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Special Collections

Rare Manuscripts, Drawings, Books, and Images

Special Collections houses rare materials which involve special handling, and reference librarians are happy to assist researchers. A number of our items are also available online through the Digital Library.

Manuscripts and rare books do not circulate, and photocopying services are not available due to the nature of the materials. However, arrangements for photographic reproductions can be made through Visual Resources.

Visit or Contact Special Collections

Access to materials in Special Collections is available by appointment only. Appointments are available Monday through Friday, except for major holidays. For assistance or to schedule a visit, email or call 757-565-8520. (For assistance with photographs and other images, contact Visual Resources.)

About the Materials in Special Collections

Special Collections holds materials ranging from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Current collecting policies focus on materials related to the politics of the late 18th century, specifically the American Revolutionary War.

Rare books:

Our collection of rare books includes over 12,000 volumes, which can be located in the online catalog. Subjects include all aspects of colonial culture and range from the late 1600s through the early republic era. Books on deposit at the Rockefeller Library from private individuals or other organizations are not cataloged.


Original manuscript holdings consist of approximately 160 collections that include documents from the 17th to the early 19th centuries. Major collections include most aspects of Tidewater Virginia culture and beyond, ranging from Patrick Henry's "Resolves" to the correspondence of local Williamsburg residents. Certain materials are also available in microfilm, photocopy, or transcribed forms.


Visual Resources preserves many of the Foundation's images and is a part of Special Collections. It includes a portion of the Foundation's vast pictorial archive, as well as a small selection of donated or purchased collections of photos, postcards, and works on paper.


This collection consists of photocopied and photographed maps from various repositories. Areas of concentration are Williamsburg, Virginia, and colonial America. Many require written permission to copy, but all may be studied in house.

Architectural materials:

This collection consists of over 50,000 plans and elevations, including archaeological and landscape designs, documenting the preservation movement beginning in the late 1920s. The majority of materials relate to buildings in Williamsburg's Historic Area. There are also measured drawings of colonial era buildings throughout Tidewater Virginia. These collections also include a photographic record of Colonial Williamsburg's restoration and reconstruction. View the Access Policy for Architectural Drawings.


The library holds over 6,000 reels of microfilm, including pertinent newspaper and manuscript collections from repositories in Western Europe and North America, as well as dissertations and theses concerning Colonial, Revolutionary, and Early American topics. See the Microforms Finding Aid (PDF) for a partial list of the Library's holding.

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