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Archives and Special Collections: Reopening Special Collections

Reopening Heritage Collections following Covid-19 closure

Special Collections has now reopened to researchers. Please see below for further details on visiting the Reading Room and using our new booking form to reserve a desk.

We have worked closely with the Health and Safety team to develop new protocols for reopening the Reading Room safely. As part of these measures, to ensure safe working practices for our staff and safe operating procedures for visitors, we are opening the following reduced hours by advance booking:  

Mondays to Fridays 10am-12:30pm or 1:30pm-4:30pm  

Our opening is subject to change depending on government safety advice and the changing health and environmental conditions. 

If you have any questions please email

Booking a slot in the Reading Room

If you would like to access our materials use the form below to request a slot in the Reading Room.

Please note, selecting a date and time slot indicates a preference only and does not guarantee the time and date are available. We have limited slots and other researchers may already have booked your preferred time. Due to limited staffing we may not be able to cover all slots. Staff will email you to confirm your booking or to suggest an alternative time.

You can book a morning or afternoon slot in the Reading Room, you will also have the option to book a whole day (subject to availability). 

Please book your visit at least 48 working hours in advance, or longer if you can, to allow staff enough time to prepare your materials. 

The booking form outlines the health and safety measures in place and we will provide more details in your booking confirmation email, but please do email us if you have questions or concerns you’d like answered before booking.

Complete this form to book a slot in the Reading Room

What to expect during your visit

You will have the choice of a morning or afternoon slot in the Reading Room, or to book a full day if you need it - select from the options on the booking form. One member of staff will be present during your visit, please keep at a minimum of 2 meters distance from staff at all times.

The latest government guidance requires masks to be worn inside Libraries and public reading rooms. However, we understand that some people will not be able to wear a face covering due to disability, religious or other personal circumstances. Please bring your own face covering on the day.  

The Reading Room is in the Old Library (no.7 on the map). Once you arrive at the Old Library, please wash your hands with soap and water - alcohol based hand sanitiser can damage Special Collections materials (the bathrooms are to your left once through the entrance). Then head through the Library barriers and turn right, the Reading Room is the first door on your right.  A member of staff will let you in at the time of your appointment and explain the procedures. 

If you are delayed please email to let us know. 

Please bring your own pencil and paper or digital device for taking notes to reduce handling of our equipment.

You will be allocated a locker with corresponding desk, your Special Collections materials will be set up at your desk in advance. Desks are socially distanced and have screens installed to shield readers.

Once seated at your desk in the Reading Room please sign in using our new digital diary below. 

Your Reading Room desk and locker will be cleaned after your visit. Materials used will be quarantined for 72 hours after use.

Please sanitise your hands before leaving the building.

Reading Room Digital Diary - complete this once you are seated at your Reading Room desk

External Reader Registration Form

External visitors will be asked to register by completing the External Reader registration form below.

Please also bring photo ID, such as a driving license or passport.

Reprographics forms


These digital forms replace our paper reprographics forms that you may be required to fill out during your visit. Staff will advise which forms you should fill in.

Self Services

‌If you are visiting the reading room it is possible for you to make copies using your own digital camera. 

All images are for private research only and are made subject to copyright legislation.  

No self-service digital photography is permitted for items which are in copyright without prior written permission by the copyright holder.  Please note that this restriction includes most archive material held in Special Collections. An image request and declaration form must be completed before any images may be taken.

Supplied Images

Digital images of items held in the collections are supplied strictly for private research for a non-commercial purpose, on completion of the relevant digital request form.  
Requests will normally be supplied as in electronic format as JPEG or TIFF files either via email or on CD. 
Copying is carried out in accordance with the Special Collections Reprographics' Policy, which takes into account staff availability, preservation needs and copyright legislation. 
Reproduction or publication in any medium is expressly forbidden without written authorisation.

Supplied Images

Copying is carried out in accordance with the Special Collections Reprographics' Policy, which takes into account staff availability, preservation needs and copyright legislation. 
Reproduction or publication in any medium is expressly forbidden without written authorisation.

Other digital Reading Room forms

Data Protection form

If your requested archive materials relate to the 20th Century, there is the possibility they may contain information on living persons subject to the UK Data Protection Act. Under the Act you would be required to complete and sign a form which declares that you will not disclose information which could be harmful to living persons mentioned in the papers. We would need you to agree before arriving to sign this form and accord with its restrictions. 

Application for permission to publish

Many of our collections - or items contained within them - are in copyright and and are subject to restrictions.  

We are not permitted to provide copies of any material in copyright for a commercial purpose without the written permission of the copyright owner and we will advise you if this is the case. 

All requests for copies from collections thus protected must be accompanied with written permission from the copyright owner in advance. This particularly applies to certain modern archive collections. 

It is your responsibility to trace the copyright owner and provide proof of permission for the copies to be made.  The WATCH database at may be able to assist you in finding the copyright owner. Further advice on UK copyright is available from The National Archives.

Requests for publication, display - and in the case of some archival items, quotation - must be obtained jointly from the copyright holder and from the Library. All reproductions must be acknowledged  in the published work.  There may be further requirements if items are to be reproduced in publications, including the charging of fees.

All applications to publish items from the collections must be made in writing. The permission of the Library as owner/place of deposit will be required before publication. In some cases, the Library's agreement will be dependent on written evidence of additional permission from the copyright holder. Applications to publish can be made by letter or by completing the above form.

Fees are likely to be payable to the University Library for images which are to appear in publications, or for extracts from unpublished manuscripts which are to be quoted. In some cases, a literary executor or agent will expect a fee for reproduction as well.

Payment is made by prior arrangement with Special Collections. Copying decisions are made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis

Reprographics and copyright


Requests for copies of archive material are assessed on a case by case basis.  To request copies you must complete the relevant reader request based on the type of copying required:

  • Book photocopy
  • Archive Photocopy
  • Digital image request

Certain types of material cannot be photocopied or scanned, due to preservation issues:

  • No bound manuscript volumes or archival items made of parchment will be photocopied.
  • No archival items containing a wax seal or use of watercolour pigments will be photocopied.
  • No items larger than A3 will be photocopied (including bound volumes of newspapers and loose maps).
  • No folding plates in books will photocopied.

Constraints on staff time may restrict the quantity of copying that can be requested, and readers are cautioned that requests for copies cannot usually be completed during the day of their visit.  

Book photocopies for external readers can be posted out on completion, or collected in person. 

Archival copying is done on a case-by-case basis in consultation with senior Special Collections staff and is dependent on copyright restrictions.

Library staff reserve the right to refuse to photocopy materials if they judge that physical damage is likely to be caused to books or documents.

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