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Archives and Special Collections: Other Collections and Sources: Local Studies

Our collections

A definition of “Local studies” is that they are characterised by a breadth of subject areas, and by an extensive, open-ended time frame which reflects the ongoing growth and development both of the local region, and of research interests. So local studies should encompass the past, and also be concerned with records of contemporary society to further knowledge on all aspects of regional life, historical or current. The common denominator between items in any local studies collection is geographical, but as well as a physical area, such a collection should also include items on its prominent families and individuals. The types of materials which are acquired for local history collections are often diverse and will generally include official publications, items of general interest, and unpublished materials and memorabilia. They are not, then, strictly academic collections and appeal to both academic and public users conducting different levels of research.

Durham University Library and Collections’ Local Studies Collection is available in the Barker Research Library on the open shelves, and may be consulted by academic and public users. All items are reference only and the collection is not borrowable as a primary purpose is to support research into the Archives and Special Collections. Some duplicate borrowable items are held at the Bill Bryson Library. The open access material is generally post 1860, while earlier items, plus particularly important, vulnerable or fragile items, are kept in the strongrooms. These items have to be ordered for consultation in the search room in the Barker Research Library.

The Local Studies Collection contains items which have particular relevance to Durham (City/County/Diocese/Cathedral/University/), and also items relating to the geographical area roughly defined by the historic counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmorland and the North Riding of Yorkshire. Items relate, completely or partially, to somewhere, something or someone (historically or currently) within this local area. In addition, items may have been written/compiled by a local author. The collection contains mainly printed works, including pamphlets, monographs, newspapers, serials (periodicals, journals), sale and exhibition catalogues, directories, poll books, sermons, maps, and other miscellaneous publications, along with some non-published items. Some of the materials are scarce items and others are unique to Durham University Library and Collections. Some items are duplicated in other Library collections at Palace Green Library (e.g. Routh).

Further details on the range and diversity of the collection can be found here, including a collecting policy for the collection.

Availability online (digital images)

These collections have not been digitised, so that only the catalogues are currently available online.

If you would like to purchase digital copies of specific items from any of our collections, please get in touch.

If you are a member of teaching staff at Durham University and would like to use material from Archives and Special Collections within your lectures or seminars, we may be able to scan or photograph items for this purpose.  Please contact us as early as possible with any teaching digitisation requests.

See also our guide to Digitised Collections Online for further information on our digital resources.

Access to original sources

The collections mentioned above are located at Palace Green Library.  Our current opening hours are below.

  • Monday to Friday: 10am to 4:30pm
  • Saturday: closed
  • Sunday: closed

For further information on visiting to use the collections, please use our enquiry form.

See separate Libraries and Site Information guide for further information on Palace Green Library.

Where to start