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Special Collections Policies

Acceptance of gifts

The primary responsibility of the Music and Performing Arts Library Special Collections (MPALSC) is to serve the research and performance needs of the University’s faculty and students. To this end, the MPALSC seeks to collect in subject areas receiving substantial and sustained attention within the School of Music, the Department of Dance, and the Department of Theatre, those representing ongoing departmental research interests, those that build on existing collection strengths, or those areas that are the focus of state and regional musical and performing arts heritage. The MPALSC accepts gifts of single items or collections that will support these areas of musical scholarship and interest, was well as other topic areas as determined by the unit head and those who advise the department in matters related to acquisitions and collection development.

Materials donated to the MPALSC will be evaluated for enduring value by Head of the Music and Performing Arts Library.  Normally, only those items that support the objectives listed earlier in this document will be added to the Library’s holdings.  The MPALSC may dispose of any materials found within such gift collections that are of insufficient enduring value or that do not further the educational mission of the University of Illinois.

Where possible, it is preferable that gift collections be accompanied by a monetary donation sufficient for processing, conservation, arrangement, and description of the collection in accordance with accepted archival and preservation practice.  It is also preferable that donors of accepted gift collections place no restrictions on access.

Notwithstanding the tremendous pride that the School of Music, Department of Dance, and Department of Theatre take in the achievements of their alumni, considerations of limited space, personnel, and financial resources dictate that the MPALSC accept or decline donations from University of Illinois graduates based on their potential to support the institution’s research, teaching, and performance missions.  Each collection will be evaluated on the basis of its merits in this context.

Some donations or materials therein may be more suitable for collections at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music and/or the University Archives, and may be referred to archivists there for consideration.


Each gift will be evaluated and recommendations made for conservation and preservation of materials that are to be added to the collections.  Every effort will be made to ensure that housing, conservation treatment, and long term storage of the materials will be consistent with accepted industry standards.  The MPALSC may choose to reformat (e.g., digitize) materials that are considered to be in danger due to material degradation or format obsolescence.


Researchers or performers who wish to use special collections materials should request them from the Library’s service desk. Those researchers wishing to make use of large amounts of material at one time, and/or those visiting from off-campus should contact the Head of the Music and Performing Arts Library, via email (mpal@library.illinois.edu) at least one week in advance of your visit. Because there is no secure research area within the Music and Performing Arts Library, access to materials at this site may be limited.  As a general rule a limit of three archival folders (or the equivalent) from Special Collections may be charged out to the researcher at one time.  Researchers needing access to Special Collections materials in greater volume or over a sustained period of time should arrange for their research to be conducted at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music so that adequate space and supervision can be provided.  For more information, or to arrange access to materials, contact the Archivist for Fine Arts at the Sousa Archives.

Access to archival or special collections materials that have not been processed will not normally be granted except under direct supervision by the Head of the Music and Performing Arts Library, the Archivist for Music and Fine-Arts, or other designated library personnel.

Reproduction Requests

Researchers using MPALSC materials on site may make scans of print items or microfilm when the item’s physical condition allows. Researchers working from a distance should send any reproduction requests to mpal@library.illinois.edu. Requests may be denied based on the item’s condition, copyright status, or format. Larger requests may need to be referred to the Library’s Digitization Services unit, which will incur charges.