Special Collections and Archives Policies

About Special Collections and Archives

The Special Collections and Archives Department in the Robert E. Kennedy Library is the official repository for rare and unique research materials owned by the university. Please see our Collection Development Policy and our collection pages for more details regarding the materials we collect.

The staff of Special Collections and Archives appraises, acquires, arranges and describes these materials for the purpose of preserving them and making them accessible to both the Cal Poly community and the larger research community for research and exhibition purposes.

The department maintains these research materials separately from Kennedy Library’s general stack collections due to their rare/unique qualities, physical condition, and/or format.

As many of our holdings are acquired through gift deed, the Special Collections Department welcomes referrals by Cal Poly faculty and staff as well as the public regarding potential collections. Please contact the department staff at ude.yloplacnull@sevihcra for more information on donating to Special Collections and Archives.


Special Collections and Archives is a center for research, teaching, literacy, and interpretation that connects people to the cultural heritage and university records we steward. Through active engagement with unique and rare materials, we foster open inquiry, critical thinking, and knowledge building. 


Special Collections and Archives exposes and contextualizes its collections to facilitate the process of discovery that lies at the heart of our memory-keeping endeavors. Our experienced staff inspire curiosity and advance a deeper understanding of historic and contemporary materials, thus reaching faculty and students across disciplines. Our exemplary services and programs enhance the Cal Poly experience and influence culture throughout San Luis Obispo County. 


Access. We prepare and present access to materials to promote the free exchange of information and ideas. We are a public repository–everyone is welcome. 

Collaboration. We initiate and sustain meaningful partnerships that achieve mutual goals, encourage creative experimentation, and support student success.  

Excellence. We curate and preserve materials of enduring value that complement the Cal Poly curriculum and distinguish the Robert E. Kennedy Library. We approach archival activities holistically, guided by best practices.   

Teaching and Learning. We enrich the student experience through teaching with primary source, from original documents, drawings, and book arts, to photographs, films, and audio recordings. We collaborate on special projects that put collections and related data to new and creative uses. We plan and supervise student assistantships and internships that nurture strong professional skills. 

Social Responsibility. We ground departmental principles and practices in cultural awareness, sensitivity, and competence. We commit to environmentally sustainable preservation methods. We strive to develop a historical record that is equitable, diverse, inclusive, and intersectional.