A close up of the grey boxes that VCU Libraries keeps the special collection manuscripts in.

Manuscripts Collections

Special Collections and Archives collects primary source materials in all formats related to comic arts, book arts, Richmond and Central Virginia history; African American, women’s, and LGBTQ+ community histories; social movements and activism; 15th-19th-century medical texts and imprints; and health sciences history focused on Virginia and the South.

Manuscripts Collection at James Branch Cabell Library

Cabell Collection Strengths

Cabell Library’s Special Collections and Archives acquires, preserves and provides access to primary source materials documenting the history of Richmond from the late 19th century to the present. Manuscript collections include the personal papers of activists, politicians, philanthropists, artists, and writers. Organizational records focus on social activism, civic engagement and urban development; the visual, literary, and performing arts; and associations advancing the rights of traditionally under-documented groups in the community. Materials documenting the experience and activities of the LGBTQ, African American, and women’s activist communities are particularly well represented.

Manuscripts Collection at the Health Sciences Library

Health Sciences Library Collection Strengths 

The department collects primary source materials documenting the health sciences and the health care professions in Virginia. Manuscript collections include the personal papers of Virginia nurses, physicians, dentists and other health care practitioners as well as the records of various professional organizations. Nursing is particularly well represented.

Suggestions for Researchers

Since the department maintains a variety of files and indices of its collections, researchers and visitors are encouraged to consult with staff for information needs. Most – but not all – of these collections can be found through ArchivesSpace-VCU Special Collections & Archives or VCU Libraries search. Researchers are also encouraged to use Archival Resources of the Virginias (ARVAS), a database of holdings in cultural institutions across the Commonwealth.  

Statement on Harmful Content

VCU Libraries Special Collections and Archives strives to create descriptive records that actively reflect the content of our collections while using inclusive and respectful language. Please be aware that some materials in the collections contain offensive or insensitive language. Our archivists continually work to contextualize or remove harmful language in collection descriptions, but this is an iterative process that takes time. If you find problematic language in a finding aid, please notify us at

Collections Guidelines »