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Library Research Guides

Religious Studies

Important resources for the study of religion at the University of Michigan

Primary sources at the University of Michigan

Special Collections Research Center
The Special Collections Research Center (located in Hatcher) holds internationally renowned collections of books, serials, manuscripts, posters, playbills, photographs, and original artwork including some 275,000 volumes of published books and serials, approximately 6,500 linear feet of archival material, about 450 incunabula (books produced in the earliest stages of printing from movable type), 20,000 posters and prints, 10,000 photographs, and nearly 1,400 manuscripts on vellum and paper. Highlights include:

  • Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts devoted largely to religious topics and particularly representing Coptic, Byzantine, Ethiopian, Armenian, and Latin Christianity
  • Islamic Manuscripts Collection of ca. 1,103 volumes dating from the 8th to the 20th century CE and carrying roughly 1,800 texts chiefly in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish
  • Jewish Heritage Collection of books, artworks, ephemera (clippings, postcards, pamphlets, etc.) ritual objects, and materials of everyday life
  • Worcester Philippine History Collection of correspondence, articles, diaries, photographs, handwritten sermons, and other documents 

Papyrology Collection  (located in Hatcher) "The University of Michigan Library is home to the largest collection of ancient papyri in North America. The documents in the Papyrology Collection, which span roughly 2,000 years, contain not only important religious texts — including 60 pages of the oldest known copy of the Epistles of Paul — but also personal letters, school primers, sales contracts and other records that paint a unique portrait of everyday life. Of the 18,000 pieces in the collection, about 5,000 have never been studied and translated, and continue to attract scholars from across the country and around the world." 

Bentley Historical Library
The Bentley Historical Library (located on North Campus) includes both the official University of Michigan archives and materials related to the history of the state including more than 50,000 linear feet of archives and manuscripts, 90,000 printed volumes, 1.5 million photographs and other visual materials, over 10,000 maps and nearly 60 terabytes of digital content. Highlights include:

  • Extensive holdings of records for a number of Christian denominations within the state. These consist both of records from the denominational office and records of individual congregations.
  • Papers and published biographies of individual clergy, pioneer and modern-day missionaries, and religiously based organizations.
  • A subject guide for unpublished material related to the history of religion in Michigan, including records of clergy and religious organizations.
  • A significant and growing collection of records from African American churches and papers of African American clergy, primarily from Ann Arbor and Detroit. 

Clements Library
The Clements Library's collections document all aspects of North America prior to the twentieth century. Its holdings are particularly strong in early exploration and settlement of North America, the American Revolution, and the American Civil War, and includes a wealth of materials on the history of American religious movements.

Locating primary sources

For more detailed advice on locating primary sources, see the Finding Archives and Manuscripts research guide.

Resources for finding archival material

Resources for finding digital primary source material

Full text online resources