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Information Literacy Guide

Learn all about different sources of information

What is a Special Collection?

A special collection is a distinctive and often rare assemblage of materials within a library, archive, or cultural institution that is set apart from the general holdings. Special collections typically consist of unique or valuable items that are of particular historical, cultural, or scholarly significance. These materials are often not available for regular circulation and are preserved and made accessible for research, academic study, or public interest.

Special collections can include a wide range of items, such as:

  1. Rare Books: Unique or limited-edition publications, ancient manuscripts, and historically significant texts.

  2. Archival Materials: Personal papers, letters, diaries, and records of individuals or organisations, which provide insights into specific historical events or figures.

  3. Manuscripts: Handwritten documents, often of literary, historical, or artistic importance.

  4. Rare Maps: Antique or historically significant maps and cartographic materials.

  5. Artefacts: Historical artefacts, such as art objects, photographs, memorabilia, and cultural artefacts.

  6. Photograph Collections: Extensive collections of historical or artistic photographs.

  7. Specialised Collections: Materials focused on specific subjects or themes, such as science, religion, local history, or fine arts.

Special collections serve as valuable resources for researchers, scholars, and the public who are interested in exploring unique or in-depth materials related to various fields of study, historical periods, or cultural heritage. Librarians, archivists, and curators often oversee these collections, ensuring their preservation and accessibility for those who wish to study or appreciate these materials.

Special Collections

old books on library shelf

Special Collections

About our special collections and archives.