A key part of the librarian's role has always been to guide scholars towards appropriate sources of information, a task made much easier since the advent of networked computerised catalogues. As a result, researchers no longer have to travel to an individual library in order to check its card catalogue but can rather search a library's holdings remotely.

However, the process of replacing or duplicating card catalogues is labour-intensive and still far from complete, particularly when it comes to old and rare material. UCL is therefore involved in two collaborative national schemes which aim to address this issue.

Nineteenth Century Pamphlets / Hume Tracts

This project, run by the Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL) aims, eventually, to catalogue 177,000 items retrospectively. UCL has contributed around 3,500 online catalogue records so far, over 3,000 of which are for the Hume Tracts, the library of Joseph Hume, the nineteenth-century Radical MP, pictured right.

The Hume collection consists largely of addresses and correspondence between Radicals and Non-conformists from the first half of the nineteenth century, a time of major political, economic and social change in Britain. It includes many documents on the particular causes championed by Hume, such as universal suffrage, Catholic emancipation, and an end to imprisonment for debt.


The Helpful Online Gateway to ART History project is led by the Courtauld Institute of Art and involves twelve other Higher Education institutions. Its aim is to facilitate access to information about major exhibition and sales catalogue collections in Britain. UCL has contributed records for nearly 500 catalogues of exhibitions, mostly of modern artists and held in Paris, New York and London.

As well as creating thousands of individual online catalogue records, retroconversion projects can also highlight particular subject areas, bringing these to the attention of researchers (e.g. through a designated web site). Further information on both of the above can be found at the Reserach Support Libraries Programme website.

STOP PRESS: UCL Friends Programme

Library Services has recently been successful in its bid for funding for a six-month programme of retrospective conversion of a number of "flagship" Special Collections, including the Bentham Collection, College Collection, Orwell Rare Books and Joyce Rare Books. Further information is available from the Group Manager for Bibliographic Services.