The collection of manuscripts and local archives has been an activity of the University Library for almost seventy years, encouraged initially by G.E. Flack, the first College Librarian.
References in minutes of the University Council from the 1930s refer to the University Library's accession of significant gifts and deposits of archival materials, a process which accelerated after the war. The first archivist was appointed in 1948, and a separate Department of Manuscripts was established within the University Library in 1958 under the management of a newly appointed Keeper of the Manuscripts. Senate Minutes of 1957-58 describe the functions and responsibilities of the new Department and its staff, which were reported to Council.
Subsequent developments have added conservation facilities. With the move into new library premises in 1973 (now named the Hallward Library) the Department acquired purpose-built accommodation and facilities which supported a steady expansion in its holdings and activities. In 2006 the department moved to new premises at King's Meadow, the University's new campus at Lenton Lane. This provided a reading Room, Store, Conservation, reprographical digitisation workshops and offices, with space for more expansion.
The office has been appointed by the Lord Chancellor as a repository for specified classes of public records (hospital records; British Coal, research report series). It has been approved for the custody of collections of national significance accepted in lieu of tax.
It is recognised by the Master of the Rolls as a repository for manorial documents. And approved by the Bishop of Southwell as a repository for the archive of the former Archdeaconry of Nottingham.
In October 2005, some of our largest collections won recognition through The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) Designation Scheme as being of outstanding national and international importance.
Special Collections and East Midlands Collection
Library services at Nottingham are delivered through a number of different subject libraries. Traditionally the principal ones have provided for faculties of arts and social sciences, science and engineering, medicine, agriculture and food sciences, and law.
Early or rare imprints have formed the basis of Special Collections in each of these areas, with the most extensive holdings located at King's Meadow Campus. In addition, several of the libraries acquired particular named Special Collections, devoted to particular subjects or preserving the libraries of particular individuals and institutions.
The East Midlands Collection, the majority of which is on open access in the supervised Reading Room at King's Meadow Campus, was developed to serve both as a reference and loan collection for local studies and a special collection of early and rare imprints concerning the region.
A single Department
In 1989 the Department of Manuscripts became the Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, with a common reading room and staffing. Since then subject collections from the medical and law libraries have moved into Special Collections at King's Meadow. The most substantial internal transfer was the acquisition in 1995 of the library of the former Institute of German, Austrian and Swiss Affairs, including both published and archival holdings.
During much of its existence, the Department has primarily served the specialist interests of postgraduate researchers and academics. Changing patterns in higher education have since the 1980s brought far greater use by undergraduates and other taught courses, while the steady increase in use of original materials by local historians and other researchers have added new groups of non-institutional users.