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.
Watch our video on how to get started using our material in your work. These will help you to plan your research, locate primary sources, and use catalogues effectively.
Researcher case studies
Hear from other Special Collections users (both undergraduate and academic) about their experiences of using Special Collections for research.
- Using Special Collections: Beth
- Using Special Collections: Dominique
- Using Special Collections: Lorna
- Using Special Collections: Megan
- My research project: Holly
- My research project: Dominique
- My PhD research: Rebecca
- My PhD research: Helen
Work through our in-depth resources on what to look for and how to understand Special Collections objects.
- How to extract information from our objects
- Find out about the common types of objects you might encounter in Special Collections.
- Why you often need to use objects from across collections to support your research.
The following guides provide useful general introductions to using archives for research:
- Archives Hub Using Archives: A Guide for the inexperienced.
- The National Archives Understand the Archives resources.
- The National Archives: guides to reading old documents.
Search external archives
You can search the holdings of many specialist archives through online catalogue networks. The following provide useful starting points.
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.
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.
Supported by the European Commission, the European Library website links to national libraries around Europe. For lists of further repositories of archival material in Europe try the Historical Research in Europe guide from the University of Wisconsin.
Although broader than archives in its coverage, The Nineteenth Century Index does allow you to search by keyword for archival collections using the ArchivesUSA® directory.