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Archives and Special Collections: Sudan Archive: Search and Citation guide

Our collections

Collection catalogues describe archival material, and will often not include published materials accessioned with that collection. Published materials are listed in the library catalogue (Discover), with information in the "Collection" heading to indicate their provenance. Using Discover make sure to note which filter you are using: Special Collections, Library Collections, or perhaps Everything.

Archival material in the Sudan Archive may be searched either using Discover or this Archive Catalogues search tool. In both cases filters should be selected to search across only collections in the Sudan Archive. Search results are presented differently by each search engine, but the archival data that is being searched is the same. The Archive Catalogues search tool each time presents the whole collection catalogue with each relevant item in that catalogue highlighted while Discover presents a list of item records and within each item record there is a link to "View in context in archives catalogue". It is recommended to view search hits in their catalogue context. When searching by keyword remember to search for variant spellings due to the variability of Romanisation.

Searches by reference number can produce variable results due to an inconsistency in how such references are recorded in the catalogues. For example, when searching for a report with the reference SAD.253/1/4-42, entering that full reference will not always succeed. The following variants will usually be successful: 253/1/4-42, or 253/1/*. In this example, searching for SAD.253/1/5 (the second page of the report) will never produce a result as this page is silently included in the reference to the full report. Sudan Archive references are structured as follows: SAD.{Box #} / {File # within that box} / {Folio # within that file}. We produce material to researchers in our Search Room by file not by folio, so if you wish to consult two items within the same file - SAD.179/3/18-19 and SAD.179/3/42, for example - you need only fill out one request slip for file SAD.179/3.

A video guide to how to search the Sudan Archive is published here:

Links in the video:

We make our collections accessible to all for the purposes of academic and community research, and provide catalogues to them online. In accordance with standard professional practice our catalogues will reflect the language of the collection and of its original creators; additionally, the catalogues may have been written many years ago when the collection was first received by the university. Voices, objects and images from the past can display attitudes, opinions and relate to events which may be viewed as biased and offensive in today’s society. Other voices are not present. We are committed to listening to all communities and welcome your engagement. If you wish to contact us about any language used in our catalogues or about any particular item in our collections please make a note of the reference number and email us at pg.library@durham.ac.uk.

Collection catalogues in the Sudan Archive typically arrange the material into the following groups, and chronologically within each grouping:

  • official papers
  • personal papers
  • diaries, memoirs and trek notes
  • articles, lectures, speeches, books
  • historical material
  • photographic material
  • maps and plans
  • museum objects
  • newspaper cuttings
  • miscellanea
  • printed material.

A short summary of each collection creator's career is provided at the head of each catalogue.

Material in the Sudan Archive is given a reference number which is unique across the collections of papers, such as SAD.303/9/8-17, where 8-17 are specific pages within file 9 in box 303. Usually it is not necessary to give the name of the person or organisation within which collection the item is filed, although it may be convenient to do so.

The short form of citation should be GB-0033-SAD.reference number.

Printed references take the form: SAD.reference number.

To order items in the Search Room, use the SAD. prefix followed by the reference number for the item. Citing the section of the finding aid can sometimes be useful as well. Material is produced to readers in our Search Room by file rather than by item within a file, so if ordering SAD.253/1/4-42 you will be presented with SAD.253/1/ in its entirety, i.e. 253/1/1-42. So if ordering several items within the same file, or from several consecutive files, it will be most efficient to order file SAD.253/1 or files SAD/253/1-3 on just one request slip, for example. 

File references are written on yellow slips, one reference per slip, and these yellow slips are then handed to Search Room staff working at the invigilation desk. It is most helpful to email your document list to pg.library@durham.ac.uk in advance of your visit, and this will also maximise your time with the material. New documents may be requested on the day.

Documents are given to readers in red carrying trays. Readers carry their tray from the invigilation desk to their seat where the folder of material may be removed from the tray and placed flat on the table. When they are finished with a file readers return the documents in the tray to the invigilation desk. 

Special handling guidelines for materials possibly impregnated with the insecticide DDT

On 8 June 2023 we introduced special handling measures for the Sudan Archive having discovered traces of the insecticide DDT on a record sample. Further testing in August 2023 revealed the presence of trace amounts of DDT, Dieldrin, and Lindane in both the Sudan Archive and also the Malcolm MacDonald and Donald Hawley collections. 

We were first alerted to the fact of historical insecticide treatments of documents and the associated risks by The National Archives in London which also recently found similar traces in one of its collections. Our response has been modelled on the consultations, research and analysis The National Archives then undertook to assess any risks of harm to the public associated with handling such material. Our new special handling guidelines are informed by those subsequently adopted by The National Archives. Once these special measures are in place and followed we can be confident any risk is minimal. A scientific paper recording The National Archive’s research methodology and test results is available here.

Researchers using the collections in the Sudan Archive in our Search Room will be asked to:

  • wear disposable nitrile gloves to handle material;
  • refrain from touching face, eyes or mouth whilst viewing the records and to and wash hands thoroughly with soap once finished.

We regret the inconvenience these measures will cause but the safety of the public and our staff members is our first concern.

Once accessioned a Summary List of the new material is made, and this summary is usually published as a Collection Summary, as found listed within the Summary Guide. In time a full Catalogue is drafted and then published, linked from the Collection Summary. Material can be inaccessible until it is fully catalogued and numbered. Each year a return of all accessions is made to the National Register of Archives: the most significant of these accessions are selected by The National Archives and published online every year.

The Sudan Archive is a group of more than 400 separate collections, whether of individuals or organisations. Collection Guides for all these collections are published in the Summary Guide. In December 2023 there were about 1100 catalogued boxes of material and many metres of printed publications and maps in the Archive. There is also a significant backlog of uncatalogued material.

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

Sources elsewhere

The National Records Office (Khartoum)

South Sudan National Archives (Juba)

The National Archives (UK)