Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to make an appointment to visit Special Collections and Archives?

Because we are a small department, we prefer that you call us at (864) 294-2194 or e-mail Special Collections to schedule a visit ahead of time. We want to ensure that we have staff and materials available to meet your needs. Plus it will save you time!

What kinds of materials do you have in Special Collections and Archives?

We have many different kinds of materials! Our materials are maintained separately from the general library collections due to their age, uniqueness, fragility, significance and format. While the strength of the collection is in nineteenth century materials, we have materials as old as a piece of an ancient cuneiform tablet and from as far away as Japan and China. We have over 18,000 books; as well as manuscripts, newspapers and periodicals, scrapbooks, photographs and postcards, maps, and digitized materials.

Can I come browse the shelves in Special Collections and Archives?

Special Collections' materials are stored in the Fred W. Symmes Archives and are not open for browsing. They are stored this way due to concerns about their fragility, age, significance, and uniqueness.

However, though you cannot browse our shelves, you can browse our collection online. Books in our collection are listed in the library's online catalog, and can be isolated from listing in the General Collection by selecting "Special Collections" from the drop-down menu immediately below the search fields. Other materials stored in Special Collections are listed on our website. Once you find what you are looking for, you can request the materials at the window in Special Collections and Archives and we will bring them to you to use in the William Gilmore Simms Research Room.

Can I check out materials from Special Collections and Archives?

Materials stored in Special Collections and Archives, with the exception of our microfilmed South Carolina Baptist Church records, are not available to be checked out. This limitation is due to the age, uniqueness, fragility, significance and format of our materials. Restricting our materials' use to the William Gilmore Simms Research Room allows us to better preserve them for future scholars to use.

Can Special Collections and Archives help me find sources for my paper?

Yes, we can. A large part of our work in Special Collections and Archives is providing reference services for students, faculty, staff, and the general public. Our materials are very versatile: even if you're not sure Special Collections will have anything helpful for your work, we encourage you to ask us. We might surprise you!

If we can't find the source you're looking for in Special Collections, we will help you find it online or through Inter-Library Loan. While the size of our department sometimes means that amount of time we can spend doing research for the public is limited, Furman students are always entitled to our help.

How can I find information on my ancestors in Special Collections and Archives?

If you know or suspect that your ancestors were Baptists who lived in South Carolina, our collection of South Carolina Baptist Church Records on microfilm includes the records of over 500 individual churches in South Carolina. The records reach as far back as 1736 and frequently include the names of church members. They are also the only part of our collection that we loan out. The records can be requested through your local university's or public library's Inter-Library Loan department.

Furman University also maintains a subscription to, which is a great starting point for family researchers who have a Furman University login and password or are visiting the library.

You can find out more about our resources for genealogists here.

Can Special Collections and Archives do genealogical research for me?

Unfortunately, Special Collections and Archives is not equipped to operate like a genealogical library. While we can provide general reference services for patrons, we are not able to research specific names or places.

Why is it so cold in Special Collections and Archives?

The temperature and humidity in Special Collections and Archives are carefully monitored and maintained to ensure that our materials remain in the best condition possible for as long as possible. The ideal conditions for preservation are between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 45% and 55% humidity. If you think you might be chilly, we recommend bringing a jacket when you visit us.