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Access to Rare Materials

Music manuscripts, correspondence, archival collections and rare editions of books and printed music are available to Northwestern students, faculty, and visiting researchers for on-site examination. 

Request an appointment

All patrons should make an appointment to examine special-collections materials; patrons without an appointment will receive service based on the availability of the staff.

Appointment requests should be submitted well in advance of the proposed appointment date. Out-of-town visitors should confirm appointments before making travel plans.

Contact us at 847-491-3434 or via email at to schedule an appointment.

Examining and accessing materials

While access is generally provided to processed materials, such as those cataloged in NUsearch or in finding aids, unprocessed manuscripts and collections are accessible only under special circumstances. 

Prior to examining materials, patrons must submit a personal identification card (e.g., Northwestern University WildCard, drivers license), which will be held at the Music Library desk until after research materials have been returned complete and undamaged. Materials are accessible one item, folder, or box at a time. 

  • A staff member will deliver the requested items to an assigned study table where the materials must be used.
  • A staff member will review the content of the materials with the patron. Items with loose pages, such as unbound music manuscripts or correspondence in folders, will be counted prior to and following use of the materials.
  • All materials must remain flat on the surface of the study table. Patrons are asked to handle materials with clean hands, turn pages slowly and carefully, touch only margins if possible, and keep hands visible at all times.
  • Only pencils, papers, and laptop computers necessary for taking notes are permitted near the materials. Pens, briefcases, computer cases, book bags, coats, food, beverages or other personal property are not allowed near materials.
  • Marking or altering materials in any way is prohibited. No extant markings should be erased or otherwise altered.
  • The order and arrangement of unbound materials must be preserved. Apparent irregularities should be called to the attention of a staff member.
  • Patrons are responsible for all materials charged to them. Materials may not be transferred from one patron to another.

Patrons who handle materials carelessly or fail to comply with any of the above guidelines may be denied further access.

Reproducing materials

Permission to consult materials does not convey the right to reproduce or publish. Patrons are permitted to quote, cite, or refer to materials in accordance with United States copyright law, but extensive quotation, reproduction or publishing of materials is governed by copyright law, donor agreements and the Northwestern University Library's policy on Rights, Permissions, and Reproductions.

If reproductions of rare materials is needed, contact a Music Library staff member, or complete the request form on the Reproductions for our Collections page. The following fees apply:

  • Photocopying (black and white): $.35 per page
  • Photocopying (color): $1.00 per page
  • Digital scanning (delivered on CD-R or via download): $1.00 per page, with high-resolution scans available at an increased rate
  • Shipping: $5.00 (domestic, up to 1 lb.)

All inquiries regarding access to or reproduction of rare materials should be directed to the Head of the Music Library.