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Archives and Special Collections: Physical Collections

Paper documents, photographs, and other physical material form the backbone of the Archives and Special Collections. This page provides an overview of physical holdings and guidance on how to access these physical collections. 

Physical Collections Overview

We have over 400 physical archival collections, with topics spanning from Puritanism to Paganism and everything in between. Our primary emphasis liberal religion in the west, twentieth-century Unitarian Universalism, and communities underserved and excluded from traditional archives. Because the mission of our archives is to increase access to the rich history of Unitarian Universalism, we make our unprocessed physical collections available to researchers.

Collections List

Papers are archival collections created by an individual or family. Meadville Lombard's Archives and Special Collections holds the personal papers of over 100 individuals and families. While most of these are ministers, we also have papers of lay leaders, activists, and other individuals whose lives and experiences are important to Unitarian Universalism. 

Records are archival collections created by organizations. These can include congregations, UU affiliated organizations, or organizations with historical connections to Unitarian Universalism. 

Collections are archival collections that do not have a clear creator, such as an individual or organization, but are organized around a specific theme or historical event. 

Meadville Lombard Records are archival collections created by Meadville Theological School, Lombard College, and Meadville Lombard Theological School. 

Using the Archives and Special Collections at a Distance

We provide access to physical collections to researchers through limited scanning requests and general reference. If you can't come to Chicago, email us at and we will work with you to meet your research needs.  Our digital collections are completely and freely accessible to anyone in the world and can be found by clicking the "Digital Collections" tab above. 

Using the Archives and Special Collections in Chicago

The Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections is located right in the center of Chicago's downtown in the Loop neighborhood. We are open 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday through Friday by appointment. For researchers traveling to Chicago, we have special room rates at local hotels. Due to building security, all archive visits must be scheduled ahead of time. To arrange a visit, email us at with the dates and times you want to visit and the collections you would like to use. 

Ask an Archivist

If you have any questions about the Meadville Lombard Archives and Special Collections, just ask!

We can help with...

  • Scheduling an archive visit
  • Accessing archival materials
  • Using our digital archive tools
  • Answering reference questions
  • Scanning selections of documents
  • Donating archival material to Meadville Lombard
  • Creating archives at your local congregation

Researching UU Individuals and Organizations?

Not sure where to start with your UU-centric research question? We can help! Our Researching UU Individuals and Organizations guide will direct you to useful reference material, digital resources, books, and archival documents, both at MLTS and at other libraries and archives, to help you research Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist history. 

Navigating Archives

Meadville Lombard Wiggin Library
180 N. Wabash Ave.
Suite 625 
Chicago, IL 60601

Library and Archives Phone: 312-546-6488        Library Email:        Archives Email: