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Special Collections

Special Collections

Image of Barker Research Library Search Room
Designated as an Outstanding Collection logo


Founded in 1833 and occupying listed buildings within the Durham World Heritage site, Durham University's Palace Green Library houses archives, early printed books and other special collections. These include:

  • Over 70,000 books printed before 1850 including 300 incunables
  • Over 100 medieval manuscripts
  • 3,400 metres of archives and artefacts
  • Over 30,000 maps and prints and 100,000 photographs

We are open to anyone needing to consult our collections once they have registered with us. Registration here involves completing a form, providing proofs of identity and agreeing to abide by the Library's rules (please contact us if you require further information on this)

Two of the University Library's special collections were awarded Designated status in 2005 in the first round of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council Designation Scheme.

Restricted access to books in Bishop Cosin’s Library, 2016-17

During the academic year 2016-17 Durham University is undertaking a refurbishment project in the Exchequer Buildings within Palace Green Library. This work is a continuation of the multi-million pound programme of work at Palace Green Library. It will restore and refurbish the medieval Exchequer Building and enable greater public access in future, via guided tours. It will however, also place severe restrictions on access to the adjacent Bishop Cosin’s Library.

It will not be possible to retrieve books in response to research requests between 1st September 2016 and completion of the works, anticipated to be sometime in April 2017.

Collections affected are:

Please note that Cosin Letter Books and Cosin manuscripts are not affected by these access restrictions as they are permanently located elsewhere within Palace Green Library.

In order to enable some access to material during this period and to minimise the impact on researchers, we can make arrangements to relocate individual volumes where there is a need for access to copy-specific items.

We request that any researchers seeking access to material contact us before 26th August 2016, with information about the individual volume(s) they wish to access and the reasons for their need for access to specific copy/ies.

For requests or any queries, please contact Judy Burg, Head of Archives and Special Collections, Palace Green Library,

‘The best words in the best order’ - Poetry in Durham and the North East
Thursday 8th December 2016 - Saturday 7th January 2017, 12:00am - 11:59pm, Palace Green Library
Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration, and the everyday
Thursday 8th December 2016 - Saturday 7th January 2017, 12:00am - 11:59pm, Dennyson Stoddart and Durham University Galleries
The predictive brain
Thursday 8th December 2016, 5:30pm - 7:30pm, Palace Green Library, Dr Peter Moseley (Postdoctoral Research Associate in Psychology, Hearing the Voice) and Dr Sam Wilkinson (Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy, Hearing the Voice)
Festive Cards
Saturday 10th December 2016 - Sunday 11th December 2016, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Little Bookworms
Monday 12th December 2016, 10:30am - 11:30am, Palace Green Library
Guided Tour - Hearing Voices: suffering, inspiration and the everyday
Wednesday 14th December 2016, 2:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Hearing Voices Networking Event
Wednesday 14th December 2016, 3:00pm - 4:30pm, Palace Green Library
‘Their voices made them do it? Media stereotypes, voice-hearing and violence
Wednesday 14th December 2016, 5:00pm, Palace Green Library
Swirling snowflakes
Saturday 17th December 2016 - Sunday 18th December 2016, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Little Bookworms
Monday 19th December 2016, 10:30am - 11:30am, Palace Green Library

Sudan Archive Visiting Library Fellow: Martin Agwella

Martin Ochaya Lino Agwella, 2017 Sudan Archive Visiting Library Fellow, Durham University

We are delighted to announce that the inaugural Sudan Archive Visiting Library Fellowship has been awarded to Martin Ochaya Lino Agwella, who is researching indigenous peacemaking in South Sudan. A fuller description of his research subject is published on the Centre for Contemporary African History (DUCCAH) blog. The fellowship is part funded from the Wood Bequest, with accommodation granted by Grey College. Fellows, who will research principally in the Sudan Archive, will be appointed annually and will be resident in Durham during the Easter term. We look forward to welcoming Martin Agwella in April 2017.

(7 Oct 2016)

Understanding the Yemeni crisis: the transformation of tribal roles in recent decades

Image of Helen Lackner (2016 Sir William Luce Fellow)

Helen Lackner, the 2016 Sir William Luce Fellow, provides an analysis of tribes and their changed nature and relationship to other social groups in Yemen since the 1960s. Although subject to much misunderstanding and prejudice, tribe is still a fundamental element of Yemen’s social fabric, and is therefore important in understanding the various levels of conflict in the country. Her paper is the seventeenth in the Sir William Luce Fellowship Papers series.

(25 Aug 2016) » Find out more about: Understanding the Yemeni crisis

North East England Tourism Awards 2015

On Tuesday 24 November 2015, our summer exhibition, Magna Carta and the Changing Face of Revolt snapped up two awards at the North East England Tourism Awards 2015.

(9 Dec 2015) » Find out more about: North East England Tourism Awards 2015

access information

Contact details

Special Collections
Palace Green Library
Palace Green
United Kingdom
: +44 (0)191 334 2972