Using Our Collections

Bywaters Special Collections

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to make an appointment in advance of my visit?
Yes, an appointment to use the collections is required. Make an appointment by emailing us at

What are your hours?
Bywaters Special Collections is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. We are closed on all University holidays.

Where are you located?
We are located on the second floor of the Hamon Arts Library, inside the Meadows School of the Arts. 

What should I bring with me on my visit?
Pencils, paper, laptops (removed from protective sleeves or bags), and digital cameras or cell phones (with flash and sound disabled) are allowed in the research room. A locker is available at no charge for backpacks, purses, briefcases, coats, pens, notebooks, and other personal property. All materials taken in or out of the research room are subject to examination by staff.

How do I find out what materials you hold?
Our Collections page provides a brief overview of all our major collections and collecting areas. Many of our archival holdings have finding aids available online via Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO). You are welcome to contact us at with your topic as well. Staff members are very knowledgeable about the collections and are happy to help.

May I browse the shelves or borrow materials from special collections?
Unfortunately, no on both counts. All special collections material is held in closed-access areas and can only be consulted in our research room. Collections can be special for a variety of reasons: age, rarity, fragility, provenance, association, or financial value. For these reasons, access to the stacks is prohibited.

May I look at vault items such as early printed books, manuscripts, or photographs?
Typically, researchers demonstrating a genuine research need to use vault materials are allowed access to these items. However, we are very unlikely to agree to a request to view materials just for curiosity's sake, and we do reserve the right to deny access to any researcher, including, but not limited to, the following reasons: conservation issues, materials are digitized and available online, security concerns, or staff availability.

How do I handle rare books, manuscripts, and photographs?
Researchers should wash their hands prior to working with collection materials. Hand lotions and creams should not be used before handling materials. Gloves should be worn when handling photographic materials, and the emulsion side of the photograph should never be touched; rather, pick up a photograph with both hands supporting the image from underneath. Unless directed by staff, researchers are not required to use gloves for manuscripts or rare books because gloves can make it more difficult to handle or turn pages.

Researchers should use pencils only, and no marks or erasures should be made on any materials. Never write on top of photographs, manuscripts, rare books, or other printed materials.

Researchers should use only one folder from one box at a time. All collection items should be kept in their existing arrangement and order. Please notify staff if you suspect something is out of order, and do not attempt to rearrange items.

May I take my own photographs in the Research Room?
Bywaters Special Collections permits limited photography in the Research Room in order to alleviate photocopying and to supplement personal study. Please consult our Digital Camera Use Policy for regulations regarding digital photography.

How do I order images of items from special collections?
Bywaters Special Collections provides a range of reproduction options from photocopying to digital images. Researchers are encouraged to consider how they plan to use the reproductions and to choose the option that most closely meets those needs. The Library’s sale of a reproduction does not imply an authorization to publish it. Please visit our Ordering Images page for more information.

How do I obtain permission to publish?

Permission to publish in any format (including, but not limited to, printed materials, eBooks, websites, exhibitions or broadcasts) requires the proper completion, signing, and approval of the Application to Publish form. Please contact Bywaters Special Collections staff for a copy of this form. Permission to publish is considered approved upon the researcher’s receipt of the fully executed, signed copy of the Application to Publish form from Bywaters Special Collections. 

How do I cite materials?
Citation formats will depend on the style manual used and your specific project, but you should include enough information so that readers can locate your sources. For scholarly works, we suggest you include box numbers and folder titles as well, but at a minimum credit should be as follows:

[Description of item or title], [Name of collection] Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

For exhibitions, presentations, web pages, broadcasts, newspaper or journal articles, etc. in which permission to use images has been granted by Bywaters Special Collections, please credit as follows:

Courtesy of Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

If you have any questions about citations, please contact us at for help.

Are any materials from special collections available online?
Yes, we have thousands of items from our collections digitized and searchable in our digital collections, and we are constantly adding new content. Due to the extent of our collections and the time and expense involved, however, our digitization efforts are focused, and our goal is not to digitize every item in our holdings.