Durham University Records: Support Services

Scope and Content

Extensive records survive for the University Library almost from its inception in 1833 in the form of annual reports, minutes of its various committees, catalogues, and administrative files from especially after WW2. A particular subset within the library's archive is the records of the development and administration of its rare book and archival collections, especially since the addition of those of the former Palaeography and Diplomatic department in 1990. These include catalogues of the collections, almost all now replicated and augmented by online versions, and also correspondence with depositors/donors and enquirers. In addition, the library's archive has records of its separate Oriental, Science and Education operations, and the continual development of the former Science Library site as the Main Library for the university. A few items are also held for the university's Maiden Castle Sports Centre, the Computing Service and the Museums.

Administrative / Biographical History

The university had a library from almost its beginning, established in 1833 around Bishop Cosin's Library on Palace Green, though Cosin's Library itsef only came into the university's trust in 1937. The library's collections supported the teaching of the university, and early significant deposits of rare books, along with links with the cathedral and diocese, encouraged future acquisitions of particularly archival collections so that 2008 sees it as a major research resource in its own right for such as northern local and especially medieval history, as well as the twentieth century history of the Sudan.

The university similarly had a museum at its inception and, though its history is not one of quite such consistent development, it too has major research resources in its own right in local archaeology and the Orient. Only a little later, in 1839, the university established an observatory to make astronomical and then also meteorological observations. More recently a Sports Centre has been developed at Maiden Castle and the Computing Service, initiated in the 1960s, is now a vital and integral aspect of the work of all in the university.


Organised accordingly within each support service.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for consultation.

Acquisition Information

Transferred from the various support services at various times since the 1950s, and especially since 2004.


Part of : Durham University Records

Other Finding Aids

Online catalogue available at online catalogue.

The current catalogues of the collections of the Main Library and the Archives and Special Collections are accessible online via the university's website.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of material from the collection must be sought in advance from the Sub-Librarian, Special Collections (e-mail PG.Library@durham.ac.uk) and, where appropriate, from the copyright owner. The Library will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.

Custodial History

Previously held by the various support services of the university.

Related Material

Hard copies of the catalogues of the collections in Archives and Special Collections are available in the public searchroom at Palace Green.

The archive of the Durham University Observatory is held separately in Durham University Library ASC.