Special Collections

Side of a book with a fore-edge painting of people and horses and carriages in front of a building with columns.Lawrence University has four named special collections that constitute approximately 7,200 titles with particular strength in Americana of the nineteenth century, including the American Civil War, the Wisconsin Territory and the state of Wisconsin.

Civil War Collection | Kruse CollectionMilwaukee-Downer Collection | Wisconsin Collection

Read about uses of our special collections materials as well as some of our especially remarkable pieces in our Library Special Collections blog.

Lawrence faculty are welcome to use the resources in our Special Collections with their classes. Please contact Jill Thomas if interested.

See Use of Special Collections Materials if you're interested in viewing materials from these collections.

Civil War Collection

Scope and Contents

Our Civil War Collection is a standout in the region. If one were to consider the seminal pieces in the field, especially Lincolniana, our collection likely has a copy. It contains over 2,200 titles and includes contemporary books and current scholarship, photos, military documents, and books of music. The collection was started by two alumni, Robert S. French, ’48, concentrating on Lincoln, and Keville Larson, ’20, dealing with the Civil War more generally.

Lincoln Reading Room

The Lincoln Reading Room contains the Lincoln Collection of books, documents, pictures, works of art, and other memorabilia. The room includes handsome, secure cabinetry that contains the collection, and a long table with lamps for reviewing materials from the collection or for general studying.

This room can be reserved by Lawrence University faculty, staff and students for academic or administrative functions on an occasional (i.e., not regularly-scheduled) basis through the university's Room Reservation Application. If this room is not otherwise in use it is available for individual or group study on a first-come first-served basis.

Kruse Collection

Scope and Contents

Our newest special collection is the Roger Dale Kruse Collection. The emphasis of this growing collection is on diversity and social justice.

Roger Dale Kruse Room

The Kruse Room is a beautiful space in the southeast corner of the fourth floor of the Mudd Library. The funding for renovation of the space, as well as the furnishings and books was a gift of distinguished alumnus, Judge D. Michael Lynn '65. The Kruse Room is a haven for study and reflection as well as a meeting space for students, classes and student organizations interested in diversity and social justice issues. The room and collection housed in it were named in honor of Judge Lynn's late partner.

The art in this room was donated from the personal collection of Mr. Kruse, and includes Post-Impressionist paintings by French artists. In addition to the beautiful art and relaxing furniture, this room also contains a light therapy lamp. Please make sure to read the guidelines located near the lamp before use.

For more images of the room, including images from the construction of the space, see our album.

Milwaukee-Downer Collection

Scope and Contents

Our general rare books collection, called the Milwaukee-Downer Collection, contains over 2,500 titles including signed first editions, nineteenth century great works, and Bible editions, and commentaries.  Some highlights include first editions of Twain, Hawthrone and Howells, an Erasmus commentary of 1522, and an incunabulum of 1493 entitled Liber Chronicarum. We also have certain Catholic and Lutheran devotionals held nowhere else in North America. Scans of pages from select titles are available in Lux, the Lawrence University Institutional Repository.

Milwaukee-Downer Room

Milwaukee-Downer Room

Formerly known as the Heritage Room, the Milwaukee-Downer Room was dedicated in 2001 during the sesquicentennial celebration of Milwaukee-Downer College. The room was built in the style of the Oak Room, a beloved space on the Milwaukee-Downer campus. The room contains numerous beautiful built-in cabinets, a side chamber with tables and chairs, and a main room with couches and arm chairs. It is home to our rare and antique book collection, as well as a collection of Milwaukee-Downer artifacts.

This room can be reserved by Lawrence University faculty, staff and students for academic or administrative functions on an occasional (i.e., not regularly-scheduled) basis through the university's Room Reservation system. If this room is not otherwise in use it is available for individual or group study on a first-come first-served basis.

Wisconsin Collection

Scope and Contents

The Wisconsin Collection contains over 2,500 titles and features books covering a full range of topics about Wisconsin or by Wisconsin authors. As a collection that we purchase into, we have been able to acquire unique holdings of local and regional writers with a special emphasis in poetry. Because Lawrence University was started as a territorial college, we also have early state government documents and early histories of the Fox River Valley and Appleton. The Lawrence community and the citizens of Appleton and the Fox River Valley take pride in their historical heritage and make frequent use of this collection.

The Wisconsin Collection, as well as the Wisconsin Government Documents, are located on the fourth floor, outside the Kruse Room.

Use of Special Collections Materials


Because of COVID-19 please note that access to items in the Milwaukee Downer Collection or the Civil War Collection is available by appointment only. Please contact Jill Thomas


Users of Special Collections material must first come to the Reference Desk to fill out a registration form. Lawrence students, faculty, and staff are requested to bring their LU ID; community users are asked to show a current driver’s license or state ID. Lawrence University faculty and staff complete one form per year. Lawrence students complete one form per term. Community users complete one form per use.

If you have any questions about locating materials in the catalog, please contact the Reference Desk.

Handling of Material
  • Materials do not leave the library and must be used in our specially designated area and under the supervision of a librarian. Please do not leave material unattended in the building.
  • We request you wash your hands prior to handling items.
  • No eating or drinking will be allowed at the table where you are using the material.
  • If necessary, a book cradle will be used to help support the item.
  • Pencil or computer only in the area of the item to take notes.
  • Please inform the librarian when you have fully completed your use of each item so it can be returned and reshelved in its proper collection.