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Unlocking Libraries

Access & Participation with Cambridge University Libraries

Library Resources: View Special Collections

Special Collections

 Gutenberg Bible (Inc.1.A.1.1[3761.1–2])Cambridge University Libraries are home to one of the world's greatest collections of historic books and treasures, from manuscripts to early printing, to artefacts, letters and diaries, spanning thousands of years and a vast range of subjects. 

For school groups of any age and Key Stage, access to these items can be both inspiring and informative.

Many College libraries work with their College Schools Liaison Officer to provide exhibitions and access to their Special Collections as part of school visits, and the University Library can offer opportunities to access Special Collections material. 

For SLOs:

To find out more about arranging access to Special Collections for school groups, please contact us for more information

For Teachers:

To discuss arranging a visit for schools to see and work with Special Collections please contact your outreach practitioner / Schools Liaison Officer in the first instance. All SLOs cover a targeted Link Area in the UK, so each area has a particular SLO to contact. 

Look up your Link Area and SLO on the College Area Links website

Special Collections Online

Crested white bird on snow-laden camellia branch. From Shi zhu zhai shu hua pu (FH.910.83–98, p. 11), the earliest Chinese book printed by the technique of polychrome xylography known as douban.If you aren't able to arrange an in-person visit to a Cambridge library, or would like online resources to use for classrooms or virtual sessions with school groups, many of the University Library's most historic and significant Special Collections have been made freely available to view online.

You can view high-quality scans of Special Collection items including Charles Darwin's manuscripts, Isaac Newton's papers, and subjects as diverse as Engineering, Music, Japanese and Islamic Manuscripts, among many others, via the Cambridge Digital Library website

An important goal of the Cambridge Digital Library is to make Special Collections available, so that students, teachers and life-long learners can explore a wide range of resources from Cambridge University Libraries.

If you're not sure where to start, or if you want some more general historic and beautiful items to show to school groups, you can begin with the Treasures of the Library and Curious Objects collections. 

Cambridge University Libraries have also worked with Google Arts and Culture to bring some of the most historic, interesting and significant items to life online. 

The University Library YouTube channel has short educational videos featuring items from the Special Collections, and exploring their contribution to our understanding of the world, such as this video below on understanding gravity with Isaac Newton:

For many more videos on a range of items and subjects, see Cambridge University Library on YouTube

For more information on Cambridge University Libraries Special Collections, see the Special Collections website or contact the Special Collections team.

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