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The University of Southampton
Special Collections

Visiting Special Collections

The Special Collections Division is situated on Level 4 of the Hartley Library at the University's Highfield site. There are two main areas: the Special Collections Open Access area houses the more modern printed material (which includes the Parkes Library) while the Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books Searchroom is where the manuscript and rare book material is consulted.

Archives and Rare Books Searchroom service

Opening hours

The service is open Tuesday-Thursday 1000-1600.    


Access to the Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books Searchroom service is available to anyone regardless of whether you are attached to an academic institution. 

Booking an appointment

All visits are by prior appointment and all visitors will be required to book their visit and to order their material at least 1 working day in advance. 

There is a maximum limit of 10 items per day for bookings.

Bookings are made by emailing We require the following information for bookings: details of name, University ID number (members of the University of Southampton only), permanent residential address and contact details, date of visit and list of items to be consulted.  A booking form can be provided for use.

Each booking is for one person only on a first come, first served basis.  If you are unable to attend please contact us as far in advance as possible to let us know. 

Ordering material

All material needs to be ordered in advance, at the point of booking a visit.  There is a maximum limit of 10 items per day for bookings.

You can explore our archival collections using our new Epexio Archive Catalogue, which brings together brings together thousands of catalogue descriptions along with a powerful search tool and browse functionality.

Some modern archival material might be sensitive and subject to restrictions under GDPR or FOIA. Information on restrictions will be noted in the Archive Catalogue.

Details of rare book material will be found in the Library catalogue.

Confirmation of appointment

You will be sent an email confirmation of your appointment with the Archives service which you should bring with you.

Identification for registration

Researchers are required to provide documentation for registration purposes on either their initial visit (or first visit in a calendar year) to the Archives and Manuscripts and Rare Books Searchroom service.  External researchers will be required to produce two pieces of documentation (one with a photograph, one which includes their permanent residential address).  Southampton students and staff will need to provide their University ID.

Safety measures in place

Researchers are welcome to wear face coverings during their visit.

No visitor should attend site if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are advised to self-isolate in line with government recommendations.

Digital appointments via Virtual Reading Room service

Special Collections has introduced a Virtual Reading Room service, where researchers can book a digital appointment to view Special Collections' material remotely, wherever they are based.

Digital appointments are one hour in length and are facilitated using an on-site visualiser and viewed via Microsoft Teams. They are offered for slots 1000-1100, 1130-1230, 1300-1400, 1430-1530 (UK time). The digital appointments service will initially be available on Mondays as we develop and refine this service.

Booking an appointment

To book a digital appointment, please email us at

Searchroom Regulations

For curatorial reasons, special library regulations apply to the use of the collections. Regulations for the use of the reading room for archives and rare books can be found under Schedule 5 of the Library Regulations and Schedules.

Reprographics service

Users are welcome to order copies of material from the collections.  For curatorial reasons, all copying and photography is done by members of staff.  No private photography of documents or books is permitted.  See the reprographics service pages for further information. 

Special Collections Open Access

Special Collections Open Access houses the modern material within the Special Collections. 

It is open during the Hartley Library's opening hours.


Contact Us

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about booking an appointment.

Guide for New Users

If this if your first time visiting Special Collections we provide some basic information to help guide you through what will happen during your visit.

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