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Renovation Transition

Student working with digital materials in Special Collections

Smith College Special Collections is comprised of three unique collections: College Archives, the Mortimer Rare Book Collection, and the Sophia Smith Collection of Women’s History. Special Collections material spans 5,000 years of human history and features extraordinary breadth and depth of collecting scope. We steward one of the best collections of women’s history in the world with comprehensive coverage of abolition, suffrage, reproductive rights and justice, grassroots organizing, and women of color. Other core strengths include women’s education, Smith College history, artists' books, book history, and literature. Formerly autonomous, these three extraordinary collections were organizationally combined in 2014.

A crucial step toward integration is the renovation of the Neilson Library. For the first time ever, the three collections will be co-located in one space, sharing a single reading room and centralizing services. This monumental shift will: make Special Collections more visible and easily accessible to all users; foster collaborative work in and out of the Libraries; provide dedicated spaces for interactive teaching and learning; create state-of-the-art collections storage according to best environmental and security practices; expand our technological capacities; offer user-centered exhibition space; increase our ability to adaptable and flexible for the future; to render our work visible and transparent to the community; and allow us to be located in space / technology that encourages innovation.

This thrilling opportunity is a reflection of an intensive planning process (Fall 2015 to Winter 2016) that produced the New Neilson Library Program.


Timeline & Impact on Services

Special Collections will be closed from May 22 to September 5, 2017 for relocation to Young Library. The closure enables staff to supervise the move of collections and staff offices and settle into our temporary spaces. For the duration of construction (September 2017 to September 2020), Special Collections staff will be located in two locations: Young Library and West Street. Our contact information will be updated as necessary. Special Collections will remain a public repository. All are welcome. A general timeline of the renovation is available. Information will be updated on an ongoing basis.

Any general questions concerning the renovation can be sent to Beth Myers, Director of Special Collections (, collections or services questions can be directed to the appropriate staff.


Starting January 2017, some collections will not be immediately available for research. Anyone planning on visiting Special Collections from January to June should contact staff to ensure that materials will be accessible. Closures of specific collections or materials due to the relocation will be temporary.


Special Collections public services will be centralized in Young Library. Our temporary reading room and dedicated classroom are located on the 2nd floor. Our hours are available here, along with information about visiting, and our general services. We will continue to offer class instruction, reference support and consultation, project planning, and grants and research funding.

Frequently Asked Questions: The Renovation

May 22nd to September 5th, 2017.

Yes, though responses will take longer than normal. Staff will not be conducting instruction sessions while Special Collections is closed but we look forward to resuming our dynamic instruction program in the fall.  

Yes, but expect delays in the response. Complex research inquiries, as determined by the staff, may be delayed until reopening. Requests for reproductions will likewise be ongoing, but with delays.

Special Collections public services staff will mainly be located in the Young Library and Green Box, with technical services staff at West Street. The Reading Room and dedicated Special Collections classroom is located on the 2nd Floor of the Green Box. The collections will remain on campus in secure and environmentally sound conditions.