Access the collections: Special Collections and Rare Books

We acknowledge that description is not neutral, nor are the individuals who create it, and what constitutes appropriate description varies with context, time, and the positionality of the description creator. Find out more about our commitment to updating and revising our descriptive language in our Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Access our collections

SCRB collections support teaching, learning and research at SFU. Our goal is to make access to our collections easy for you, no matter your location!

Browse the three sections below to locate and access archival finding aids, library catalogue records, and digitized collections of materials in Special Collections holdings. For more information on starting your research or visiting us in SCRB, see Plan Your Visit + Start Your Research.

Archives and manuscripts

Special Collections and Rare Books facilitates primary source research and stewards over 250 archival and manuscript collections documenting British Columbia and Western Canada as evidenced through politics; labour; activism; immigration; Indigenous literature; arts and culture; literature; book arts; and publishing.

SCRB contains over 2 kilometers of archival materials, which are comprised of photographs, sound recordings, editorial cartoons, posters, and many other formats.

Most archives and manuscripts can be searched in SFU AtoM (SFU Access to Memory), a database which provides detailed finding aids, or descriptions of the materials for researchers to consult. This is the best place to begin your search. For more help, see Search Tips for SFU AtoM.

Several of our larger archival and manuscript collections have their own databases.

Rare books

Special Collections and Rare Books is home to over 40,000 rare books periodicals, chapbooks, ephemera and other published material, and covers a wide range of topics including the history of the book, book arts, book publishing, juvenile literature, illustration, contemporary Indigenous literature, inventive artists books and much more!

Search for our rare books in the SFU Library catalogue. From the illuminated manuscript Anthology of Civil Law (1269), a Gutenberg Bible leaf (1454), to the current winners of the annual Alcuin Society Prize for Excellence in Book Design Award, SCRB has a wide range of materials to explore in its holdings.

Several of our rare book collections have associated exhibits and projects, and can be searched specifically in the Library Catalogue.

SFU Digitized Collections

SFU Digitized Collections include over 130 collections, with more than 1.3 million digitized newspapers, photographs, documents, sound recordings, and other objects.

Many of these collections originated with the Multicultural Canada digitization project, which grew from the conviction that the cultural groups that make up our country have little-known stories that need to be researched and told.

Researchers can examine early 20th century ephemera connected to Doukhobor immigration and more contemporary sociocultural movements like Vancouver Punk Rock, among other themes.

The SFU Library has supported digitization initiatives in SCRB to ensure our holdings are accessible to researchers, students, faculty, and the larger community beyond the four walls of our reading room.

Note that original versions of digitized materials may be housed at either Special Collections at the SFU Library or at partner sites.



If you need help, please contact our Special Collections Assistants at 778.782.5674 or or Ask a librarian.