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UCL Special Collections opens new reading room in the Wilkins building

By Benjamin G M Meunier, on 23 November 2016

On Monday 21st November 2016, a group of Library Services staff and supporters including UCL academics and Professional Services staff celebrated the formal opening of a new reading room which will allow wider access to UCL’s rare books, manuscripts and archive materials for research and public engagement, supporting UCL’s distinctive Connected Curriculum.

Dr Paul Ayris said a few words to mark the opening of the reading room, sited at the heart of UCL. Paul highlighted that the project had delivered a high-spec space which UCL could be proud of. The opening marks a new phase in the history of UCL Special Collections, which started largely as a set of collections donated by the widows of early professors at UCL. Developments are afoot to establish permanent new bases for the treasures held in Special Collections, with a collaborative venture in partnership with Senate House Library and members of the federal university, as well as expansion facilities in future phases of UCL East. Paul congratulated all those involved in establishing the new reading room, and the party toasted the future of UCL Special Collections.

UC School pupils

As described in a recent tweet, the site where UCL Special Collections’ new reading room is located was once a playground for University College School pupils…

What’s in our Special Collections?

UCL’s collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books date back as far as the 4th century AD and cover a vast range of subject areas, notably: London, Social History, Latin America, Jewish Collections and the Orwell Archive – which is the most comprehensive body of source material for Orwell studies anywhere in the world.

A selection of Special Collections treasures were on show at the event.

A selection of Special Collections treasures were on show at the event.

Did you know?

  • Some of the earliest donations to the Library include the 4,000 books given by Jeremy Bentham in 1833.
  • We recently discovered the manuscript of a poem by Byron inscribed into Samuel Rogers’ The Pleasures of Memory (London, 1810).
  • The first major manuscript gift, a magnificent 13th-century illuminated Latin Bible, was presented by William Steere in 1859.
  • Sonia Orwell, George Orwell’s widow, chose UCL Library Services to house the precious manuscripts and notebooks of the author of Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.

The new reading room is located in the South Junction and is open weekdays from 09.00-17.00 with appointments to consult material between 10.00 and 16.00. The room can hold up to 8 readers at any one time.

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