Library gains national archive status at Durham University
(31 October 2005)
Staff at Durham University Library have won a new accolade for their outstanding work in looking after the nation’s heritage.
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) has extended its museums designation scheme to libraries for the first time, and Durham University is the only recipient in the North East.
The Library’s new status recognises its role in looking after nationally or internationally important collections. The two particular elements designated by the MLA at Durham are the Bishop Cosin's Library and the Sudan Archive.
The University Librarian Dr John Hall said: “This is a considerable honour that recognises the importance of the collections for scholarship. It also endorses the professionalism of library staff and the effectiveness of Durham University as custodian of these collections.”
Announcing Durham as one of 38 collections in libraries and archives to receive the new status, MLA Chairman, Mark Wood said: “These 38 collections are among those in England that stand out from the crowd. It’s extremely satisfying to be able to raise their profile through the Designation Scheme.”
The MLA status boosts the opportunity for libraries, archives and museums to strengthen their ability to raise additional funds and improve access to the collections.
The two collections are among the distinctive parts of the extensive special material in Durham University Library, mainly housed in buildings at Palace Green. Key features of the two Durham MLA collections are:
The Sudan Archive
- An extensive and diverse record of life and administration in Sudan from about 1880 up to 1955, the year before Sudanese independence
- The Archive collects and preserves the papers of administrators from the Sudan Political Service, missionaries, soldiers, businessmen, doctors, agriculturalists, teachers and others who had served or lived in the Sudan during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium
- 700 boxes of papers, 46,000 photographs, 136 cinefilms, 700 maps, museum objects and a large amount of related printed material, mainly English, some in Arabic
- Objects include weapons, uniforms, a typical administrator’s pith helmet and boots, and the robes and ornamental sword of the last Sultan of Darfur, who died in 1916.
- An endowed public library collection for local clergy and people of scholarly interests, founded in 1669 by Bishop of Durham John Cosin (1595-1672)
- Still housed in its original specially erected building (although temporarily the books are stored elsewhere during building repair works)
- Predominantly Cosin's personal collection, but also includes gifts from other benefactors, especially medieval manuscripts from George Davenport (d.1677), printed books from Bishop Richard Trevor (1707-71) and later manuscripts from Bishop Shute Barrington (1734-1826)
- The University has used the building since 1834 and became trustee of the library in 1937. No significant additions were made after the early 1880s century to preserve its character as an intact example of an17-18th collection
- 5,000 titles, over 600 foreign 16th century titles. The collection is strongest in theology, liturgy and canon law, with a good representation of other subjects such as literature, travel and science.