An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Special Collections

Special Collections houses rare books, manuscript collections, nursery and seed trade catalogs, photographs, and posters related to the history of agriculture. 

Manuscript Collections Search

Blue, red, and purple flowers with various butterflies

These collections include correspondence, field notes, journals, photographs, publications, posters, and more.


George Washington Carver working with plants

The exhibits reflect a broad range of USDA and agricultural subjects and materials. Each image is a digital reproduction of the original artwork or written text.

National Agricultural Library Botany Collections

The collections include a wide variety of formats, including rare books, journals, manuscript collections, and original works of art.

Donating Materials


Thank you for your interest in donating items to Special Collections of the USDA National Agricultural Library (NAL)!

Special Collections welcomes donations of rare books and other materials that will enrich our collections documenting the history of agriculture and USDA.

How to donate items to Special Collections

You must contact us BEFORE sending any items directly to Special Collections. Our archivists and librarians will carefully consider your offer and decide whether the items fit our collection criteria. You will receive a written notice stating whether we will accept the materials. 

Special Collections cannot accept all gifts offered. Materials that are outside the scope of our collection development policy or those that duplicate items already in our collections will not be accepted.

We reserve the right to return or discard unsolicited donations, to refuse gifts that don’t meet our collection criteria, and to dispose of items that duplicate materials that are already in the collection. Whenever possible, we will work with donors to identify other institutions that may be more suitable for items that don’t fit our collecting scope.

What kinds of materials do we accept?

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Rare books
  • Personal papers and manuscripts
  • Archival documents and files
  • Diaries, journals, and memoirs
  • Oral histories
  • Photographs with captions
  • Scrapbooks
  • Unpublished works
  • Research data
  • Films, video and audio recordings, and other multimedia materials
  • Nursery and seed trade catalogs

What happens to donated materials?

When a donation is accepted, you will be asked to sign a deed of gift, which is a formal agreement between you and NAL to transfer ownership of the materials. The gift then becomes the property of the library. The library cannot promise that donated materials will be placed on exhibit or used in a specific manner as a condition of accepting the gift.

A Special Collections archivist examines and organizes the materials, describes them, and enters a record into the library catalog so researchers can find and use them. The archivist will work with you to complete the description and note any restrictions on using the materials.

Gifts sent to the library without consulting a Special Collections archivist may be returned to the donor or discarded.

Will Special Collections archivists appraise your materials?

Our archivists and librarians are not professional appraisers, and we’re prohibited from appraising or valuing materials. If you wish to have your items appraised, you may hire an independent appraiser in your area. Please contact us for a list of qualified professionals.

Web Archives

Web Archives at the USDA National Agricultural Library

The USDA National Agricultural Library (NAL) Web Archiving Program captures, preserves, and provides access to archived web content of permanent research value related to USDA mission areas of food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, and nutrition. 

How does web archiving work?

NAL uses Internet Archive's Archive-It service for web archiving, which uses software called “crawlers” to capture and download copies of live website content. This captured content is later pieced together to recreate the look and feel of the original site. While web crawls attempt to replicate a website at the time of capture, web archives are not live websites. 

For researchers


Researchers can access NAL’s web archives collections by visiting our Archive-It page. Websites captured as part of NAL's web archives program are embargoed for six-months after capture, after which the content is made publicly available for research.

Technical limitations

Because of technical limitations associated with available crawling technology and constant advancement in web development, not all websites will be archived completely. This may result in incomplete web captures, gaps in the archive, or the inability to replicate exact website functionality.

Collection organization and scope

NAL’s web archives are primarily organized in thematic and event-based collections consisting of content produced by the USDA and external content creators related to USDA mission areas. Because of the ever-changing nature of online content, NAL gives high priority to content that is considered at-risk of permanent loss or unlikely to be preserved elsewhere.

For site owners

Crawl notification

NAL will notify site owners that the library would like to include their content in NAL’s web archives collections prior to crawling a website. The notification will include an option to opt-out of web archive capture. NAL will proceed with capture if an opt-out response is not received within 3 days of notification.

Takedown Requests

NAL acknowledges that website creators have agency over the born-digital content they create. If you believe that NAL has harvested your website content in error, if you are a copyright owner, or otherwise have exclusive control over materials available in our collections and do not wish your materials to be available through our web archives, please contact Special Collections. While NAL cannot delete captured websites once archived, publicly available web archives content can be made private.

About Special Collections

Special Collections of the National Agricultural Library (NAL) preserves and provides public access to materials that document the history of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and agriculture in general.  We do this by acquiring, organizing, describing, and preserving collections of rare books and manuscript materials.

Contact Us

Online:  Ask a Question 

Phone:  301-504-5876

For hours and location, refer to About the Library.

Page Content Curated By