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Art and Special Collections

The Special Collections within the Library Services broken down into different themes.

COVID-19 Protection Restrictions

Due the current pandemic of COVID-19, access to Special Collections is restricted as follows:

  • the reading room is open for booked visits on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9am and 4pm
  • visits must be booked in advance. Email to arrange a booking
  • capacity in the reading room is reduced to no more than three visitors at any one time. 
  • All visitors must abide by current guidance concerning masks, hand hygiene and social distancing

For full details see our page for visiting the collections under sustained protection

Find a collection

On our webpage

Use the tabs on the Arts and Special Collections homepage to find our collections arranged by subject area. Contents lists for collections are provided as downloadable documents where available

Library Search

Books from Special Collections can be found using our Library Search. Six of the largest collections can be searched individually using the advanced search. The video below shows how to use the advanced search.

Once you have found the collection or materials you need, contact the team at to book a visit, or to discuss the possibility of scanned document delivery

Where we are


The Special Collections Reading Room is located on the first floor of the Colchester Campus library. For directions to the Campus, see the How to Get Here page. When you are on Campus, use the interactive Find Your Way map to find the library.



Terms of use

Visitors to Special Collections will be asked to abide by the following terms of use.

  • No food or drink to be consumed in the Reading Room
  • No notes or marks to be made on the materials
  • All written notes to be made using pencil
  • Material to be handled with clean hands
  • Material is not to be removed from the Reading Room
  • Photography of materials is usually allowed, please ask a member of staff before taking pictures.

COVID-19 specific terms

  • Masks (covering the mouth and nose) must be worn at all times while in the Library building, unless you are medically exempt. 
  • Patrons will be required to wash their hands thoroughly (for a minimum of 20 seconds) before handling Special Collections materials (facilities will be available on the ground floor of the library). We ask that you do not use alcohol-based sanitiser whilst handling Special Collections, as this can damage the materials.
  • Patrons are asked to observe appropriate social distancing while in the Library