About Special Collections

The Wilson Special Collections Library is located on Polk Place at the heart of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is a center for discovering the history and culture of the University, the state of North Carolina, the American South, and the world.

Wilson Library is home to the University Libraries’ five signature collections of original research materials: the North Carolina Collection, the Rare Book Collection, the Southern Folklife Collection, the Southern Historical Collection, and the University Archives and Records Management Services. Three other departments form part of Wilson Library: Conservation and Preservation, Research and Instructional Services, and Technical Services.

The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is also based at Wilson Library, as is the University Libraries’ Digital Production Center, focused principally on the digitization of special collections materials across formats.

Visitors can engage with Wilson Library in several ways:


Wilson Library is free and open to all students, scholars, and the public for research. Research materials are served online and in the Special Collections Research Room on the second floor. The Research Room is open by-appointment.

Teaching and Learning

The Special Collections Learning Center on the second floor and the Overholser Seminar Room on the fourth floor offer spaces for students to have active, hands-on experiences with primary sources. Instructors can partner with librarians to create unique student assignments in support of their teaching objectives. Learn more about special collections instruction.

Exhibitions and Programs

Exhibitions in the North Carolina Collection Gallery on the second floor, the Melba Remig Saltarelli Exhibit Room on the third floor, and other locations provide an opportunity to learn about items from the special collections. Lectures, performances, and other public programs are held throughout the year in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room on the second floor. Library exhibitions and programs are open to the public at no charge.

An Iconic Landmark

Wilson Library is one of the most recognizable buildings on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus. It opened in 1929 as the University’s main library and was named for University Librarian Louis Round Wilson in 1956. Since 1987, it has been the dedicated home of the special collections.

On the third floor, visitors can experience one of the grandest spaces on the Chapel Hill campus, the Fearrington Reading Room. The room was named in 2016 in recognition of a generous gift to the University Libraries by Florence Fearrington, a 1958 Carolina graduate. Learn more about the history of Wilson Library.