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Archives and Special Collections: Archives and Rare Books Available in the Robinson Library

What are Special Collections?

Special Collections are unique and rare resources held by Newcastle University's Robinson's Library.  We hold both archives and rare books.

Due to their rarity and their sometimes fragile condition, these items are not on the normal library shelves, but they are available to everyone in the Special Collections reading room.

What Sort of Collections does the University Library Have?

Unique and rare doesn't always mean old!  Some of our archives date right up to the present day and range from business and political records and the private records of significant individuals, to personal letters, diaries, photographs, and maps.  Our rare book collection also ranges from medieval to modern, and includes books which are not particularly old but are part of the collection because have been part of a limited print run or issued by a private press, or because they have been annotated or added to in a unique way.

Finding and Using Archives and Rare Books

If I am searching a topic or a person on the library catalogue will these items appear?

Yes!  All of our rare books are on the library catalogue.  Archives are a little different.  Archives can be business records, a person's research papers or notes, diaries, letters, photographs... so when you search for a topic the library catalogue will match your topic with whole archive collections rather than any individual files within the collection.

This archive collection looks of interest, but how do I know which particular files are relevant to me?

The Special Collections Website holds further details of all of our collections including 'finding aids' which will describe in more detail which files and items are in the collection.

If I have found an item of interest on the library catalogue, how do I order it?

If you are searching a topic on the library catalogue and an archive collection or rare book comes up in your results, click on the Locations / Research tab, and request the book by simply clicking on 'Request'.  Unfortunately you won't be able to go down to the reading room straight away as the item will need to be retrieved from our stores, but you'll get an email alert as soon as it is available for you.

Still Confused?

Come and ask us.  The Special Collections reading room is on Level 1 of the Robinson Library and is open Monday to Friday 9.30 - 4.30.  You can also email us at

Browse our Collections

Our archive and rare book collections are have all been entered onto the library catalogue, so that can often be the best way to start your topic search.  However, if you would like to specifically browse items in the Special Collections department then you can also browse  on the Special Collections website, where you will be able to find further details of your collection and, for the archives, a 'finding aid' to help you see what papers are included.

Copying pages from Archive Collections and Rare Books

Special Collections staff can advise you as to whether an item has any copyright restrictions.  However most of our items can be copied or digitised for your own private study.  Due to their fragility you will need to ask us to do this for you, and request forms are available in the Special Collections reading room.  You can also simply take your own photographs with a digital camera or phone, but again just check with us first with regards to copyright procedures.

Quick Links

Charges for Copying and Scanning

More information on Copyright

Other Archives and Special Collections in the Region

Here in Newcastle we are very lucky to be close to lots of archives and special collection libraries which are open to the general public.  As with Newcastle University Special Collections, what you will find from these websites are general collection or book descriptions and other 'finding aids' to help you see what is in a collection.  You will then need to request items you are interested in and make an appointment to view them in their own reading rooms.

Local Authority Archives

Tyne and Wear Archives Service     Newcastle Library 'Local Studies' section     Northumberland Archives (Woodhorn)     Teesside Archives     Durham County Record Office

Other University Special Collections

Durham University Library Special Collections

Specialist Repositories

The Great North Museum Library (Natural History, Local History and Archaeology).     Seven Stories (Modern and Contemporary Children's Literature)     North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers     The Lit and Phil     Beamish Museum (Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods)

Private and Family Archives

Bowes Museum     Alnwick Castle (Duke of Northumberland)

Other Archives and Special Collections in the UK

To locate archives beyond the Newcastle region, the best place to start your search is the Discovery website, hosted by the National Archives.    Here you can search your research topic and browse lists of potentially relevant collections held all over the UK.  This website will just list descriptions of the archive collections.  To access these collections you will of course still need to visit the archive repository holding the collection, wherever in the UK it is.  But the website is a great place to start your search and to find out what collections are out there.

To locate rare books beyond the Newcastle region, the best place to start is the Copac website, where you can search the rare book catalogues of 90 specialist research libraries in the UK.  The website will just list the catalogue entry for your book, to access the book you will of course need to visit the library holding it, wherever in the UK it is.  But the website is a great place to start your search and to find out what books are out there.

Quick Links

Contact the Special Collections Team

T: 0191 2087712   E:


Finding The Reading Room

Guidance on Using Fragile Items and Other Reading Room Regulations

Browse all the Collections