Painting of a busy evening street scene in the 1940s outside the Arcadia cinema.

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections are housed in Lancaster University Library.  There are over 15,000 rare books, thousands of postcards and photographs and archives on a variety of subjects.  They are available to anyone by appointment, and some are available digitally through Lancaster Digital Collections.  Special Collections aim to support the needs of all staff, students and external users in the research, teaching, learning and engagement with the materials within Special Collections in the most appropriate way.

Rare books and Special Collections in General

There are over 15,000 rare books, thousands of postcards and photographs and archives on a variety of subjects. Those catalogued in our library OneSearch can be viewed via the link below. See the other individual collections below for details on individual collections which are not all on OneSearch.

OneSearch: Rare books and Special Collections

Rare books and Special Collections accordion 1 Accordion

Rare books and Special Collections Continued Accordion

Further information

Contact information: For further information, enquiries, digitisation requests, research requests, teaching requests, virtual appointments and physical appointments please contact us.

If you are unable to use email then you can phone the main library on 01524 592516 and leave a message with your contact details and nature of your enquiry and we will get back to you. Alternatively, you can write to:

Special Collections and Archives, Lancaster University Library, Bailrigg, Lancaster, Lancashire. LA1 4YH.

Appointments will need to be made in advance and we will contact you to arrange a suitable time. We will aim to answer any enquiries as soon as possible within our staffing constraints. We do not have the facilities to take on lengthy research but will provide up to 1 hour of research free of charge. Any personal data will be held in accordance with GDPR purely for the records of Special Collections. Offers of donations will be on a case-by-case basis. Please refer to our Special Collections policy for further details.

Special Collections is within Lancaster University Library at the end of the atrium (click here for directions to Special Collections) and can be visited by prior appointment.


If you are unable to find what you are after from our webpages and wish to find out more information then please contact us for further information.


We can support you in using the Special Collections either with face-to-face visits, virtual visits where you can see the items in real-time remotely on your computer or digitisation where possible. We can also arrange for items to be used in research, teaching and learning in your department. Contact us if you wish to consult with us on ways of using our Special Collections.

Facilities offered both virtually and in person subject to availability are:​

  • PowerPoints and Films on various topics relating to the collections including:​
    • Book History​
    • Use of Special Collections and Archives​
  • In-person and hybrid sessions using resources chosen by academics. Past topics include:​
    • William Blake​
    • Lake District​
    • Local History​
    • Beginning of books e.g. title pages, dedications, bindings etc.​
    • Early Modern Bodies​
    • Gender during World War II​
    • Critical Editions​
  • Help to prepare content to be ingested into Lancaster Digital Collections.
  • Work Experience including:​
    • Placements (both UG and PG);
    • Volunteers;
    • Schoolwork experience;
    • Overview of work;
    • Experience for those applying for Library or Archival courses;
    • Additional Needs work experience.​
  • Help to locate items in collections relevant to research and teaching along with support and advice related to those items.

The University Special Collections and Archives does not include the following which are separate entities on campus and can be contacted directly: