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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,

Colourful Ceramics
Saturday 25th March 2017 - Sunday 26th March 2017, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Little Bookworms
Monday 27th March 2017, 10:30am - 11:30am, Palace Green Library
Book Club
Tuesday 28th March 2017, 5:00pm - 6:00pm, Palace Green Library
April Fool’s Day Fun
Saturday 1st April 2017 - Sunday 2nd April 2017, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Little Bookworms
Monday 3rd April 2017, 10:30am - 11:30am, Palace Green Library
Viking jewellery
Saturday 8th April 2017 - Sunday 9th April 2017, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Little Bookworms
Monday 10th April 2017, 10:30am - 11:30am, Palace Green Library
Crowning Glory
Saturday 15th April 2017 - Sunday 16th April 2017, 1:00pm - 3:00pm, Palace Green Library
Earth day
Saturday 22nd April 2017, 1:00pm - 11:59pm, Palace Green Library

Time Machines: the past, the future, and how stories take us there

Exhibition logo: Time Machines: the past, the future, and how stories take us there

Palace Green Library, 27 May - 3 September 2017

How big is time? And what will the future be like?

The sheer enormity of time is a mind-bending concept - one which humans have always tried to measure and understand. Step through a portal and journey through time as we reveal how advances in science allowed authors to create stories that transport us to the distant past, parallel universes, and future worlds.

See H.G. Wells’s original manuscript for The Time Machine, unravel other stories which play with time, and find out how stories help us to make sense of time and our place within it.

(22 Mar 2017)

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)

access information

Contact details

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