Special Collections manages the University of Exeter's collections of unique and rare materials, which include archives, manuscripts, and rare books. Material in our collections is available for everyone - students, staff and external researchers - to access in our reading room. Our collections cover a wide range of subjects, including Arab and Islamic Studies; Art History and Visual Culture; Business Studies; Drama; English; Geography; History; Local Studies; Modern Languages; Politics; and Theology and Religion. You can find out more about all the collections we look after on the Special Collections webpages and our Special Collections LibGuide.
Archives in our collections relating to climate, the environment and sustainability include the administrative archive of the arts and environmental charity Common Ground, and the extensive collection of research papers and Omani manuscripts of John Craven Wilkinson.
Common Ground is an arts and environmental charity, which was founded in the UK in 1982. From the beginning, Common Ground's two main objectives have been: 'to promote the importance of our common cultural heritage - common plants and animals, familiar and local places, local distinctiveness and our links with the past; and to explore the emotional and spiritual value these things have for us by forging practical and philosophical links between the arts and the conservation of nature and landscapes' ('Holding Your Ground: An Action Guide to Local Conservation', 1985).
Common Ground has pioneered many innovative projects, raising awareness of environmental issues through the organisation of cultural activities in order to inspire people to become more engaged in local conservation. These projects have often included collaboration with well-known writers, poets, artists, sculptors, photographers and composers. Many of the projects - in particular, 'Parish Maps', the 'Campaign for Local Distinctiveness' and 'Apple Day' - have proven to be highly sustainable, and their impact has continued long after Common Ground's active involvement in them ceased. The output from the projects has included publications, artistic commissions, exhibitions and events.
The Common Ground archive comprises a range of material created and collected by the charity in the course of its activities between 1983 and 2013. It includes: correspondence, notes, financial papers, reports, press clippings, research material, photographs, audio recordings, sheet music, publications, and promotional material. Material in the archive is mainly organised into sections according to project, reflecting its original order and use by the team at Common Ground. The projects are: 'Second Nature', 'Holding your Ground', 'New Milestones', 'Trees, Woods and the Green Man', 'Parish Maps', 'Orchards' including 'Save Our Orchards' and 'Community Orchards', 'Flora Britannica', 'Apple Day', 'The Campaign for Local Distinctiveness', 'Gardening and Local Distinctiveness', 'Field Days', 'Rhynes, Rivers and Running Brooks', 'Confluence', 'England in Particular', and 'Producing the Goods'.
The Common Ground archive has rich potential for interdisciplinary research on a wide range of areas, including geography, literature, the visual arts, and business studies. Some possible areas of research are listed below.
This Common Ground archive is currently in the process of being catalogued. You can search the archive in our online archives catalogue as the project progresses, or find out more about the archive and the cataloguing project in our project blog.
Material specific to Oman includes the personal papers and photographs of John Shebbeare (1919-2004), British advisor to the Sultan of Muscat and Oman, and the extensive collection of research papers and Omani manuscripts of John Craven Wilkinson, including a rare manuscript notebook (left) relating to water holdings and tribal settlements at al-Falaj al-Malki near Izki, one of Oman's oldest irrigation systems, containing names and holdings of the owners of the water shares over a period of approximately 50 years (ca.1825-75). The 500-page manuscript has been digitized and can be accessed here. There are also several documents and reports relating to Oman among Sir William Luce's papers.