Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Materials

Unlike books, documents do not have tables of contents or indexes. To aid researchers using collections, archivists create finding aids that describe the collections. The finding aid includes:

  • Size of the collection
  • Date range of the documents
  • Where the collection came from
  • Historic or biographic note
  • Description of collection arrangement
  • Detailed box and folder listing of the contents of the collection

UNF has digital finding aids in ArchivesSpace, which is a searchable database.

UNF Finding Aids in ArchivesSpace

ArchivesSpace is a database for UNF Special Collections and University Archives finding aids. Clicking on “Home” at any time brings up the search bar.

Screenshot of the ArchivesSpace webpage, highlighting the Home link and search engine.

  • For those familiar with UNF collections using the search bar is a good place to start for locating materials
  • The drop-down menu allows basic searches by keyword, title, creator, subject, notes, or identifier to refine results; searches can be further limited by date
  • The search bar feature pulls from all the UNF finding aids in ArchivesSpace so results may include multiple collections

The ArchivesSpace webpage with the Collections link highlighted.

The ArchivesSpace search filters.


  • For users not familiar with UNF collections or for those looking for a specific collection, searching using the “Collections” tab is a good option
  • Click “Collections” for an alphabetical list of finding aids. Each item listed has a brief description. Click on the collection title for the finding aid
  • The column to the right of the list allows further filtering

Digitized Collections in UNF Digital Commons

UNF Digital Commons is a repository that houses digital copies of many items in Special Collections and University Archives as well as born-digital collections. Unlike finding aids, the items in Digital Commons are scans or images of representative items from the collections that can be viewed online. Not all collections are currently available, but new content is continually being added.

  • Click on the “Archives & Special Collections” tile located under “Browse Collections”

The UNF Digital Commons webpage, highlighting the Archives & Special Collections tile.

  • To search for materials by collections click on the “Archives & Special Collections” tile

Screenshot of the Special Collections and UNF History from the University Archives links.

  • Choose either “Special Collections” or “UNF History from the University Archives”
  • Special Collections are listed alphabetically by collection name and University Archives collections are listed alphabetically by topic
  • Click the collection link to see a list of items that can be viewed online
  • There is a search bar located on the upper left of each screen and keyword terms can be added to refine the search
  • Searches can be refined by entering search terms using the search bar located to the left of the collections list

Screenshot of the UNF Digital Commons search engine.

  • To view an individual item, click the link then click the blue “Download” button to the right of the item description
  • The item opens as a PDF and can be saved as a study copy.
  • For uses other than scholarly study, please contact lib-special@unf.edu for permission to use the item. Larger image files in TIFF or JPEG format are available for publication or exhibit use. Please see UNF Digital Commons and SelectedWorks for more search tips.

Screenshot of the Download link within UNF Digital Commons.

Other Resources and Repositories

These are suggested Internet sites for research on rare books, archival subjects and Northeast Florida history.

  • American Memory Historical Collections (From the National Digital Library Program)
    Search this innovative resource for interviews from the Life History Manuscripts of the WPA Folklore Project, 1936-1940 (including an interview with former Jacksonville mayor St. Elmo W. Acosta). Also included are postcards from the Detroit Publishing Co. featuring Jacksonville hotels, streets, parks and even Oliver - the Famous Trotting Ostrich from the Florida Ostrich Farm in Jacksonville.
  • Florida Heritage Collection / PALMM
    PALMM is an ongoing cooperative digital project of the State University Libraries in Florida. This online collection provides web access to rare and unique materials representing Florida’s history, culture, arts, literature, and sciences.
  • Florida History Online
    A digital archive of textual and visual documents of Florida history produced by students and faculty at the University of North Florida, under the direction of Dr. Daniel Schafer, Professor Emeritus of History.
  • Florida Memory Project
    Selections of primary records from the Florida State Archives, chronicling the cultural, economic, and political development of Florida.
  • Jacksonville Historical Society
    This is an excellent site for searching for Jacksonville, Florida and Northeast Florida regional historical information.
  • Jacksonville History Consortium
    The Jacksonville History Consortium is group of local history institutions in the Jacksonville and NE Florida region.
  • Online Research Tools for the Dealer and Collector (Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America)
    This site provides links to researching out-of-print books through online library catalogs.
  • Rare Books and Manuscript Section, ACRL
    This is the home page for the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. As such, it contains a plethora of diverse sites and links to repositories, the Section's conferences, and to a Rare Books Guide.