About Special Collections & Archives

The University of Waterloo Library's Special Collections & Archives department is housed in the Dana Porter Library. Our Doris Lewis Reading Room is named in honour of Doris Eileen Lewis, the first University Librarian of the University of Waterloo. The department opened on June 2nd, 1976.

Special Collections & Archives holds early editions and rare books, collections of archives and manuscripts, and other material that requires special care and handling because of its early publication date, provenance, physical condition, aesthetic value, or unusual format.

Rare Books

Now numbering over 70,000 volumes, the rare book collections have particular subject strengths in the following areas: women's studies, local history, the history of mathematics (especially Euclid's Elements of Geometry), architecture, dance and ballet, fine printing, spiritualism and theosophy, and urban planning.

Architecture titles from the Rosa Breithaupt Clark Architectural Collection and the William Dendy Library are housed in the Musagetes Architecture Library.


Historical and literary archives are maintained in a variety of subject areas that, for the most part, complement the book collections. The collections are considered working collections that have been developed systematically around subjects that reflect the goals of the University of Waterloo's major teaching and research programmes.

The University of Waterloo Archives is also part of Special Collections & Archives. The University Archives houses official records of the University of Waterloo. Included are correspondence, reports, minutes, publications, architectural and building plans, photographs, ephemera, and memorabilia.

Special Collections & Archives resources are available for use by students, faculty, and staff, visiting scholars, and by the public.


The mandate of Special Collections & Archives is to acquire and make available material that supports the goals of the major teaching and research programs at the University of Waterloo. The collections are considered working collections that have been developed systematically around special subjects that reflect the above goals. Special Collections & Archives does not acquire collections of artefacts but may accept a small number of artefacts within an archival collection.

Access policy

Material housed in Special Collections & Archives does not circulate and can only be used in the Doris Lewis Reading Room. Please note that access to some archival material is restricted. Scanning and reproduction is granted on a case by case basis.

Please contact us if you wish to consult the University of Waterloo Archives.

Our holdings are unique and irreplaceable. To ensure the longevity and security of our collections we ask that the following rules be observed:

  • All researchers present an appropriate piece of identification such as a valid library card, student card or driver’s licence. Researchers must complete a "Reader Registration” form.
  • Coats and bags must be left in the secure storage lockers provided on-site.
  • Food and drink are not permitted in the Doris Lewis Reading Room.
  • Pens, highlighters or mechanical pencils are prohibited. Please use the pencils provided for use in the Doris Lewis Reading Room.
  • All material must be handled with clean hands and with care. Staff will advise researchers about the appropriate way to handle the collection being consulted.
  • The order of files in archival collections is to be maintained.
  • Each researcher is responsible for material signed out in their name until it is returned to a Special Collections & Archives staff member.