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University Libraries
SA 5005

Telephone: +61 8 8313 5759
Facsimile: +61 8 8313 4369

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Rare Books & Special Collections

Rare Books & Special Collections houses the Library’s most valuable and vulnerable publications, including old and rare books, fine and limited editions, University of Adelaide publications and the specialist Pacific and Theatre collections. It also takes responsibility for the collection and preservation of manuscripts and personal papers of members of the University community, particularly academic staff, and acquires collections of personal and institutional papers relating to its specific research strengths.  These include Pacific and indigenous Australian history and language, British and Australian theatre and University of Adelaide history.

Special Collections is located on Level 1 South of the Barr Smith Library and is open from 1.00pm to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday.  Service outside of these hours must be arranged in advance with the Special Collections Librarian.

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Adopt a Book

Many of the items housed in Rare Books & Special Collections are in need of repair and restoration in order to ensure their ongoing availability for future generations of scholars.  In 2012, the Friends of the University of Adelaide Library established the Adopt a Book scheme, offering Library supporters the opportunity to contribute towards this valuable conservation treatment.


Current Exhibition

Adelaide in 1914

This exhibition presents a snapshot of life at the University and in Adelaide in the year that World War I was declared.

The University was a much smaller place, both in acreage and the number of students, faculties and degrees offered.

Adelaide was emerging from the Victorian era into a world of technological innovation and social change, but suffering from years of drought.  Silent movies, sport and theatre provided diversions.

The first Army units drawn from South Australia were formed in August and despatched to Egypt before the end of the year.

Patriotic support quickly gathered and the Cheer Up Society formed, while South Australians of German descent were interned at Torrens Island.

Visit the exhibition at Rare Books and Special Collections, Barr Smith Library, Level 1, from the 27th of October to the 31st of December 2014.

Our previous exhibition, 140 Books, was very popular and prompted much discussion. A full list of books included in the display is available online.


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South Australia Illustrated by George French Angas, 1847

The Decorative Art of Leon Bakst by Leon Bakst, 1913

Orchid Paintings in 8 Volumes by Rosa Fiveash, ca 1906-1932