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Durham University

Special Collections

Photography in Archives and Special Collections

Rules for Photography by Researchers in Barker Research Library Reading Room

We recognise that the facility for users to take their own photographs of material helps make best use of research time. However, it also presents a risk to documents, if items are handled more quickly or with less care. We seek to balance the needs of today’s researchers with the need to preserve material for research in the future. We also need to assist readers in not infringing copyright regulations.

We will therefore take requests for users to take their own photographs on a case by case basis. In general, we will seek to permit photography by readers with the following conditions:

  1. Permission to take photographs must be sought from staff and any instructions on document handling and support must be followed. Staff reserve the right to refuse permission if handling presents any risk to documents.
  2. Not all material from Archives and Special Collections can be photographed; please check the list for categories and collections which are excluded (at end of document). There will also be cases where user photography might cause damage to the document (particularly if the whole of a volume or file is copied, or in the case of volumes with tight bindings), or where other issues such as confidentiality or restrictions stipulated by depositors or donors preclude copies being made or supplied. In these cases user photography will not be permitted.
  3. Researchers are required to complete a copyright acknowledgement form. Permission must be sought from the owner of copyright in the original material before publishing any photographs taken.
  4. Any digital images that you take are for your own personal study or non-commercial research use only and must not be distributed to others by publication on the internet, in print, or otherwise without separate permission from the Library. If you intend to use these images for teaching purposes, and hand them out to a class, they must be retrieved at the end. If you need to make copies available to members of your research team please ensure that all users are aware of this restriction and observe it too.
  5. In order to prevent disturbance to other researchers, cameras and camera phones must be hand-held, and must be set to 'silent'. Tripods, 'mini-pods', hand-held scanners and video recording are not permitted. SLRs may be used for large maps only.
  6. Flash photography is not permitted.
  7. Photography is permitted of research material only, and not of people, buildings or computer screens.
  8. There will be no charge for taking your own images.

In order to help researchers plan visits to Durham, we can in some cases provide an indication in advance as to whether or not material might be suitable for user photography. However, this advice is merely indicative, and the conditions above would still apply.

Material excluded from self-service photography


Durham Cathedral collections

Abbas Hilmi Papers

Cosin Letter Books (available online)

Tithe maps and apportionments (available online)

Restricted types of material

Photographic negatives, transparencies.

The quantity of pages photographed from bound items may be restricted to protect the binding. This particularly applies to bound manuscript items.

Mounted or otherwise packaged material must only be photographed in the packaging