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Michigan State University

Artifacts in Special Collections: Ethnic studies

Technically, everything in Special Collections is an artifact. But here are some of the more unusual ones!


Special Collections is the library's department for rare, valuable, and fragile materials.

Materials from this department do not check out, but we welcome you in the Special Collections Reading Room in the Main Library lobby, across from the Circulation Desk. We're open by appointment.

Railroad cookbooks

Railroad cookbook

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, founded in 1925, was the first labor union led by African Americans to be chartered by the American Federation of Labor. Many scholars have written about its contribution to labor history and African American history in the last 25 years.

The Cooking & Food collection has more than 30 examples of the actual cookbooks issued by the railroads and used by train porters to prepare meals for passengers. It required considerable skill to prepare these meals in the tiny, cramped kitchen of a club car.

Use the MSU library catalog advanced search.

  • Limit to Special Collections.
  • Subject search railroads--dining-car service

1963 March on Washington pennant

Archivist Lydia Tang shows off pennant from 1968 March on Washington

From the Radicalism Collection, a souvenir pennant from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Quinceañera invitations

A group of quinceaneras invitations.

In Latin American countries and Hispanic communities in the United States, a quinceañera is a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday.

The Penny Pangburn Burillo Papers are a collection of more than 50 invitations and table decorations from quinceañera celebrations in Western Michigan, primarily from the late 1990s to 2011.

Manuscript collection 388, boxes 1-2

Chicana/o Latina/o bumper sticker collection

More than 75 bumper stickers highlighting the Chicano Movement era and later Latino activist groups.

Manuscript collection 434

Flag from the funeral of Cesar Chavez

Aztlan symbol on flag

Among the papers donated by Andrés G. Guerrero is an unusual artifact: the United Farm Workers flag used during the funeral of activist Cesar Chavez on May 2, 1993.

Manuscript collection 346, box 1, folder 2

Japanese American internment documents

During the Second World War, the United States government confined thousands of Japanese American citizens to internment camps because they were considered to be security risks.

We have several rare original documents from this period:

Two issues of a camp newspaper, the Tulean Dispatch (later called the Tulean Dispatch Daily) which was written by and for the Japanese American internees at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in Newell, California:

A typescript copy of two poems about the camp, believed to be written by a Japanese American internee:

Resource Guide Editor

Ruth Ann Jones

Instruction/Outreach Librarian

Stephen O. Murray and Keelung Hong Special Collections

Michigan State University Libraries