Collection Development Policy

The Institute Archives and Special Collections collection development policy is essentially a planning tool formulated to guide the department’s staff in making informed decisions on potential acquisitions. The policy is an essential component of the appraisal process through which materials are added to the collections. The guidelines this policy provides insures an appropriate balance between the department’s resources and its commitments.

In terms of general criteria, the department collects in areas that:

  • Extend the libraries' research strengths, interests, and needs in a logical and rational manner.
  • Support the Institute Library’s existing collections.
  • Support the Institute’s curriculum and the research interests of its students and faculty.
  • Anticipate future research needs.
  • Show a high ratio of use to volume and processing costs.
  • Complement rather than compete with the collecting priorities of other special collections repositories.

As part of its mission, the Institute Archives is charged with the collection and preservation of Institute records possessing permanent historical value.

The decision to select and preserve records of historical value is the responsibility of the Institute Archivist. The purpose of collecting such records is to provide documentation of the development and growth of the Institute, particularly of its primary functions of teaching and research, its role in the community at large, the activities of its student body and alumni, and the development of its physical plant and grounds. Priority is given to those records that reflect the activities of Institute officers and committees which formulate or approve Institute or division-wide policy as well as faculty and administrative involvement in these activities.

Recorded information documenting the above activities is collected regardless of format, and includes: administrative papers and files; letter books; financial ledgers; notebooks; pictorial materials; sound recordings; microforms; computer tape and discs; printed material; maps; motion picture film and video tape; and ephemera.

The department’s manuscript collection focuses on nineteenth and early twentieth century science and technology. Materials are collected in the following subject areas and disciplines: civil engineering, especially bridge, canal, and railroad design and construction; mechanics and mechanical engineering; geology; chemistry; physics; mathematics; architecture; and science and technology studies.

Other important collection development areas include the personal papers of Rensselaer faculty members documenting their professional careers and the Institute’s curriculum, and local history materials relating to the Van Rensselaer family.

Rare books and pamphlets are acquired for the department’s collection, not because of their intrinsic value as rare items, or their aesthetic interest as objects, but rather because students and scholars frequently have difficulty in obtaining such items for research use. Collection of these materials is closely correlated to the collection strengths of the Institute Archives and manuscript collection. Nineteenth and early twentieth century materials are collected in the following areas: civil engineering, especially bridge, canal, and railroad design and construction; mechanics and mechanical engineering; geology, mineralogy, and earth sciences; iron metallurgy; hydraulics; steam engineering; chemistry; biology; physics; mathematics; rhetoric and communication; architecture; RPI history, especially materials documenting the Institute’s curriculum; and local history, primarily materials relating to the Van Rensselaer family.

Preservation in Practice

Digital preservation is the active management of digital content over time. It combines policies, strategies and actions to ensure access to reformatted and born digital content regardless of the challenges of media failure and technological change. The goal of digital preservation is the accurate rendering of authenticated content. American Library Association and Library of Congress

Statement of Commitment

Just as the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Archives and Special Collections is committed to the preservation and access of physical records of enduring value, so too is it committed to the preservation and access of Rensselaer's historically significant digital and digitized records. Our staff are exploring new practices and technologies to achieve digital preservation goals.

Back to top