Special Collections and Archives Collection Development Policy

Manuscript Collecting Areas

  • Personal papers, business and organizational records, records of architectural practices, and architectural drawings of architects and landscape architects documenting the built environment of California, with a special emphasis on California architects
  • Original records documenting the intellectual, multicultural, social, political, environmental, and economic aspects of regional history
    • Including personal papers created by individuals and families, and records created by organizations and businesses. We collect all physical and born-digital formats, including: oral histories, letters, diaries, photographs, audio-visual materials, scrapbooks, pamphlets, ephemera, and others
  • Original materials relating to Julia Morgan
  • Original materials relating to W.R. Hearst
  • Original materials relating to the history, growth and development of California Polytechnic State University and its institutional predecessors

Examples of Holdings

  • William F. Cody Papers
  • Monday Club Organizational Records
  • San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace Records
  • Records of the Coastal Alliance on Plant Expansion (CAPE)
  • Central Coast Farm Labor Organizing Collection
  • Carrisa Plains Oral History Project

Book, Printing, and Graphic Arts Collecting Areas

  • Works on the intellectual, multicultural, social, political and economic aspects of local, regional, and state history
  • Works on architects, architecture, landscape architecture, environmental design, and the built environment of California, with a special emphasis on California architects
  • Works on fine printing, graphic arts, and books as art objects
  • Examples of letterpress and handmade books by California artists and standing orders with the following presses: Arion, Bird and Bull, Heyeck, Ninja, Perishable, Robin Price, Turkey, and Yolla Bolly
  • Books, brochures, and other printed works on all aspects of Julia Morgan
  • Books, broadsides, caricatures and other printed works on all aspects of W.R. Hearst
  • Books published by members of the Cal Poly faculty
  • Printed materials of intrinsic or extrinsic value transferred from the general stacks to Special Collections and Archives at the discretion of the Director of the department
  • Retrospective acquisitions, but not to the exclusion of materials currently available. Materials already being received through normal acquisitions procedures will not be acquired by the Special Collections Department, except for those items considered to be key departmental reference sources or small editions of locally produced books on town and business histories

Examples of Holdings:

  • Artists’ books and fine press books
  • Womens’ Zine Collection
  • Moore Collection of Underground Comix
  • Viticulture Graphic Arts Collection

University Archives Collecting Areas

  • University publications, general and special, including catalogs and bulletins, newsletters, press releases, and promotional material
  • Records of the administrative offices, academic departments, and governing bodies of the university, including minutes, correspondence, memoranda, reports
  • Architectural and landscaping plans, blueprints, and artists’ renderings, maps, master plans and other campus planning documents
  • Personal papers, including correspondence, diaries, memoirs, photographs, memorabilia and scrapbooks
  • Records of student organizations and activities, including minutes, correspondence, publications, ephemera, memorabilia and realia, including scrapbooks, posters, and brochures
  • Audio and visual material, including photographs and photo albums, negatives, transparencies, motion pictures, audiotape
  • Material from alumni and their organizations, including organizational records, publications and ephemera, when such materials are judged to reflect significant events and aspects of the university’s history
  • Master copies of the microfiche of senior projects and master’s theses written by students at Cal Poly
  • Monographs written by Cal Poly faculty and administrators

Examples of Holdings

  • Presidential Papers/Speeches
  • Office of the President Annual Report
  • Cal Poly Master Plan
  • Cal Poly Pocket Facts
  • Athletics Programs and Media Guides
  • Campus Publications:
    • Catalog of the California Polytechnic and Bulletin of Information (1903 – )
    • El Mustang (1938-1942; 1945-1967) and The Mustang Daily (1967-present)
    • Polytechnic Journal — Cal Poly’s first student publication served as news medium, literary journal, and yearbook (1906-1926)
    • El Rodeo (1927-1980, 1990)— the Cal Poly yearbook, last published in 1990
    • The Polygram — Cal Poly’s first newspaper (1916-1932)
    • Mustang Roundup — the campus wartime publication (1942-1946)
    • Green & Gold — a magazine for and about Cal Poly alumni (1949-1957)
    • Cal Poly Today (1962 – 1997) — quarterly newsletter
    • Cal Poly Magazine (1997 – present) — quarterly newsletter (formerly Cal Poly Today)

Formats of Primary Source Materials Collected

Special Collections and Archives acquires through gift or purchase unpublished original materials, including, but not limited to, letters, diaries, art and architectural drawings, reports, business records, journals, photographs, motion pictures and other visual media, literary manuscripts, maps, sound recordings, and other materials.

General Considerations for Potential Acquisitions

In regard to teaching and educational programs at Cal Poly, and users of the department’s collections:

  • Developing existing strengths within its own collections,
  • Identifying and filling gaps in the collections,
  • Identifying relationships to existing collections which reinforce the new materials’ significance, and
  • Complementing the Kennedy Library’s general collection.

Collection policies of other institutions, inside and outside California:

  • Maintaining awareness of existing strengths of other institutions collecting in similar areas to this department’s collections, and
  • Avoiding competition or costly duplication of materials whenever possible.

Media, format, volume, and condition of materials:

  • The condition and integrity of the materials;
  • The volume and media of the materials; and
  • Refusing photocopies of primary source materials.

Existing and projected resources:

  • Accepting only materials for which the department has or will acquire the resources to house, process, access or preserve according to national professional standards; and
  • Soliciting endowment funds from selected donors, if, in the opinion of the Director of Special Collections and Archives or the Kennedy Library’s Advancement Director, such cultivation is warranted.
  • Special Collections and Archives generally does not accept materials on deposit or on loan.


Materials are defined as deaccessioned when they are removed formally and permanently from the Special Collections and Archives department, or when there is a legal transfer of ownership or a permanent disposal. The deaccession of materials in manuscript and archival collections is governed by different principles from those for general research collections. Because of the primacy of preserving archival materials in their original format and the role of special collections and archives as repositories for cultural history, Special Collections and Archives carefully assesses all materials before accepting them to lessen the likelihood of deaccessioning. Valid reasons remain, however, for deaccessioning materials held in Special Collections and Archives.

The Rare Book and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries included a lengthy set of guidelines for deaccession of materials in Standards for Ethical Conduct for Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Librarians, with Guidelines for Institutional Practice in Support of the Standards, 2nd edition, 1992. The following policy for deaccession of materials from Special Collections and Archives incorporates and upholds the standards established by RBMS for the ethical deaccessioning of materials from Special Collections and Archives.

Guidelines for the Deaccession of Materials
  1. When considering deaccession of rare books and manuscripts, the Special Collections and Archives department weighs carefully the interests of the public for which it holds the collections in trust, the interests of the scholarly and cultural community, and the department’s own mission and resources.
  2. Special Collections and Archives will consider any legal restrictions, the necessity for possession of valid title, and the donor’s intent in the broadest sense.
  3. Procedures for the deaccession or disposal of materials will be at least as rigorous as those for purchasing and should be governed by the same basic principles. The decision to dispose of materials must be made only after full and scrupulous consideration of the public interest and the needs of researchers.
  4. Mandatory restrictions on disposition which accompanied a donation will be observed unless it can be shown clearly by appropriate legal procedures that adherence to them is impossible or substantially detrimental to Cal Poly. When statements of donor’s preferences accompany an acquisition, any departure from them will be carefully considered and negotiated with the donor or the donor’s heirs or settled by appropriate legal procedures.
  5. Procedures for deaccession of “materials found in collection,” for which no record of the gift or its terms exist, shall be governed by county and state regulations for unclaimed property. Thus, “materials found in collection” become the property of the archives after seven years of documented continuous ownership.
  6. Responsibility to the needs and reputation of Special Collections and Archives requires that, in preparing for and accomplishing any deaccession, Special Collections and Archives will take care to define and internally state the purpose of the deaccession, to avoid any procedure which may detract from the Library’s reputation for honesty and responsible conduct, and to carry out the entire process in a way which will not detract from public perception of its responsible stewardship. The following points must be taken into consideration:
    • Special Collections and Archives will insure that the method of deaccession will result in furthering the agreed purpose of the deaccession.
    • Special Collections and Archives will disclose to the potential new owner or intermediary agent any action, such as the retention of a photocopy of the material, which may affect the monetary or scholarly value of the material.
    • Special Collections and Archives will not allow materials from its collections to be acquired privately by any library employee, officer, or volunteer, unless they are sold publicly and with complete disclosure of their history.
    • Due consideration should be given to the library community in general when disposing of items. Sales to, or exchanges between, institutions will be explored as well as disposal through the trade.

Inquiries about potential donations

Please contact the Special Collections and Archives department first before shipping any material. Department staff will then work with you to determine the most appropriate disposition of the material.

Contacts for potential collection donations:

Telephone: (805) 756-2305

Email: ude.yloplacnull@sevihcra

Transfer of ownership

To transfer ownership of the archival materials to Special Collections and Archives, donors must sign a deed of gift. The deed of gift includes a brief description of the material donated and can be customized to address the individual donor’s needs. The donation becomes official once it is reviewed, approved, and counter-signed by the Director of Special Collections and Archives.

Care of the collections

Special Collections and Archives archival collections are kept in environmentally balanced, secure, closed stack storage areas. Staff members retrieve them for research use in a supervised reading room. Additional security measures are also taken.

As resources and time permit, collection materials are transferred to acid-free folders and boxes and sometimes receive more specialized treatment from professionally trained preservation technicians.

Interested in providing the best care to preserve your family papers and photographs?

The Northeast Document Conservation Center is a wealth of information, including information on Caring for Private and Family Collections

The Society of California Archivists’ Preserving Your History Brochure Series provides downloadable informational pamphlets on many topics of interest to community members.

Access to collections

As a general rule, Special Collections and Archives provides access to collections within the framework of our library policies and procedures. Please see our page on Reference Services for more information.