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Special Collections Research Centre

Extension and refurbishment project

We are delighted that we are able to extend and refurbish the Special Collections Research Centre, thanks to a generous bequest from the John Victor Bedford Will Trust, refreshing the current research spaces and creating the John Bedford Room.

The redevelopment starts in June 2021. Construction and outfitting works are scheduled to complete at the end of the calendar year. There will be alternative access to Special Collections items during the project. See the project plans page for details.

Cross-sectional architectural drawing of the new Bedford Room, extending into the West Building.

Architect drawing of the new Bedford Room, extending into the West Building. Image used with permission, copyright ADP Architecture Ltd.

A collaborative space for all collections

The Special Collections Reading Room was built in 1994 and was designed to serve the needs of the individual scholar at that time. Since then, our Special Collections have grown and so has the way that you approach research—there is new focus on collaborative research both in person and online.

We consulted with researchers about the existing facilities, who identified areas for improvement. We are delighted that we can now address some of the deficiencies identified. We will improve the space for group and individual work, creating better lighting, comfort and access to plug sockets. Individual research areas will enjoy better seating and workspace.

The new John Bedford Room will be available for both daytime and evening events. The space will accommodate up to 40 people, and is made more flexible by a movable partition so we can create two rooms for smaller groups.

New audio-visual equipment will allow us to share the treasures in the collections through public lectures, webinars and events, building on the success of our Galleries’ online programme during lockdown. Lecturers who teach with the collections will also be able to reach larger or geographically dispersed groups.

John Bedford’s generosity allows many other collections to be consulted more easily, enabling research and teaching across many disciplines. For example, the redevelopment includes:

  • an artwork display shelf for examining paintings and sculptures from the University Art Collection
  • flexible moveable furniture for large or unwieldly items such as maps, architectural plans, textiles
  • digital visualiser to magnify details and enable virtual interaction with items
  • new spaces for volunteers to work on collection care activities.

There are also plans for a new and inviting entrance area. There will be a break-out area for conversations and networking, along with displays of items from the collections.

Whatever your needs, you will be able to access the unique Special Collections materials in welcoming, flexible facilities.

Bird's eye view of the Special Collections Research Centre, including the entrance and extension

Bird's eye view of the Special Collections Research Centre, including the entrance and extension. Image used with permission, copyright ADP Architecture Ltd.