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Archives & Special Collections: Special Collections

Learn about the Archives' collections and how to use them.

Where to find the Archives

The Archives and Special Collections is located on the 5th floor of Maag Library

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Tel: 330-941-3487

Hours: by appointment only

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Special Collections is a secure area in Maag Library where books are kept that are rare, unique or fragile. These books are cataloged in MaagNet but cannot be checked out. They must be used in the Reading Room.

Materials are selected for Special Collections by a number of factors including their age, condition, value, or author. For example, books by YSU faculty members are part of Special Collections. The books are kept in a secure area where the temperature and humidity levels are monitored. Steady environmental conditions help preserve these valuable books for future generations. Careful handling is also necessary for most of these books as they are brittle or fragile. 

The exhibit area on the 5th floor of Maag Library always has a selection of Special Collections materials on display.



Many of the books in Maag’s Special Collections come from two major donors- B.F. Wirt and Irwin Thomases.

Benjamin Franklin Wirt (1852-1930)

B.F. Wirt was part of a family that had helped settle Youngstown in the early 1800s. He became a lawyer, a state senator, and a respected citizen. He and his wife, Mary McGeehan Wirt, were world travelers and collected many items from their travels. In addition, Mr. Wirt created a large personal library, which covered a wide variety of topics. In 1965, his estate donated 1,500 books to YSU and 4,000 books to the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.


Irwin Thomases (1923-2011)

Irwin Thomases was a shopping center developer who lived in Youngstown for almost 50 years. His obituary mentions that he was known for his sense of humor, fierce intelligence, and his generosity. He donated his painting collection to the Butler Museum of American Art and his collection of over 250 rare books to Maag Library in the early 1980s. The book collection was appraised at more than $20,000 (about $48,000 today). Thomases continued to donate money toward the purchase of additional books (selected by the History Department) to support YSU's graduate program in American History. Some of these tomes proved helpful to YSU professor Dr. James Ronda in the authoring of his book Lewis and Clark Among the Indians, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1984.  

Special Collections Exhibit

Sacred Words features religious books from Special Collections. These books are some of the oldest and most elaborate, featuring many languages, hand-colored illustrations, tooling on the leather covers, and fancy woodblock decorations. 

The exhibit will be up through December 2017.