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This guide covers: accessing and using the collection, containing manuscripts, printed materials, visual materials, interviews, materials relating to civil rights litigation and legislation, and Howard University School of Law history.

General Rules

  • All briefcases, purses, coats, and other personal articles are to be deposited in the Archivist's office, or in some other designated location.
  • No food or beverages are allowed in the Archives. Smoking and gum chewing are not permitted.
  • Use only pencils, and loose notepaper, or laptop computers when taking notes.  Pens and notebooks are not allowed in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Handling the Collection

  • Hands should be clean for handling of materials.  Please avoid applying creams or lotions to your hands immediately before handling materials as the oils can transfer and cause considerable damage.
  • Never place an open book face down.
  • Do not lean on books or documents.
  • Never write or trace on books or documents.
  • Be careful when opening books and turning pages; always lift the top corner of the page.
  • Do not use paper clips, rubber bands, post-it notes, pencils, or any three dimensional object for place markers. Paper bookmarkers are available in the Archivist's Office.
  • Items in folders should be examined one at a time; please keep the items in order.
  • No marks may be added to or erased from any material.
  • Do not remove items from their clear Mylar sleeves.
  • Cotton gloves must be worn when handling historic photographs.
  • When using materials housed in special enclosures, please be sure to put them back in the same way. If you need help re-housing an item, please ask a staff person.
  • If the item you are using seems too fragile to handle, please ask Special Collections staff to assist you.

Permissions and Ordering Reproductions

  • Permission to publish images or text taken from materials in Archives must be obtained from HUSL Library.  Reproductions must be acknowledged in the publication as outlined in the HUSL Library Permissions Request Form
  • Cost information provided upon request.

Following these rules will help us to preserve our collection so that researchers can continue to benefit from the information they contain.
Thank you for your cooperation.

Access the HUSL Library Permissions Request Form below, fill out pages 1-2 and email the form to  

Guidelines for donating materials to the Archives
The Special Collections Department Solicits the following materials:

Manuscript Materials
The Special Collections Department houses several manuscript collections, and actively solicits and collects the following types of manuscript materials: civil rights litigation materials, Howard University School of law faculty papers, Howard University School of Law administrative and historical records, and Howard University School of Law alumni papers.

Rare Books
The Special Collections Department houses more than 250 volumes of rare law books, and collects books that are truly rare, and document civil rights, the legal history of the District of Columbia, or the history of Howard University School of Law.  The Special Collections Department also collects law books which come from an important legal provenance (e.g., Thurgood Marshall, Felix Frankfurter).

Visual Materials
The Special Collections Department actively solicits and collects photographs and other visual materials which portray the history of Howard University School of Law, and materials which portray the history of civil rights litigation.

Benefits of Donation
When a donor transfers materials to the Howard University Law Library Special Collections Department, the Library organizes and preserves the donation and makes it available to the public.

The following is a list of services the Special Collections Department will provide regarding your donation.

1. The donation will be organized and, if appropriate, a bibliographic record and/or finding aid (index) will be created to describe the content and the arrangement.

2. The donation will be physically stabilized and preserved; materials will be placed in non-damaging containers and stored in facilities that provide appropriate temperature and humidity control and security.

3. The donation will be available to researchers in the Library after it is organized, physically stabilized, and prepared for use.

4. The Special Collections Department will provide reference services for the donation and, if appropriate, will have the materials listed in national and international bibliographic sources and online databases.

5. Should the Deed of Gift contain temporary restrictions on portions of the donation, the restrictions will be strictly enforced.

6. The Library will require that appropriate and complete citations be included in all information relating to the donation, such as exhibitions, publications, and media productions.

7. The Library will permanently maintain confidential files documenting the acquisition of the donation and its use.

Deed of Gift
All donations to the Archives must be accompanied by a deed of gift. A deed of gift is a formal, legal, agreement that transfers ownership of, and legal rights in, the materials to be donated. Executing a deed is in the best interests of both donor and repository. After discussion and review of the various elements of the deed, it is signed by both the donor, or donor's authorized agent, and an authorized representative of the University. The signed deed of gift establishes and governs the legal relationship between the donor and the Law Library and the legal status of the materials.  As part of its deed of gift text, the Library requires donors to transfer any copyright they may hold in the materials to the Howard University School of Law.

Unsuitable Donations
The Special Collections Department receives many donations which do not fit into its collection policy.  The Library does not have the resources to care for such collections, and such collections will be returned to the donor.  The department will try to suggest an alternative repository for manuscript or visual materials.  In the case of book donations, the Library director will be consulted to see if the book fits into the general library collection, and if so, with the permission of the donor will be placed there.

For more information about using the Archives, or making a donation to the Archives, please email a request to



© Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Esq. Law Library, Howard University School of Law. 

Requests to republish or adapt this guide should be directed to

Updated: January 2023.