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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,

Somme 1916: From Durham to the Western Front
Wednesday 28th September 2016 - Sunday 2nd October 2016, 12:00am - 5:00pm, Palace Green Library
Pilot a Peg Plane
Saturday 1st October 2016 - Sunday 2nd October 2016, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Stunning Stained Glass
Saturday 8th October 2016 - Sunday 9th October 2016, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Little Bookworms
Monday 10th October 2016, 10:30am - 11:30am, Wolfson Gallery
Swashbuckling Swords
Saturday 15th October 2016 - Sunday 16th October 2016, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Little Bookworms
Monday 17th October 2016, 10:30am - 11:30am, Wolfson Gallery
Brilliant Bookmarks
Saturday 22nd October 2016 - Sunday 23rd October 2016, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Little Bookworms
Monday 24th October 2016, 10:30am - 11:30am, Wolfson Gallery
Book Club
Tuesday 25th October 2016, 5:00pm - 6:00pm, Palace Green Library

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

Somme 1916: from Durham to the Western Front

Banner image: Somme 1916 exhibition at Palace Green Library, Durham University 25 March-2 October 2016

Palace Green Library, 25 March–2 October 2016

100 years on, this commemorative exhibition will explore the reality of the Battle of the Somme through the eyes of the people from County Durham who were there.

(9 Mar 2016) » Find out more about: Somme 1916: from Durham to the Western Front

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

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Contact details

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