and Disabilities subject guide lists selected sources relating to women with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities, and in some cases long-term illness. For related topics, see the subject guides on Medicine and Health, Reproductive Rights and Women's Health, and Social Work.

Personal Papers and Organization Records

Ames Family (1882-1958)
Papers, 1812-2009 (ongoing)
60.5 linear ft. (148 boxes)
Includes papers of Adelbert Ames, Jr., ophthalmologist and perceptual psychologist. Ames's work yielded the important discovery that in certain people the two eyes do not perceive the same object in the same dimensions; many suffered from debilitating headaches as a result, the source of which had mystified doctors for years. The condition was named "aniseikonia," the Dartmouth Eye Institute was subsequently founded, and people flocked to it for successful treatment in the form of compensating lenses. The collection contains article clippings, writings, and correspondence from his professional career.
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ARISE for Social Justice Records (1956-2010)
30.25 linear ft. (32 boxes)
Grassroots advocacy organization; Social reformers. Collection documents the organization's work with the economically disadvantaged and underserved populations in Springfield, Massachusetts and the surrounding area. The records describe the workings not only of ARISE, but also of the organizations and institutions through which the organization seeks to implement social, political and economic change. These include the Emergency Assistance to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) program, and organizations related to HIV/AIDS prevention, awareness and treatment.
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Bailie, Helen Tufts (1874-1962)
Papers, 1864-1959
3 linear ft. (7 boxes)
Social reformer, Radical. The collection includes Bailie's correspondence, writings, and family history. There are also typescripts of her personal journals (1886 - 1959). Son Terrill (nicknamed Sonny), born in 1916, died of spinal meningitis at the age of three. With Helen's failing eyesight and William's Alzheimer-like symptoms increasing, they moved to Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1954 to live with their daughter Helena and her husband, Walter Jolly.
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Barton, Clara (1821-1912)
Papers, 1822-1982
4 linear ft. (12 boxes)
Civil War nurse; founder and president of American National Red Cross; and organizer of the International Red Cross. The collection contains writings, printed material, manuscript notes, speeches, photographs, and memorabilia, writings, and memorabilia from her work files in the Civil War, Red Cross, and other relief organizations. The collection includes personal correspondence (1907) discussing her vision impairment and frustrations arising from her treatment as "feeble."
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Beck, Patricia (1924-1978)
Papers, 1936-1986
9.75 linear ft. (23 boxes)
Author, poet. The collection includes newspaper clippings, photographs, correspondence, artwork, and most extensively Beck's writings: there are manuscripts of 59 short stories, two semi-autobiographical novels, poems, and her published work. The collection also includes her personal diaries and notebooks, discussing her marriage to a blind man, depression and psychological treatment with shock therapy, lifelong diabetes, hospitalizations, and leg amputations late in life.
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Brand, Katharine Edith (1900-1988)
Papers, 1881-1988
4.5 linear ft. (11 boxes)
Researcher, Editorial assistant, Archivist. The collection includes biographical information, diaries from childhood and her Smith College years, published and unpublished writings, correspondence, oral histories and photographs. In the summer of 1949 a nervous breakdown resulting fom overwork forced Brand to take a two-month leave of absence from her work in the Division of Manuscripts at the Library of Congress; Brand's condition is touched on throughout her collection, particularly in her correspondence and employment records.
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Brown, Helen Gurley (1922- )
Papers, 1938-2008 (ongoing)
28.25 linear ft. (55 boxes)
Editor, Advertising copywriter, Journalist, Author, Secretary. Papers include biographical material, personal and professional correspondence, photographs, published and unpublished writings, research files, audiovisual material, and memorabilia. The bulk of the material were produced in the 1960s and provide a comprehensive picture of Brown's intertwined personal and professional lives, as editor, writer, and celebrity. Brown's sister contracted polio in the late 1930s and remained dependent on her for the rest of their lives; letters in the collection describe Brown's support over the years.
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Crawford, Pauline Avery (1890-1952)
Papers, 1902-1997
2 linear ft. (2 boxes)
Artist, Poet, Columnist. The collection contains numerous unpublished manuscripts, as well as some published material; Crawford's writing career focused on the impact of World War II as seen through the eyes of an American living in Paris throughout the war. Crawford lost her leg after a botched operation in 1931, and had several years of failing health before her death in 1952. The collection contains a copy of her book "Sonnets from a Hospital" which refers to her illness, and a document in French discussing her medical case.
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Curtiss, Mina Kirstein (1896-1985)
Papers, 1913-2005
12.5 linear ft. (36 boxes)
Professor, English, Author, Translator. The papers include an oral history, personal and professional correspondence, photographs, journals and diaries, financial records, clippings, and writings. The bulk of the papers dates from 1933 to 1985 and focuses on Curtiss' writing career including correspondence with publishers and researchers, research material, artwork, and edited typescripts. Curtiss's personal correspondence mentions her decreasing independence due to a severe heart condition that forced her to remain in bed for the last several years of her life.
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Cushman, Nancy Cox-McCormack (1885-1967)
Papers, 1906-2000
4.25 linear ft. (12 boxes)
Sculptor, Author, Traveler. The papers document Cushman's artwork, related contacts, and her wide social network, particularly in Chicago circa 1910's, and Europe circa 1920's. There is correspondence, printed materials, and writings by and about many notable individuals, including Jane Addams. After her mother died of polio, Cushman and her two siblings also contracted the disease. Cushman was the only sibling to survive, yet the results of the illness affected her health for the rest of her life; this is discussed in her diaries, and is occasionally touched upon in her correspondence.
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De Mille, Agnes (1905-1993)
Papers, 1908-1993
4.5 linear ft. (12 boxes)
Dancer, Choreographer. Collection includes correspondence, biographical material, research notes, manuscripts and typescripts, printed material, photographs, published writings, and memorabilia. Also included are manuscript and research material for her two autobiographical books, Dance to the Piper and Promenade Home. The later biographical materials mention the cerebral hemorrhage in 1975 that paralyzed De Mille's right side and legs.
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Dunham Family
Papers, 1814-1951 (ongoing)
20.5 linear ft. (57 boxes)
Includes papers of Mary Dows Dunham (1865-1936), artist and philanthropist. Dunham contracted polio as a child and was left partially disabled; she "suffered through almost constant pain throughout her life." Correspondence with her family describe the challenges she encountered, especially while traveling.
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Dushkin, Dorothy (1903-1992)
Papers, 1906-1989
9 linear ft. (15 boxes)
Composer, co-founder of music schools. Dushkins' papers include correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, memorabilia, scores, tape and disc recordings, and miscellaneous papers relating to her and her husband David Dushkin's professional lives. Dushkin was diabetic, and the collection contains "Data on Diabetes," her journal recording the disease (1957-86 and 1982-89). Additionally, her diaries (1919-87), kept from age 15 to 84, offer highly detailed and personal insight into her life.
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Germain, Carel B. (1916-1995)
Papers, 1922-1998
15.25 linear ft. (40 boxes)
Professor, Psychiatric social worker. The collection includes biographical information, personal and professional correspondence, materials pertaining to Germain's graduate education and her subsequent professional work, research files for specific course offerings and writings, and typed manuscripts of some of her writings, on the ecological approach to social work theory and practice. The subject files contain material on a wide range of topics relevant to the teaching and practice of social work.
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Gilbreth, Lillian Moller (1878-1972)
Papers, 1860-1999
6.5 linear ft. (15 boxes)
Industrial engineer. The collection contains both professional and personal materials, including speeches, writings, correspondence, photographs, and articles. Lillian and her husband Frank Gilbreth shared a career in industrial engineering, co-authoring several books and giving lectures on the subject of motion saving techniques and worker efficiency with respect to both physical ability and psychological variables; the aid this gave to disabled individuals is often referenced in the papers.
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Hale, Nancy (1908-1988)
Papers, 1908-1989
33 linear ft. (67 boxes)
Author. The collection contains materials on Hale's writings, including manuscript and published versions of many of Hale's works along with research materials and notes. Hale was plagued by a series of physical ailments and bouts of anxiety severe enough to result in 1938 and again in 1943 in what was called a "nervous breakdown," recorded in "Breakdown notes" contained in the collection. Hale's diaries (1919-1959) and extensive personal letters also provide insight into her illnesses and intensive Jungian psychotherapy.
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Hamilton, Nancy (1908-1985)
Papers, 1862-1992
27 linear ft. (14 boxes)
Playwright, Lyricist, Actor, Filmmaker. Hamilton produced the film Helen Keller in Her Story (1955), which won the Academy Award in 1955 for best documentary. The collection contains promotional material, scripts (some in Braille, including Keller's), photographs, original film footage and soundtrack of the film. Correspondents include Helen Keller , Keller's sister and niece, Katharine Keller Tyson and Mildred Keller Tyson, and Annie Sullivan.
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Hart, Alice Gorton (1932-1987)
Papers, 1948-1996 2.75 linear ft. (6 boxes) Poet, Teacher. The papers consist of personal journals and notebooks (1948-1988), which contain various correspondence, photographs, memorabilia, clippings, printed material and miscellaneous writings. Hart had throat cancer at the end of her life, which is discussed in her journal.
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Hemenway, Ruth V. (1894-1974)
Papers, 1924-1979
1.25 linear ft. (4 boxes)
Medical missionary, teacher, and physician. The majority of the collection is made of Hemenway's diaries (1924-41), which provide a detailed record of her eighteen years as medical missionary to China. They describe the cultural and medical customs of the Chinese, such as foot binding; the surgical cases of many patients are also discussed, including several with tuberculosis, leprosy, blindness, and other disabilities.
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Hinderer, Eve (1947- )
Papers, 1967-2011 (ongoing)
2.25 linear ft. (5 boxes)
Feminist; Anarchist; Naturist. The collection contains correspondence, email, writings, clippings and photographs. Significantly, the journals and diaries (circa 1967-2008), are highly self-reflective, including periods of depression and mental instability in Hinderer's life.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Hollis, Florence and Rosemary Ross Reynolds
Papers, 1863-1987
25.4 linear ft. (63 boxes)
The bulk of the collection pertains to Florence Hollis (1907-1987), psychiatric social worker and professor. The papers include biographical material, correspondence, newspaper clippings, awards and certificates, memorabilia, lecture notes, student papers, case records, writings and speeches, published articles, papers by colleagues, code data used in research, tape cassette recordings, magnetic recordings (reel to reel), one videotape, agency records, and photographs. The case records provide valuable information about the changing interpretations and treatment approaches of clinicians working with clients who are confronting a range of issues, including those with mental and physical disabilities. Hollis herself was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1979, and occasionally mentions it in her correspondence.
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Holt, Margaret Goddard (1911-2004)
Papers, 1814-2004
55.25 linear ft. (123 boxes)
Pacifist, Member, Grey Panthers, Artist. The papers consist of correspondence, diaries, writings, artwork, photographs, short run and small circulation newsletters, periodicals, and publications. Holt had cerebral palsy, and her correspondence discusses her part-time work teaching art therapy to the handicapped at United Cerebral Palsy and Munson State Hospital, which she began after she moved to Springfield, Massachusetts in 1947. The collection also includes a subject file on disability issues.
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Jarrett, Mary Cromwell (1876-1961)
Papers, 1900-1961
2.8 linear ft. (6 boxes)
Psychiatric social worker, Founder and associate director, Smith College School for Social Work, Professor, Social work researcher. The collection primarily documents Jarrett's professional life, notably the initial formulation of the theory of psychiatric social work and to its general acceptance as a methodology at the first session of the Smith College School for Social Work. Among the papers are material relating to The Kingdom of Evils (1922), the first published work to explore the concept of psychiatric social work, and studies and reports on chronic illness and aging, as well as material documenting Jarrett's ongoing interest in social work as an alternative to institutionalization for elderly or chronically ill people.
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Long, Margaret (1873-1957)
Papers, 1893-1954
1 linear ft. (2 boxes)
Physician, travel writer, historian. The collection includes Long's journals (1897-1907), which give brief notes on the years she was a medical student at Johns Hopkins, the year of her internship at the New York Women's Infirmary, and her first years living in Denver, where she moved in 1905 to recover from tuberculosis, a disease she later fought to end. The collection also contains some correspondence from the time she was in Colorado, and reminiscences. The Dorothy Mendenhall Papers also contain correspondence from Long.
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Matteson, Rosabelle Himes (1852-1920)
Papers, 1890-1918
.5 linear ft. (1 box)
Mill Worker. The collection includes typed transcripts of her original diaries (1890-1918), containing details of her activities and social life in Providence, Rhode Island, her travels abroad after 1900, and her final illness in 1918. Matteson had two mastectomies, in 1901 and 1903; her diary gives extensive personal reflection on the first of these operations, and a shorter description for the second.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Mendenhall, Dorothy Mabel Reed (1874-1964)
Papers, 1811-1988
7.5 linear ft. (20 boxes)
Public health specialist, Physician, Instructor. The papers include personal and professional correspondence, research material, published and unpublished writings, lecture notes, photographs, genealogical material, and memorabilia. Mendenhall's father died from complications of diabetes and tuberculosis in 1880. In 1903, her sister also died after a long struggle with tuberculosis. Mendenhall herself gave birth in 1907 but her daughter died one day later from brain damage from her "traumatic delivery," which also left Mendenhall suffering from pelvic injuries and puerperal sepsis. She also became depressed during her disappointing marriage. She eventually died of arteriosclerotic heart disease in 1964. Additional correspondence from Mendenhall is contained in the Margaret Long Papers.
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Mills, Annetta Thompson (1853-1929)
Papers, 1857-1993
1.25 linear ft. (1 box)
Missionary, Teacher. This collection contains documents relating to Mills's career as a teacher of the deaf, which began at the Western New York Institution for Deaf-Mutes and led to her 1887 founding of the Chefoo School for the Deaf in Chefoo, China. Also included are documents pertaining to Anna Aschenbach's visit to China in 1987 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the school.
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Mooney, Elizabeth C. (1918-1986)
Papers, 1977-1986
.25 linear ft. (1 box)
Author, Journalist. The collection consists mainly of her letters to Alice Ridenour Wareham, which discuss the brain tumor that limited Mooney's activity until her death. Mooney was also the author of In the Shadow of the White Plague: A Memoir, a book about her mother's struggle with tuberculosis.
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Murray, Joan and Peggy
Papers, 1880-1969
3 linear ft. (7 boxes)
Papers of Joan Murray (1917-1942), Poet, Actor, Diseuse. The collection consists of correspondence (1931-46), clippings, writings, memorabilia, photographs, and printed material. Joan had rheumatic fever in her childhood, which injured her heart and forced her to withdraw from school; she was largely self-educated afterwards. The papers include correspondence discussing Joan's health by her doctors, mother, and herself.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]

National Women's Health Network
Records, 1975-1996
84.5 linear ft. (69 boxes)
Women's health advocacy organization. The collection includes administrative files, correspondence, publications, project files, fundraising/grant files, financial records and mailing lists. Papers include documents related to the Women and Disabilities Project.
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Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center
Records, 1986-2006 (ongoing)
30 linear ft. (24 boxes)
The NAWHERC, on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, addresses issues of health, education, land and water rights, and economic development of Native American people. The records document NAWHERC's programs relating to Native American health issues and cultural survival, including fetal alcohol syndrome, diabetes, breast cancer, and HIV/AIDS. Administrative files pertaining to funding, program information, grant applications, and conference materials are also included.
[Note: this collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be somewhat difficult to use. Collection is partially restricted; contact the SSC for more information.]
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Raskin, Judith (1928-1984)
Papers, 1911-2000
11 linear ft. (21 boxes)
Opera singer, Teacher. Collection includes correspondence, diaries, memorabilia, publicity, printed material, photographs, audio tapes, scrapbooks, legal and financial records. The bulk of the papers focus on Raskin's professional life, and includes publicity, reviews, programs, taped recordings of Raskin's performances, and notes by her and her teacher regarding repertoire and technique. Raskin had ovarian cancer the last two years of her life, which is discussed in her correspondence.
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Starr, Ellen Gates (1877-1940)
Papers, 1659 - 1975
25 boxes, 19 volumes (9.75 linear ft.)
Labor organizer; religious writer; settlement house worker; and founder of Hull House, Chicago. Collection includes correspondence, writings, artwork, diaries, legal documents, photographs, printed material, memorabilia, biographical and genealogical material. After an operation to remove a spinal abscess in 1929, Starr was left paralyzed from the waist down, as is discussed in her correspondence.
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Thayer, Eleanor Wiley (1906-1990)
Papers, 1942-1991
1 linear ft. (2 boxes)
Teacher of the blind. The papers primarily consist of documents relating to her work at the Perkins School for the Blind, where she taught music. The collection includes course outlines, examples of Braille music, concert programs, and workshop material documenting her role in developing music curriculum at Perkins, as well as a small amount of correspondences. Also included are publications of the International Conference of Educators of Blind Youth and the American Association of Instructors of the Blind.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Thomas Thompson Trust
Records, 1844-2001
51.5 linear ft. (105 boxes)
Charitable organization. Records consist largely of charity case records of poor women from Brattleboro and some from Rhinebeck, New York. Client records contain correspondence from clients and case notes by the local agent; these materials include discussion of the client's various disabilities, such as paralysis, shell shock, blindness, rheumatism, tuberculosis, and their treatments.
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Timberg, Eleanor Ernst (1913-2002)
Papers, 1930-2004
10 linear ft. (10 boxes)
Editor; Special education activist; Secretary; Volunteer. The collection consists of her diaries (1930-94) and the semi-annual newsletters for Touch Toy (1977-97), a business Timberg co-founded in 1972 that made surgical dolls for children and toys for people with developmental disabilities.
[Note: This collection has not been fully processed and therefore may be difficult to use.]
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Walker, Emma Elizabeth (1864-1954)
Papers, 1899-1954
.5 linear ft. (1 box)
Physician, Children's author, Anti-suffragist, Birth control advocate, Public health advocate. The collection includes writings, lectures, medical records, and correspondence. The papers largely focus on her professional work, as a clinical assistant surgeon in New York's Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled.
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Women's Action Alliance Records (1970-1996)
117.25 linear ft (318 boxes)
Women's advocacy organization and feminist collective. Collection includes materials on Project R.E.E.D: Resource on Educational Equity for the Disabled (1977-83), 5 linear ft. Project R.E.E.D. was a two-year research and development project designed to incorporate non-sexist multicultural images of children and adults with disabilities into the early childhood classroom. The project created the first training guide designed to help teachers and parents combat stereotyping based on sex, race, and disability. The collection contains extensive material on R.E.E.D.'s classroom testing, as well as files on the project's culminating "Access to Equality" conference, the first national forum on educational equity for disabled women.
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Wright, Alice Morgan (1881-1975)
Papers, 1873-1994
4 linear ft. (11 boxes)
Sculptor, Suffragist, Animal welfare advocate. The collection includes correspondence from her friend Vira Whitehouse, who was being treated for tuberculosis at a sanatorium in Colorado, as well as correspondence with Helen Keller. Later in life forced Wright was to quit sculpting because of arthritis, which is mentioned in the correspondence.
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Subject Collections

Health Collection, 1818-c.1995
3.75 linear ft. (5 boxes)
This collection documents the evolution of medical and scientific thinking and practice relating to women's health from 1818-1990s, and includes material on mental health, mental hygiene, eugenics, and women and AIDS. These include documents on the National Institute of Mental Health: Women's World and the papers of AIDS activist Diane Palladino, much of which is related to the Western Massachusetts Women and AIDS Network.
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Miscellaneous Subjects Collection, 1856-2000 (ongoing)
2.5 linear ft. (9 boxes; 12 volumes)
Collection includes a file on the "Physically Handicapped," containing newspaper clippings, pamphlets, photographs, a discussion packet, documents relating to Helen Keller, and a document written in raised script for the blind.
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Oral Histories

Voices of Feminism Oral History Project

  • Morales, Aurora Levins (1954 - ), Activist, Writer. The oral history discusses several disabilities, including a brain injury, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, chemical sensitivity, and vertigo. Levins Morales is active in the disability/chronic illness liberation movement. View transcript
  • Stout, Linda (1954 - ), Peace activist, Political activist. The oral history briefly mentions her multiple sclerosis, and discusses other family medical problems. View transcript (See also the Linda Stout Papers)

For secondary sources, see the Browsing and Reference collections in the Special Collections Reading Room.

(The SSC is actively collecting the papers and oral histories of women and the records of their organizations. Please see the complete list of collections or contact us for updated information on our holdings.)