Category Archives: News

Behind the Scenes at AU Archives in Spring Valley

This is the third post about our new home in AU’s Spring Valley Building.

As we worked with the architects on the design for our new space, we realized we could facilitate our work through adjacencies and review of traffic patterns. Our new work area combines our digitization lab and processing space so staff are co-located and can better work together on projects. As it can be easier to sort collections while standing, our main tables are bar height. Our digitization stations are along the walls to limit disruptions. The new configuration gave us enough additional space to set up an audio-visual digitization station so we can offer a broader array of reformatting services to researchers. We can also use this extra computer for digital collections processing.


Our new work area features space for processing and digitization.


We are excited about our new storage area, which features state of the art climate control and mobile shelving. The archives stacks contains two units of mobile shelving with stationary shelves along the perimeter. The new shelving configuration features a variety of sizes of shelves that maximize our storage capacity. AU archives for the first time in many years has growth space on campus. We have many new collections in the pipeline so it will be interesting to see how fast the open space fills up. Our new HVAC system will allow us to better control seasonal fluctuation of temperature and relative humidity to protect our collections for the long haul. One nice bonus is that all of our map cabinets are now with the climate control zone.


Our new compact shelving allows us to maximize our storage space.

Our entire map collection is now in climate controlled space.

Welcome to the new Archives Reading Room

This is the second in a series of posts about our new home in AU’s Spring Valley Building (SVB).

One exciting feature in our new space is a larger reading room that can accommodate more researchers and larger classes. The desks and chairs are all on wheels so we can move them around to allow for varying configurations. With a full AV set up, we can easily host lectures and presentations. We also added a light table for viewing slides and negatives and a public workstation so researchers can search the catalog and/or view our digital collections if they do not bring their own device. As with all campus buildings, SVB offers free wifi for guests. We have a few lockers for secure storage of valuables. To facilitate access to collections from off-site storage, we set aside some space to store materials temporarily while researchers are using them.

Researcher appointments are available between 9am and 5pm  Monday through Friday. Faculty members should contact the University Archivist at least two weeks in advance of their proposed class visit.


Our new reading room

Welcome to the New AU Archives and Special Collections

This is a first in a series of posts introducing our new space.

Upon entering American University Archives and Special Collections, visitors encounter colorful displays of treasures from Special Collections. Our new entrance features motion activated lighting and temperature and humidity control. This will allow us to display a broader range of materials from our collections. We plan to change our exhibits more frequently to encourage repeat visits.


Archives and Special Collections Entrance November 2017


Our first two displays in this space feature items from the rare book collection. 19th century illustrators and American authors take center stage. The varied styles of the illustrators and the colorful book jackets vie for your attention. These items will remain on display up until winter break.


20th American Authors Display


Visitors are welcome to stop by between 9am-5pm Monday through Friday.

Unpacking progressing smoothly

AU Archives and Special Collections staff and students have been hard at work the last couple of weeks unpacking the rare book collection. We have made substantial enough progress that the Archives Reading Room will re-open on October 4. We hope to have everything unpacked by October 6. Our final move related task will be to do a shelf read to make sure that everything is where it belongs.


Here are some images of our new shelves loaded with books and boxes:

The rare book collection in its new home.

University records in the stacks.














Visitors are welcome. Give us a call at (202) 885-3256 or email if you would like a tour or need to consult a collection.

AU Archives is Moving

AU Archives and Special Collections will be moving to our new home on the second floor of the Spring Valley Building (4801 Massachusetts Avenue NW) the last two weeks of August. We will be monitoring email sporadically during the move so our response time will be slower than usual. Starting September 5, we will provide limited reference service until the rare book collection has been unpacked and shelved. We hope to establish full operations in early October if not sooner.

We will begin accepting donations again starting the week of Labor Day.
Our new mailing address is as follows:
American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave NW
Archives & Special Collections – Suite 207
Washington DC 20016-8042

For FedEX and UPS shipments please use the following address:
American University
4801 Massachusetts Ave NW
Archives & Special Collections – Suite 207
Washington DC 20016-8042

Researchers are welcome to contact us starting the week of September 14 to schedule appointments for late September and early October.

This is a preliminary schedule so please call or email to confirm.

Archives and Special Collections Status Update

One of the most critical aspects of preserving historical materials is the environment. Collections storage areas should be cool and dry. Depending on what you are storing, 60-65° F and 35-40% relative humidity are optimal ranges. Unfortunately, it is taking much longer than planned to achieve the desired temperature and relative humidity in our new space. Once the system can meet our set points, we will be ready to move. The added complication is that our current home, Bender Library, is undergoing renovations this summer. We ended up relocating several collections to WRLC’s Shared Collections Facility temporarily to facilitate the Bender Library project. Though our move date is uncertain, we would like to reopen in time for the start of the fall semester. We will post another update once we finalize the timeline and can provide details.


Plastic tent set up in Bender Library to protect collections while waiting for new space to become available.

Archives Move Postponed

We postponed the move to our new space until the end of June due to HVAC issues. We will resume limited reference service in the interim. Unfortunately, this will further delay our reopening. Please stay tuned for additional updates.


Carts packed and ready for transit to new location

AU Archives on the Move (May 22 – June 2)

AU Archives will begin its move to its new home on the second floor of AU’s Spring Valley Building (4801 Massachusetts Avenue NW) next week.


The collections are packed.            The empty shelves await.

The rare book collection is packed and ready to go.

New Compact Shelving in Spring Valley Building.


We expect the move of collections, equipment and furniture will take about two weeks. We will be offline for the duration of the move. Once we finish unpacking the rare book collection, we will reopen for research. We appreciate everyone’s patience during this long process and will try to get back up and running as quickly as possible. We look forward to seeing you in our new home.

WANTED: Signs from the Women’s March on Washington

AU Archives in partnership with the Student Historical Society is documenting AU students’ participation in the historic Women’s March on January 21, 2017. We are building a collection of protest signs. At our first collecting event, we received five signs that reflect the diversity of messages at the march. We are still accepting donations as we want our collection to include signs for all of the issues of interest to AU students.



Sierra Apaliski’s poster from the Women’s March



Did you keep your sign from the march? Do you know someone with a sign? If so, please consider donating your sign to AU Archives before you leave at the end of the semester. For further information, send an email to

Renovation Update #2

The first phase of construction of Archives and Special Collections new home will be complete in the next couple of weeks.

The first compact shelving unit is in place.


High Density Mobile Shelving Unit


Our processing/digitization area, offices and the new reading room are almost complete. Our new reading room will have digital projection equipment so it can also serve as our classroom.


Archives Reading Room

Archival Processing and Digitization Area














Our space should be ready for occupancy in early May once the contractor has installed and tested all of the systems. We will meet with prospective moving companies this week and next and will make our final selection by mid-April. As soon as we have a mover lined up, we will begin packing the rare book collection. We estimate this should take about a month so we should be ready to move into our new home in mid -May. We will post a final renovation update in May.