Wolfson Reading Room

Wolfson Reading Room

Two students reading in the Wolfson Reading Room

Visiting Us

If you do not have a current University of Aberdeen staff or student card you can apply for a Reading Room Access Pass.

Please email us for further information about an Access Pass.

Where to find us

The Special Collections Centre is located on the lower ground floor of the Sir Duncan Rice Library.

Further information about Visiting the Library and a campus map for Old Aberdeen are also available.

Before visiting, please contact us in advance, to seek advice and assistance. We particularly advise you to do so if you will be travelling from outwith Aberdeen - this will help us to have materials ready for you and make the most of your research time. 

Our address

Special Collections Centre
The Sir Duncan Rice Library
Bedford Road
Aberdeen
AB24 3AA
Tel: +44 (0)1224 27 2598

Facilities

Lockers

All visitors to the Wolfson Reading Room are asked to leave coats and bags in the lockers provided.  The lockers are operated by returnable tokens and are located on the lower ground floor adjacent to the Reading Room.

The Wolfson Reading Room provides:

  • Reader spaces for consultation of materials, with individual power points for laptop use and internet access
  • Map and plan consultation table 
  • Microfilm room with digital microfilm reader
  • Access to oral history and audio collections 
     

Requesting Materials

Browsable material on open access in the Reading Room

In addition to our closed access collections, three printed collections are on open access. Materials in these collections are for consultation only and are not borrowable:  

  • Local Collection – covering the north-east corner of Scotland and the former Grampian Region, with special emphasis on the University and its history
  • S Collection – relating to the study of books and manuscripts and complementing our printed and archive collections
  • Periodicals – including historical society publications, journals and serial titles, dating mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries. 
Archive and printed materials from closed access collections

All archive and manuscript, and most special printed collections are closed access and so must be requested in advance for consultation in the Reading Room.

Please search the online catalogue to identify items you would like to request:

  • please note that that there is a minimum one full working day request period; for next day consultation, please request item(s) by 4.00pm the previous day, materials can be available from 10.00am onwards the next day, or on Monday if requested on Friday
  • please note that requested materials may not be available immediately (due to access conditions and restrictions). Please wait until you have received confirmation that your requested item(s) will be available before you finalise your visit plans.

Please note: All enquiries relating to NHS Grampian Archives should be addressed to the NHS Archivist. Further information about NHS Grampian Archives is available here.

Research Enquiries

How and where to send an enquiry

We welcome all research enquiries relating to the University’s archive and printed collections. 

How to contact us

Please send your enquiry to specialcollections@abdn.ac.uk 

Wolfson Reading Room, Special Collections Centre
The Sir Duncan Rice Library
Bedford Road
Aberdeen
AB24 3AA

What to include in your enquiry

Please provide as much information that you can, to assist us to search the collections on your behalf.

Please note though that we are unable to carry out extensive research 

We are able to offer a limited research copy service for remote researchers but we are not able to carry out extensive image research.

To help us answer your enquiry, please advise us of any deadlines you may have.

What happens after you contact us

If you e-mail us you will receive an automated e-mail response to let you know that your request has reached us safely we will respond to your request within 20 days.

We look forward to hearing from you.

 

Please note: All enquiries relating to NHS Grampian Archives should be addressed directly to the NHS Archivist. Further information about NHS Grampian Archives is available here.

It may be helpful to consult these resources before contacting us

Our online catalogues and collections contain much information that may answer your enquiry.

Information about our collections

These links will connect you to some of our key, and frequently accessed, sources of information:

Information about past staff and students

Digitised and searchable copies of the published rolls of graduates of the University of Aberdeen from 1860-1970 and its antecedent institutions, King’s College (1495-1860) and Marischal College (1593-1860)


Factsheets

Images for research

Self-copying

Whilst working in the Reading Room, you are able to make digital copies of most items in the collections for your own research.  Staff will advise of any conservation or copyright restrictions that might apply, and will supply book rests and weights to position materials safely.  Please do not use tripods, lighting, or any other equipment which might come into direct contact with or otherwise damage materials.   Flash may not be used, and your photographic device must be on silent mode.

Scanning undertaken by staff

Some fragile material may require specialist copying, or may be too fragile to copy. Reading Room staff will be happy to advise, and may be able to make copies for you.

Use of text and images for research and presentations

You may copy text and images from our web pages for research purposes and for full details, please see Terms and Conditions.

 Reading Room guidelines

Please help us to care for our collections by following our Reading Room guidelines:

  • Please leave all bags - including laptop and camera cases - in the lockers provided for Reading Room visitors.  Please hang up, or leave in lockers, all coats and outdoor clothing.
  • The Reading Room is a quiet research area, please keep your phone on silent and move into the foyer to talk or use your phone.
  • Please do not bring any food or drink into the Reading Room.
  • Please ensure your hands are clean and dry, bathrooms with handwashing facilities are located adjacent to the Reading Room.
  • Please work in pencil only. You may use your laptop, but please leave your laptop case in your locker.
  • Please handle materials and turn pages carefully. Acid free slips of paper are available if you wish to mark your place.
  • Please use the supports and weights provided to support and hold down items. Do not lean on materials or press the pages.
  • Please keep your workspace tidy with books neatly stacked. Ensure that nothing overhangs the desk.


Copying and image reproduction

  • Please feel free to take photos of material using a compact camera, tablet or phone to help your research. You will be advised in advance if there are any restrictions.
  • Please let staff know if you need high resolution images or wish to publish images. 


Please contact us or ask in the Reading Room Office if you require any further assistance.

Please note that for security of all, CCTV is in operation in the Special Collections Centre.

Guidelines on handling materials

Using Book Supports (Book Cushions)
  • Always use book supports when consulting bound material
  • Always use a support which is larger than the book
  • Adjust the cushion to support the book in the position you require
  • Make sure the joints (the area either side of the spine) are supported
  • If you need to hold the pages open place a snake weight on the edge or at the corner
  • If you are unsure please ask a member of staff for help
Using Book Supports (Foam Wedges)
  • Always use book supports when consulting bound material
  • Always use a support which is larger than the book
  • If necessary use extra pieces of foam to support the book in the position you require
  • Make sure the joints (the area either side of the spine) are supported
  • If the book has a hollow, leave space between the wedges so as not to crush the hollow
  • If you need to hold the pages open place a snake weight on the edge or at the corner
  • If the book has a tight back, make sure the spine is well supported
  • If you are unsure please ask a member of staff for help
Handling Books and Bound Material


Correct handling of special collections materials will aid in their preservation.   

Plan Ahead

1. Have book supports ready to support the books, and snake weights to hold them open if necessary.

book cushion and snake weight
2. Always make sure you have clean, dry hands before handling any books.

clean hands   

Moving Material 

3. When removing a book from the shelf, including modern books, grip it on both sides of the spine at the middle of the book. Push the neighbouring books back on the shelf or to the side to get a good grip. NEVER pull at the top of the spine.

a hand removing a book from a shelf
4. Support the bottom edge of the book when removing it from the shelf.

removing a large book from a shelf
5. When moving books do not move more than you can safely and comfortably handle. Only carry 2 or 3 smaller books or one large book. IF moving more books use a trolley.

person carrying 3 small books in hands
6. Large books should be carried across the chest, the spine should be downwards towards the floor with the hands supporting it. 

person carying one large book

Consulting Material 

7. Always use the supports provided when consulting a book. Use the weights provided to hold the book open.

a book held open with support weights
8. Only open a book as far as it will go without undue stress and never at an angle greater than 120 degrees.
9. Always make sure that the area either side of the spine of the book is well supported.

supported book spine
10. Tight back books should have their spine supported.

support for tight back book
11. Hollow back books should have space allowed for their spine so that the hollow is not crushed.

support for hollow back book
12.  Use the acid free paper slips provided to mark your place or follow the text.   
13. To turn the page of a book lift the corner of the page and lightly slip the fingertips along the fore-edge supporting the page. For larger books, such as volumes of newspapers, please use two hands when turning the pages to ensure that the page is sufficiently supported.

how to turn a book page

14. Never lean on a book. Never place anything on top of a book, such as a phone or camera.
15. If the pages of the book have not been cut and prevent the turning of the pages contact a member of staff. 
16. If you find anything that causes you concern, or you inadvertently damage an item, please inform staff  so that the problem can be rectified or the item scheduled for repair.

Handling Maps and Outsize Material

Correct handling of special collections materials will aid in their preservation.

Plan Ahead

1. When consulting outsize material make sure you have a large, clean, level area to consult the material.

Large desk for unfolding maps
2. Have weights ready to hold down the material (these are available from staff).

examples of paper weights
3. Always make sure you have clean, dry hands before handling any material. You may be asked to wear gloves when handling some material, for example if the item you are looking at was produced using a photographic process.

clean hands

Moving Material

4. When moving material plan your route, make sure that you have plenty of room and that the item is well supported. Staff are on hand to assist.

Consulting Material

5. Rolled or folded material should be carefully opened out. Use glass or leather weights to hold them open if necessary. Take extra care with any damaged areas. Place weights so that tears do not worsen.

rolling out a map
6. If you encounter resistance when unrolling or unfolding an item do not force it as this may cause damage.
7. When you have finished consulting the item work in reverse to refold/reroll the item in the same way. Resist the temptation to knock the end of a rolled item to make the end flat, re-roll it instead.

folded map
8. Particularly large or fragile items may require more than one person to open them safely. Staff are on hand to assist.

handling fragile maps
9. Do not lean or place anything on the item.
10. Use the acid free paper slips provided to mark your place or follow any text. Alternatively large sheets of polyester (Melinex) are available from the reading room, these can be placed over the item.
11. If you find anything that causes you concern, or you inadvertently damage an item, please inform staff so that the problem can be rectified or the item scheduled for repair.

Handling Photographic Material on Paper or Card

Correct handling of special collections materials will aid in their preservation.

Plan Ahead

1. The majority of photographic material is kept in cold storage. It takes 24 hours for the material to acclimatise to reading room conditions. Please bear this in mind when organising your visit and contact the Reading Room in good time.
2. A sheet of mount board will have been placed in your working area by staff. Place the photograph you are consulting on this so you can use it to move it around your work area. This provides additional support and reduces the risks associated with direct handling.

photographs on a mount board
3. Photographic material is particularly susceptible to damage through handling. Please wear nitrile gloves at all time when handling photographic material.

hands in nitrile gloves

Moving Material

4. It can be tempting to leaf through a pile of photographs until you locate the one you are interested in. However, even if done carefully, this can result in the extension of tears or cracking of a brittle emulsion layer. Instead, work through the pile by removing the top photograph and placing it face downwards, photograph by photograph, one on top of the other, until you reach the one you are interested in.

handling photographs

Consulting Material

5. Some photographs are stored in protective enclosures. Please view photographic materials through their protective storage enclosures. If you need to remove the item from its enclosure please ask staff.

a photograph in protective enclosure
6. If you do need to hold the photograph directly, then do so using both hands to support it evenly.

handling a photograph with both hands
7. Do not attempt to flatten prints that have curled around the edges, or realign creases as you may inadvertently cause more damage to the print.
8. If viewing the back of a photograph take care not to move it across the table while the emulsion is facing downwards. Use the support provided.

viewing the back of a photograph
9. Photographic material is very sensitive to light. If you are not consulting the item, please protect from light by covering it with the sheet of card provided by the staff.
10. If two items are found to be stuck together, or a photograph is stuck to its enclosure, do not try to separate them. Instead please alert staff.
11. If you find anything that causes you concern, or you inadvertently damage an item, please inform staff so that the problem can be rectified or the item scheduled for repair.

Handling Photographic Material on Glass

Correct handling of special collections materials will aid in their preservation.

Plan Ahead

1. The majority of photographic material is kept in cold storage. It takes 24 hours for the material to acclimatise to reading room conditions. Please bear this in mind when organising your visit and contact the Reading Room in good time.
2. There will be a light box provided for you to view the plates/slides with transmitted light.

light box
3. A sheet of Plastazote, a kind of dense foam, will have been placed in your working area by staff. This provides a soft area over which you should consult the negative. This will reduce the risk of damage should the plate be accidentally dropped.

photographic material on Plastazote
4. Photographic material is particularly susceptible to damage through handling. Please wear nitrile gloves at all time when handling photographic material.

hands in nitrile gloves

Moving Material

5. If you are removing a plate or glass lantern slide from a box containing others, first remove any filler so that you are able to move the slides freely and gain a proper grip on the plate without introducing pressure to surrounding items.

removing the materials from a box with both hands
6. Make sure you have a firm grip on both the plate/slide and any enclosure when removing it from the box.

handling the materials with both hands
7. Once the plate/slide has been removed and placed on the support in your work area, replace the filler so that plates/ slides are less likely to slip or fall.

Consulting Material

8. Wherever possible view photographic materials through their protective storage enclosures. If you need to remove an item from its enclosure please ask staff.
9. When you first remove a plate/slide from the box, check carefully for damage. For example, a glass lantern slide may have lost its cover plate. If this is the case, make sure that you view the slide with the emulsion side facing upwards.
10. To reduce risks of abrasion of the image view glass plate negatives (or lantern slides missing their cover plates) with the emulsion side facing upwards. If in doubt, ask staff to advise. If you must view the item from the other side take care not to slide the emulsion side across the surface it is sitting on.
11. If the photograph is housed in a hinged case, make sure that it is adequately supported. Use a small book cushion if possible, and do not over-stretch the hinges.

photograph on a book cuhion
12. Do not attempt to clean an item. If there is any surface dirt present advise staff who will arrange to have it cleaned for you.
13. Photographic material is very sensitive to light. There is a lightbox provided for viewing images with transmitted light. Minimise the time that the plates are exposed to this light, and turn the light source off whenever you are not consulting the image.
14. If you find anything that causes you concern, or you inadvertently damage an item, please inform staff so that the problem can be rectified or the item scheduled for repair.