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August 2, 2016

My Visit to UGA's Special Collections Libraries

by Donna Huber

Richard B. Russell Building University of Georgia Athens
Richard B Russell Building Special Collections Libraries.
photo credit: Donna Huber

Inside this regular looking college campus building at The University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia, is the treasure trove known as the Special Collections Libraries. It is kind of a library-museum hybrid. And it is GORGEOUS.

Last week I had a training workshop for work and it happened to be held at the Richard B, Russell Building.. The bibliophile inside me was doing a happy dance. It is on the opposite end of campus from where I work and I hadn't made my way there.

There is so much to absorb; I think I could visit it every day for a week or more and not get bored.

Since I know the readers of Girl Who Reads live all over the world and it might not be feasible for you to travel to this awesome site, I videoed some of my tour. Keep in mind that I'm not a videographer and this is my first time trying something like this.

After climbing the grand staircase, you enter a lovely rotunda. On my visit the display cases were filled with items devoted to fanzines.


1980s copier used for publishing fanzines

After crossing through into rotunda, you can choice three galleries and as you saw in the video above I choose the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library's Signature Gallery. The entry way seen in the video gives an introduction to the the exhibits within.

The Hargrett Library is home to the largest collection of publications about Georgia and by Georgians. It houses 200,000 volumes in its rare book and Georgiana collections. Also included are millions of pages of historical manuscripts and photographs, along with maps, broadsides, and UGA archives and records.

Some of you may not know, but I'm a science geek. I have a degree in biology and I was really excited to see the botanical book display.There was a a book that looked like a hand-drawn field notebook that had me envious since my field notebook drawings were crap. And there were beautiful botanical prints on the walls.

A photo posted by Donna (@girl_who_reads) on

In addition to the botanical books and Civil War memerobilia (seen in the video), there was also a selection of Tarzan novels on display.

Tarzan books

Next, I visited the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection. I didn't realized until I started working at UGA that it was the home of the Peabody Awards.

Interesting facts:

  • It is the only public insitiution in the State of Georgia devoted solely to perserving and making accessible the moving image and sound history of our state.
  • It is the 3rd largest publicly accessible media archives in the country.

Currently there are 500,000 items in the archive, which includes a variety of audiovisuals dating back to 1917.

I loved the interactive stations where you could watch the archival films. And there were some cool displays of historical film and audio equipment.

interactive station at Peabody Awards Collection

interviewing equipment at Peabody Awards Collection

Finally, I stepped into The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies. It is the only repository in Georgia directed solely toward support of scholarly research in modern political history and public policy development.

Again there were interactive stations with key political moments. And there is even an "opinion" wall where you could make note of your favorite Georgia vacation spots among other things.

interactive station at the Richard B. Russell Library

Station for visitors to live notes

Richard B. Russell was a public servant for Georgia, serving in the state legislature and as govenor before going to Washington, D.C.. He became a U.S. Senator in 1933 and served until his death in 1971. There is a replica of his senate office inside the library.

The mirror that is over the fireplace is also a video screen showing interviews with Russell.

I hope you enjoyed the tour and will make your own plans to visit. What is on display in the galleries is just a small glimpse of treasures housed inside the walls of the Richard B. Russell Building.

The Special Collections Libraries are open to the general public for research. Researchers need to create an online account to request materials, but it will give you access to all the archives has to offer. If you write historical fiction, particularly if focused on Georgia, then this would be an awesome resource for you. Learn more about setting up an account and using the resources.

The galleries that I visited are open to the public Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturdays, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm. (It's closed on home football weekends). On Tuesdays at 2:00 pm there are FREE docent-led tours, but groups of all ages can schedule a tour. The Special Collections Libraries would make a great field trip venue for school groups and homeschoolers. There is a beautiful lawn in front for picnicking and to let the kids run around a bit.

While on the campus of The University of Georgia, you may also enjoy visiting the Georgia Natural History Museum, Georgia Museum of Art, and Georgia Botantical Gardens.

If you do plan a visit to the Special Collections Library, please let me know. The displays change regularly and as I said in the beginning, I think I could visit several times and still find a new detail I missed.

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances.

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