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HIST 398.001 Hands on History: Home

Welcome to the LibGuide for Hands on History, HIST 398.001

Using Special Collections

What are Special Collections?

Ramsey Library's Special Collections contain a variety of primary materials that document the history and culture of Asheville and Western North Carolina.  Materials include manuscript collections, photographs, maps, oral histories, company records, church and synagogue records, scrapbooks, and other materials. A list of collections available for research is available on the Home Page for Special Collections.

Special Collections also includes rare and small-press books and pamphlets with an emphasis on Asheville and the surrounding region.

Special Collections & Archives Access Spring 2024

  • Special Collections is open by Appointment Only from Monday-Thursday, 9-4.

Please contact us to make an appointment for the Reading Room or for a Virtual Appointment.

(828)251-6645 or email us at


How Do I Use Special Collections and Archives?

What is a "finding aid," and how do I use it?

  • Finding aids describe what you can expect to find in a collection. Finding aids will include such information as:
    • the title of the collection
    • a description of what's in the collection
    • information about the person or organization who created the collection
    • citation information
    • how big the collection is (sometimes called "extent" and stated in linear or cubic feet)
    • a list of what is in each box in the collection (sometimes called "container list" or "collection inventory")
  • Here's an example of a finding aid, in this instance for the Julian Price Papers and Recordings in UNCA's Special Collections:
  • Finding aids can look different and have variations on the types of information in them. This is another, older finding aid for the Upper French Broad Defense Association from UNCA's Special Collection. While it looks different it still has the same basic information:

How do I maximize my time in an Archive?

  • Use the finding aid ahead of time so you know exactly what you want to look at and where it is located. If you can, email the Archivist ahead of time so they can have the material you want to review ready when you arrive. Make sure you provide them with the collection name and number, and the box number and folder number you would like to review.
  • Use your camera on your phone and take pictures of anything you think you might want to review in more detail later. If you don't have a good camera on your phone, ask the Archivist to use the scanner.
  • Look for the bigger picture first. Use your time to gather as much information as you can- drill down into the information later from the photos or scans you have made.

Special Collections and Assistant Archivist

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Ashley McGhee Whittle
205C Ramsey Library, CPO #1500
UNC Asheville
One University Heights
Asheville, NC 28804