About Special Collections

The University Library connects learners, readers and scholars with rich, multifaceted collections of rare and archival materials.

The University of Adelaide has a diverse range of rare and valuable collections that are used for research, teaching, learning and community engagement. The University Library provides a specialist service and environment in which the collections are carefully curated and managed, ensuring they are available for generations of scholars to come. Some of the collections are managed in conjunction with other University departments. 

The Special Collections include:

Collections include:

  • Rare books, fine and limited editions

    Over 40,000 books covering such topics as Australiana, British and European theatre of the late 19th to mid-20th century, early printing, pacific voyages and exploration, medicine, natural history, South Australian colonial history and women.

  • Manuscripts and personal papers

    A wide variety from Andrew Arthur Abbie's papers on physical anthropology to the poster collection of the Women's Studies Resource Centre

  • Artwork

    An extensive collection of artwork in multiple formats including sculpture, drawings, lithographs, ceramics and paintings. Key pieces include Arthur Boyd's series of 12 The Judges and Kathleen Petyarre's Mountain Devil Lizard Dreaming.

  • Equipment and apparatus

    This includes Florey's micro manipulator and portable potentiometers to CIRRUS, one of the very few Australian-built early super computers of the 1960s, and the torch for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.

  • Specimens and samples

    Ranging from frog skeletal material, mummified leaves and the Waite Arboretum to meterorites, Arkaroola rocks and fossils collected by Howchin, Tate and Tennison-Woods.

  • Heritage furniture

    An eclectic range of heritage furniture - including Sir Douglas Mawson's desk.

  • Sporting memorabilia

    Including pennants, medals, medallions, sports blazers, and the Tyas Cup.

  • Agricultural machinery and vehicles

    This includes a working model of a 1908 Sanderson tractor and a working half-scale stripper first exhibited at the 1978 Paris World Fair.

  • Maps and charts

    Notable inclusions are a set of Edmunds maps of South Australia and a collection of World War II maps.

  • Archaeological artefacts

    Held within the Museum of Classical Archaeology, artefacts include papyrus texts, Roman pottery and Ptolemaic glass inlays from Alexandria.