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Using archives for research

There is a wealth of primary material within the University’s Special Collections, which can be analysed and interpreted in various ways. We can help you develop the specific skills needed to understand, decode and question our historic material.

Our collections and archives include rare books, manuscripts, letters, photographs, registers, recordings and artworks that you can use to enrich your research.

Getting started

Watch videos on how to use our catalogue to access material in Special Collections. These will show you how to navigate the catalogue, find digital collections and order material.

Find out about visiting the Special Collections Research Centre.

Researcher skills

Work through our in-depth resources to understand Special Collections objects and what to look out for.

Researcher case studies

Hear from other Special Collections users (both students and academics) about their experiences of using Special Collections for research.

General guides

These guides provide useful introductions to using archives for research:

Search external archives

You can search the holdings of many specialist archives through online catalogue networks. The following provide useful starting points.

Archives Hub

The Archives Hub provides descriptions of archives held in UK universities and colleges. Search by keyword to find out which institutions may hold material of interest to you. Archives Hub includes some content from our Special Collections.

Archives Portal Europe

The Portal provides access to information on archival collections across Europe, as well as details of archival institutions and repositories.


ArchiveGrid provides descriptions of archives held at 130 archive repositories around the world (although many are in the United States). You can search by keyword to track down material of interest to you.


The National Archives Discovery platform provides access to catalogue records held by the National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the UK. You can also find contact details for archive repositories, and useful guides on searching by person, place or subject.


Europeana is a web portal created by the European Union containing digitalised museum collections of more than 3,000 institutions across Europe. It includes records of over 10 million cultural and scientific artefacts, brought together on a single platform.