Hidden Treasures: Discover the University’s Special Collections and Archives

SCA materials

The University has been collecting and archiving material for more than 50 years and currently comprises more than two miles of material.

Since 1968 the archives have received a wide range of materials from the University, its staff, alumni, benefactors, affiliated members and other donors and individuals from outside the University community.

It charts artefacts collected from before the University’s beginnings, as University College in 1881, right through to the present day and includes not just the University archives, but also those of the famous Cunard company and the Gypsy Lore Society, as well as the papers of David Owen, Roger McGough and John Wyndham, to name but a few.

Located in the Sydney Jones Library on campus, Special Collections and Archives (SCA) is open to all students and staff, and includes photographs, objects, administrative records, and personal papers of former staff and students relating to the history of the University of Liverpool.

Some highlights include a fine Medieval and Renaissance manuscript collection, fifteen Oxyrhynchus papyri, and printed book collections dating from as early as 1465 covering subjects as varied as architecture, anatomy and Ancient Greek, Basque language, literature and culture, dentistry, mathematics, tobacco, botany, travel and discovery.

Eagle comic front page

Image above shows The Eagle comic – part of the largest catalogued collection of science fiction, fantasy, horror and related literary criticism in Europe, totalling more than 35,000 books

Current exhibitions and events

The SCA team boast exhibition spaces in both the Sydney Jones and Harold Cohen libraries, and put on three exhibitions each year.

The latest display links to the Eleanor Rathbone exhibition which is currently running at the Victoria Gallery and Museum (VG&M). The exhibition, called Reconstructing the Rathbone Library, is the result of a project to trace and record the books donated to the University by members of the famous Rathbone family. It includes books dating from 1680 onwards, many of which have been marked in some way by their previous owners.

Running until January 2019, it aims to offer a glimpse into the lives of several generations of Rathbones, revealing a family with wide intellectual and artistic interests and varied reading habits, and with strong connections to the wider Liverpool literary and intellectual scene.

The team also run monthly Treasures of Special Collections and Archives events in the dedicated SCA reading and teaching rooms (in the Sydney Jones Library) which all are welcome to attend.

The aim of the sessions is to open up the Special Collections and Archives to a wider audience, making them as accessible as possible.

For those interested in accessing SCA for study, check out the upcoming session on Tuesday, 6 November called ‘KnowHow: Using Special Collections and Archives for Your Research’.

There is also a teaching room, which is equipped with a computer and an overhead projector, and has space for classes of up to 12 students.

SCA materials

Image above shows a previous owner’s personalisation of a 15th Century book

If you have a particular item or collection you’d like to see included in our programme for these events, please do let us know via email at scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk, or by phone 0151 794 2696.

You can keep up-to-date with the latest SCA exhibitions and events by following the team on Twitter @LivUniSCA.

Visit the Special Collections and Archives

If you are curious to venture into the University’s history, whether it is for study, teaching or simply pleasure, the team are keen to hear from you.

If you would like to view any of the collection, you will need to order the material you would like to view in advance. The catalogue as well as further information about all SCA collections can be found on the website, or you can visit in person on the ground floor of the Sydney Jones Library in the Grove Wing. The Special Collections and Archives are open weekdays from 9.30am – 4.45pm and closed at weekends. Find out how to visit and access the Special Collections & Archives here.

Image top shows the oldest printed book in the University’s Special Collections and Archives, a 1465 edition of Cicero’s De Officiis. Add Paradoxica, printed on vellum.

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