Skip to Main Content Page Title
Library logo

Archives and Special Collections: Other Collections and Sources: Range of Collections

Our collections

Archives and Special Collections come in many formats and genres. The below are worth using as search terms to explore the collections for specific research needs. Some of these formats/genres overlap, some relate more to the content of the items and some to the physical format


- Audiovisual, photographs, slides, prints, negatives, photo albums, cassettes, reel to reel, LPs, video

- Electronic, digital, CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, USB sticks

- Printed books, pamphlets, journals, serials, booklets, leaflets, broadsheets, flyers, prospectuses, handbooks, ephemera, programmes

- Pictures, paintings, engravings, lithographs, drawings, sketch books

- Artefacts, objects, clothing, trophies

- Manuscripts

- Diaries, journals, scrapbooks

- Manorial court rolls, estreat rolls

- Accounts, financial documents, receipts, vouchers, acquittances, ledgers, journals, cash books, budgets

- Maps, plans, surveys

- Correspondence, letters

- Wills, probate, bonds, inventories

- Deeds, recoveries, leases, feet of fines

- Minutes, agendas, papers

- Reports, memoranda

- Newspapers, cuttings

- Microform, microfilms, microfiche

The collections are mainly written in English, but there is a considerable range of other languages to be explored or coped with in Archives and Special Collections. Some of the major ones other than modern day English are outlined below.

- Old English features little beyond an early 12th century document in the cathedral's archive and studies in printed books.

- Middle English is one of the features of the Cosin manuscripts collection and was researched much by A.I. Doyle (1926-2018), the Keeper of Rare Books for many years.

- English dialect. Many peculiarly local words can be found in the various early modern collections, such as the inventories in the probate records. More contemporaneously, there are numbers of Geordie dictionaries in the Local collection.

- Anglo-Norman or Medieval French. This can be found in some of the Cosin manuscripts, and also in numbers of documents in the medieval archive of the Cathedral of the 14th and earlier 15th centuries.

- French. There are quantities of French rare books, especially in Bishop Cosin's Library. Amongst the archives, the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Evron contain French correspondence with the mother house in France, and the papers of Prince Abbas Hilmi II have much material in French. 

- German. The German historian Wilhelm Levison's papers reflect his origin through the quantities of correspondence with his homeland. Again, there are also numbers of printed books in the language. There is also one medieval deed in the Eden papers in German.

- Latin. Possibly the most prevalent language in the collections after English, there are many printed books of classical texts in the language, and also books written in the language. There are also many medieval and early modern documents in Latin, though usually not so classically correct in spelling or word order, and quantities of textual and liturgical manuscripts in the Cosin, Cathedral and Ushaw College collections.

- Greek. Few documents are in Greek, beyond some fragmentary papyri from Roman Egypt, but there are numbers of early modern books in the language.

- Arabic. Some of the Oriental Manuscripts are in Arabic, but most Arabic material is to be found in the Sudan Archive, including its printed collection of newspapers.

For range of languages, the Cremation Society collection probably has the the most extensive range in its material, totalling some 16, namely: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Romanian, Russian, Serbo-Croat and Swedish. The papers of Khedive Abbas Hilmi II has quite a range of material in European and non-European languages including French, Arabic, Turkish, Ottoman Turkish, German, Greek, Italian, and English.

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.

Where images of items in our collections are available online there will be links in the appropriate catalogue.  A visual browser is also available to look across the available material.

Access to original sources

Our collections are at one of three sites.

  • Palace Green Library: open Monday to Friday (appointments recommended), 10am to 4:30pm
  • 5 The College: open by appointment, usually Wednesday-Thursday, 9am-4pm (closed 12-1pm)
  • Ushaw College Library:  access is currently limited. Please submit an enquiry form for further details.

For further details, see our guide to Visiting us in person.  To make an appointment, please use our enquiry form.

See information on Using Our Collections for further information on accessing our collections and on our facilities and services.

Where to start

Sources elsewhere