The Library's Special Collections have moved from the Science Library to a new home at 140 Hampstead Road, NW1.
Hampstead Road runs north of Euston Station towards Camden and the new site is about 10-15 minutes walk from the main UCL campus. The premises have recently been refurbished in order to accommodate around four miles of material, and include a state-of-the-art Strong Room for the most valuable items and a newly decorated, air-conditioned reading room.
Most of the Library's older books and manuscripts were previously kept in the basement of the DMS Watson Building, a less than ideal location for some of UCL's most valuable holdings. Now that most of them are housed in a safer, more suitable environment, the Special Collections team plans to embark on a programme of publicity and promotion in order to widen awareness of these items. To this end, the Library is already involved in various "retroconversion" projects, two of which are described in more depth in a separate article.
The material held at Hampstead Road covers a wide range of subject fields, and dates from the fourth century AD to the present day. It includes collections of international renown such as the George Orwell Archive and the Jeremy Bentham manuscripts; large holdings of personal papers (including those of Lord Brougham, Sir William Ramsay and Hugh Gaitskell); the "Incunabula" (a small but important collection of books published before 1501) as well as the College Archives and many lesser-known items and collections (rare editions of Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Galileo and Milton, for example).
Eventually, it is intended that Special Collections will move again: this time, back to the UCL main site and to the proposed Panopticon Building which - subject to a successful lottery bid and planning permission - will be built next to the Bloomsbury Theatre on Gordon Street. If all goes according to plan this will happen in 2006.
The new site is open from Monday to Friday, 09:30 to 17:00 but visits are by appointment only and material must be ordered in advance.
Contact details for visitors are: 140 Hampstead Road, Camden, London, NW1 2BX. Telephone: 020 7679 5197. Fax: 020 7679 5157. Further information is available on the Special Collections web page.
More details about the Library's old and rare holdings can also be found on the AIM25 web site.