Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Nottingham Information Services

Manuscripts and Special Collections is part of Libraries, Research and Learning Resources at the University of Nottingham. It is based at King's Meadow Campus in Nottingham in England. The University has been collecting manuscripts since the early 1930s and now holds approximately 3 million documents, extensive holdings of Special (Printed Book) Collections, and the East Midlands Collection of local material, all of which are available for researchers to use in the supervised Wolfson Reading Rooms.

Records held

Manuscript and archive holdings include the papers of leading Nottinghamshire families and their estates, the records of local businesses and organisations, the personal papers of political, diplomatic, literary, scientific and academic figures, as well as some of the historical records of the University and its predecessor, University College Nottingham.

The most important collections of family and estate papers, with material ranging in date from the 12th to the 20th centuries, include:

Literary collections include:

Records of local businesses and organisations include:

The historical records of the University of Nottingham, formerly University College, Nottingham until the Royal Charter granted full University status in August 1948, relate particularly to the development of the University from the 1920s to the 1960s: coverage of the early years following the opening of the College in 1881, and of the last 50 years is less comprehensive. The records include administrative files, accounts, correspondence, minutes, plans, student registers, newspaper cuttings, ephemera, photographs, papers of the Students’ Union and various other student and staff societies, and professional and personal papers of several former members of staff.

Catalogues and Digital Resources

Catalogue records of the Special Collections are available through the University of Nottingham Library Online Catalogue.

Catalogue records of the manuscript and archive collections are available on the University’s own Manuscripts Online Catalogue.

The official website of Manuscripts and Special Collections includes more detailed descriptions of collections and subject areas, online exhibitions, e-learning resources, and digitised versions of visual material.

Manuscripts and Special Collections contributed 42 catalogues to the national Access 2 Archives programme, which are now searchable via The National Archives' Discovery Catalogue.

Over 400 collection level descriptions are also available on the Archives Hub


The collection of manuscripts and local archives in the University Library was encouraged initially by G.E. Flack, the first College Librarian. References in minutes of the University Council from the 1930s refer to the University Library's accession of significant gifts and deposits of archival materials, a process which accelerated after the war. The first archivist was appointed in 1948, and a separate Department of Manuscripts was established within the University Library in 1958 under the management of a newly appointed Keeper of the Manuscripts.

Subsequent developments have added conservation facilities. With the move into new library premises in 1973 (the Hallward Library) the Department acquired purpose-built accommodation and facilities which supported a steady expansion in its holdings and activities.

Early or rare imprints of printed books formed the basis of Special Collections in the areas of arts and social sciences, science and engineering, medicine, agriculture and food sciences, and law. In addition, several of the subject libraries acquired particular named Special Collections, devoted to particular subjects or preserving the libraries of particular individuals and institutions. The East Midlands Collection was developed to serve both as a reference and loan collection for local studies and a special collection of early and rare imprints concerning the region.

In 1989 the Department of Manuscripts became the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, with a common reading room and staffing. Since then subject collections from the medical and law libraries have moved into Special Collections. The most substantial internal transfer was the acquisition in 1995 of the library of the former Institute of German, Austrian and Swiss Affairs, including both published and archival holdings.

In 2006 the department moved to new premises at King's Meadow Campus, the University's new campus at Lenton Lane. This provided a reading Room, Store, Conservation, reprographical digitisation workshops and offices, with space for more expansion.

The office has been appointed by the Lord Chancellor as a repository for specified classes of public records (hospital records; British Coal, research report series). It has been approved for the custody of collections of national significance accepted in lieu of tax. It is recognised by the Master of the Rolls as a repository for manorial documents. It is also approved by the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham as a repository for the archive of the former Archdeaconry of Nottingham.

In October 2005, the Portland (London), Portland of Welbeck, and Newcastle of Clumber papers won recognition through the Designation Scheme of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), as being of outstanding national and international importance. The D.H. Lawrence Collection was similarly recognized in February 2008.

External links

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