TML Special Collections FAQ
Are you open to everyone?
Absolutely! Members of the general public are welcome and encouraged to use our materials, as are all VCU students, faculty, and staff.
Do I really need an appointment?
It's generally a very, very good idea, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it saves you time. When we know you'll be coming, we can have the material you need ready to go the second you step in the door, or at least enough to get you started. Second, we have a very small staff, and without an appointment, we can't necessarily guarantee that someone will even be around to help. Now, don't be scared into thinking you need an appointment just to stop by and ask a question or have a quick look at something. If you come during normal business hours it's likely there will be someone there and glad to help. It's never a bad idea to give us a heads up though.
To make an appointment, you can give us a call at (804) 828.9898, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or just drop by and ask us when a good time would be if you happen to be in the neighborhood.
Can I just study in the Reading Room?
The Special Collections Reading Room is open for general study, just keep in mind that you may be asked to move if a Special Collections patron needs space.
Where are you located?
First floor of Tompkins-McCaw Library, 509 North 12th Street (Between Clay and Leigh), Richmond, Virginia. We're across the street from the Lyons Dental Building and McGuire Hall, directly north of the Gateway Building and Main Hospital, and right in front of the Visitor Parking Deck. Directions and maps
What should I bring with me to work with Special Collections material? What should I leave at home?
- Pencil for taking notes. Pens are not allowed, as they unfortunately have the ability to break open and spew or dribble ink, which means they also have the ability to ruin one-of-a-kind documents forever. Pencils have no such handicap.
- Loose-leaf paper, also for note-taking. No pads or binders or notebooks, just loose-leaf paper of whatever sort happens to strike your fancy.
- Photo ID, like a driver's license or VCUCard, as this may be requested of you before you are allowed access to material.
You may want to bring:
- Laptop computer, if you'd prefer to take notes that way
- Digital camera for snapping images of documents or other materials, but this will not be allowed in all cases -- ask SC & A staff if you'll be allowed to photograph the material you'll be using. Use of the camera will be supervised by staff.
And you definitely do not want to bring:
- Food or drink, because today's irreplacable manuscript is tomorrow's recycling when inadvertently introduced to a cup of coffee or a burrito. We know you'd be careful, but please leave the eating and drinking for elsewhere. Tompkins-McCaw Library does have its own coffee bar, Skull and Beans, with snacks, pastries, and sandwiches available if you need a break.
Other items -- tape recorders, typewriters, whatever else you can dream up -- may be approved on a case by case basis. If there's any doubt, please do ask us before you bring it. We'd hate to see you lug a typewriter all the way across town on the bus only to find out it won't be permitted in the Reading Room.
May I make copies if I see something interesting?
Much of the material in Special Collections and Archives is old, and quite fragile. Photocopiers place a large amount of strain on even brand new books, and with brittle material, one photocopy might be all it takes to turn a letter into a useless pile of paper fragments. Copyright restrictions also apply to some materials in our holdings. If you come across things in your research that you may want photocopied, use your pencil and loose leaf paper and make a note of where it was -- please do not pull items out of their original order -- and bring it to a staff member's attention. Special Collections staff will make a case by case determination as to whether or not the material can be safely and legally copied.
Any copies that are approved will be made by staff, and will be charged by the page. It's generally a good idea to allow for getting most of your information by taking notes while the material is in front of you, so as not to rely too heavily on copies that may not be possible to make.
Can you scan this photo for me?
Scanning brings with it some of the same problems as photocopying. Placing a brittle document onto a flatbed scanner may be quite stressful for it, or it may be against copyright regulations for us to provide you with a scan. Decisions on this, too, will be made by Special Collections staff on a case by case basis, and be aware that any material we provide unless otherwise agreed to is for private study, scholarship, or research only. It is your responsibility to follow copyright law.
I'm very far away from you, and I desperately need access to information that only exists in your archives. Can you make copies of all the relevant data and mail them to me? Please?
In an ideal world, we would have abundant staff and be able to track down every piece of information available here, assemble a nice packet, and FedEx it to you overnight. Unfortunately, this isn't usually the case. If you have a few specific questions, we'll be quite happy to try and answer them for you by e-mail, phone, or letter. However, detailed investigative research is beyond the limitations of our staffing, and you'd get better results coming in person. Let us know what you need, and we may even be able to point you to resources you can get your hands on more locally, through the Internet, or over Interlibrary Loan.
Failing all else, though, Richmond and Central Virginia makes for a wonderful vacation destination, with scores of fabulous museums, historical sites, parks, beaches, and mountains all within a stone's throw. See Virginia is for Lovers and the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau for some ideas of things to do, and we'd love to have you as a guest!
I'd like to publish this wonderful photo and reprint this terrific document. How do I go about securing rights?
Geneaologists and Family Historians
What information do you have about alumni?
We hold in our collections documents relating to alumni of the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College, University College of Medicine, Medical College of Virginia, and the MCV Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, along with documents from several Richmond nurse training programs. The robustness of information within easy reach varies greatly from period to period, but at minimum we can typically secure a graduation date. If the alumnus or alumna in question was active with or contributed regularly to the Alumni Association or Foundation, we are likely to have a good deal more correspondence and detail on their life after graduation. Of course, the only way to find out for sure what's here is to ask us about it.
A family member was a patient in a hospital or clinic there. What information do you have about them?
Tompkins-McCaw Library Special Collections holds no direct patient care records from MCV Hospitals, VCU Health Systems, or any of their predecessor institutions.
Was the Medical College of Virginia part of the University of Virginia? Are they the same thing?
The Medical College of Virginia was founded in 1838 as the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College. The General Assembly explored merging the University of Virginia's medical school and MCV in the 1920s, but this never took place. The two institutions are wholly separate.
How do I find books?
The VCU Libraries Catalog "Advanced Search" form allows you to limit your search to a specific location within VCU Libraries. Select "TML Special Collections and Archives" from the drop-down box as shown in the screenshot below, and then carry out your search as usual.
How do I find manuscript material?
Many of our finding aids are online through the Virginia Heritage Database. See our instructions for finding VCU materials if you need help. Other finding aids are in our office. When in doubt, just ask us!
How do I find photographs and prints?
A small number are online, but for the most part, just let Special Collections staff know what you'd like to see and we'll try to get it for you.
How do I find artifacts?
Many items from our Medical Artifacts collection are exhibited in the Peter N. Pastore History of Medicine Exhibit Hall and in cases throughout Tompkins-McCaw Library, and these exhibits are always changing. Have a look at those, or if there's something specific you'd like to see, ask for help.
There's something else I'm looking for.
Ask Special Collections staff and we'll do what we can to track it down for you.