July 11, 2016, by Kathryn Steenson

Top 10 Tips: Visiting Manuscripts & Special Collections (pt 2)

Exams are over; the next semester doesn’t start for several months; and the sun is shining (possibly). For final-year dissertation students and academics it can only mean one thing: it’s time to start planning summer research trips to the archive.

Hopefully these Top Tips will help first-time visitors to Manuscripts & Special Collections, although some of these will be applicable to other archives and rare books libraries. This post is about what to expect when you’re here; for our advice about how to prepare before you arrive see part one.

5 – Be prepared

If it’s your first visit, bring some ID – UoN students and staff only need their University card –  so we can register you. You can bring your laptop and there are plenty of plugs for charging, but also bring a pencil and paper, and a £1 coin or trolley token for the storage lockers. We’ll ask you to put coats, bags, pens, and food and drink (including bottled water)  in the lockers before you look at any original material.


4 – Keep good notes

There’s no limit to how much material you can request, but it’s issued in batches of 20 documents and 3 volumes at a time. Keep track of what you’ve requested, what you’ve seen and any material you can’t look at. Note references, pages or folio numbers, especially if you take photos of similar-looking documents. Make full notes about physical items, such as annotations.

Archive box containing folders of archival documents

 3 – Ask an Archivist (or Librarian)

We’re here to help you. Archives weren’t created with your research in mind and aren’t organised by subject, so we may be able to suggest other collections or just reassure you that you’ve found everything. New material arrives every month, so even if you’ve been here before, we may have something else relevant to you.
Completed request ticket for documents

2 – Hands on History

The rare books and archives here are the ‘stuff of history’, centuries-old and often the only copy in the world. You could be the first person to use it since it was created, or you could look at it in a completely new way. Enjoy it – this type of primary research is what academic study is all about.

Woman reading a book on a foam support and typing on a laptop

1 – The toilets are in Costa.

If you’re coming to visit or have any further questions, please leave a comment below, phone us on 0115 951 4565, or email mss-library@nottingham.ac.uk. More information about what we hold and how to access it is on our website, and you can keep up to date by following us @mssUniNott or subscribing to our newsletter Discover.

Spines of leather bound books on shelves in the Store


Please note: the Reading Room is closed for refurbishment from Friday 22 July until Monday 1 August inclusive.

Posted in Archive skills