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UCL Special Collections Collection Management Policy
1. Introduction

1.1 This document constitutes a statement of the collection development and management policy of Library Services Special Collections, UCL Library Services, and aims to explain the basis on which material is acquired and managed. It ensures material is accepted according to a recognised strategy and serves as a reference document to guide curatorial decisions.

1.2 Its purpose is to provide information and guidance to library staff academic staff, students, library users, members of UCL, and the wider scholarly and professional communities as to the principles governing the development and management of collections within UCL Library Services Special Collections.

1.3 It should be read in conjunction with UCL Library Services. Library Strategy statement (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/library/libstrat_may05.shtml), general Collection Management Policy (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Library/cmp.shtml), and Preservation Policy

1.4 This policy supercedes all previous collection development policies relating to UCL Library Special Collections.

2. Definitions

1 UCL Library Services holds a large number of special collections which by virtue of the uniqueness or rarity of the items contained within them, their physical form, content, depth of subject coverage or other special significance, are distinguished from the general stock of the Library and receive special treatment in terms of housing, management, cataloguing, consultation, preservation and conservation. By their nature they also form part of the local, national, and international documentary heritage.

2.2 UCL Library Services recognises its responsibilities to preserve its special collections holdings in perpetuity to support the teaching, learning and research of UCL, and for the use of future generations. The main role of Special Collections staff is to enable physical and intellectual access to these collections while at the same time ensuring their long-term preservation.

2.3 An item or collection of items is normally designated as, added to or acquired by Special Collections if it fulfils the first and one or more of the following criteria:

  • it complements, enriches or builds on the subject strengths of existing special collections (see para 3 below)
  • it has been identified as supporting UCL teaching and research needs
  • it is of intrinsic local (UCL), national or international heritage significance
  • it is written in or contains items written in manuscript format
  • it is intrinsically archival in form and content (including artefacts and photographs)
  • it has been designated as archival in content
  • it is a rare printed work or contains rare printed works
  • it enhances the reputation of or is of special local or historical significance to UCL
  • its physical format, fragility, vulnerability, sensitive nature or other characteristic requires special storage, access, handling and management conditions.

Notes to 2.3
Archival is here defined as an item or group of items in any medium that have been generated by an individual, family, business or organisation during its existence, and have been chosen to be kept permanently or not otherwise disposed of because they are considered to be of continuing and historical value. Groups of working research papers, personal papers or individual items are also often known as manuscript collections or manuscripts. Such items are unique and irreplaceable. Archives are not just written documents on paper or parchment, such as letters, wills, and diaries. They may be photographs; audio-visual material like sound recordings and films; maps, plans and drawings; printed matter such as an organisationīs minutes or accounts, and archival information held in digital form.
Rare is here defined as falling into one or more of the following categories:

  • the items were created before 1850
  • they are of significant provenance
  • they are of special bibliographic significance (eg first edition, out of print, limited or special edition, privately published or small press items)
  • they are of significant cultural or historical significance (eg association items, inscribed items, items of known scarcity value)

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3. Special Collections strengths

3.1 UCL Library Services is committed to enhancing and expanding all its collections in continued support of its teaching, learning and academic research community. Special collections holdings underpin all academic activities of the University. In addition UCL Library Services has a renowned national and international reputation to uphold with regard to certain collections, among them the Judaica collections, the George Orwell archive, the James Joyce collection, the Galton archive and related papers of UCL geneticists, the Carswell drawings, the Latin American business archives, the Graves library of scientific rare books and the Little Magazines collection. These are characterised by the richness, breadth, comprehensiveness and/or depth of coverage relating to a topic or subject area. Other collections are unique in themselves, for example the Castiglione, Dante or Josephus collections, which focus on one particular author or edition of a particular work.

Specific subject area strengths in Special Collections are, in alphabetical order: Archaeology, especially Egyptian
Biological Sciences, including Botany and Zoology
British history, especially 19th century political, legal, social, educational and public health reform movements; 20th century English history, politics, culture and society; London history
Celtic languages, literature and history
Classical studies
Dutch language, literature and history
English language and literature - particularly late 18th to 19th century, 20th century literature, in particular George Orwell and James Joyce, modern poetry and short stories, including North American, self-publishing, small presses, and alternative presses.
European history, including economic history
Folklore studies
Genetics, Statistical Science and Biometry
German history - especially both World Wars
History of Anthropology
History of Architecture and Architects
History of Art and Artists
Italian languages and literature, especially from the Renaissance period; Dante studies
Jewish studies - theology and biblical studies, Hebrew and Yiddish languages, history of Jews in England, Jewish genealogy
Latin American history, including economic history and commerce, travel and exploration Linguistics, Phonetics and Philology
Medical Sciences - particularly history of medicine, anatomy (including comparative anatomy), pathology, physiology, anaesthesia, medical education
Natural History - specialist collections in malacology and conchology, vulcanology, English local natural history, palaeontology
North American history
Palaeography and Historical Bibliography, History of Publishing
Physical Sciences - particularly early science and the history of science and technology, astronomy, mathematics, physics, crystallography, telegraphy, electrical engineering
Scandinavian languages, literature and history
Slavonic and East European history
UCL history and the history of higher education in the UK
World history, especially political theory, philosophy, the 1914-18 conflict, Orwellian studies.

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Acquisitions Policy

4.1 The Library at UCL has since its foundation been fortunate to receive a large number of significant and generous gifts and bequests of rare printed and manuscript material and archives. Such gifts are immensely valuable in assisting Library Services to support the teaching and research mission of the University and in enhancing the international research value of its collections.

4.2 Special Collections have been acquired and built up by gift, bequest, loan and purchase, as well as through internal transfer, over the last 150 years or so, reflecting the variety of both academic and non-academic activities throughout UCL.s history. They are considered to be permanent collections and as such provide continual strong support for present and future programmes of study and research activity as well as remaining available to all researchers regardless of background or affiliation.

4.3 Items for Special Collections are generally now only acquired by gift, bequest, or purchase, whether from private individuals, or organisations. In general, items or collections are not accepted under the following circumstances:

  • they do not fit the strengths or profile of existing collections
  • they are offered on loan or deposit

Unless there is a pressing reason, new acquisitions will generally not be considered on either of these terms unless appropriate resources to maintain and support the collection are also offered.

4.3.1 Archives and manuscripts UCL Library Special Collections recognises the need for co-operation and consultation between all collecting institutions and will take due account of the collecting policies of other archives collecting in the same or related areas or subject fields. The Archivist will consult with relevant organisations where conflicts of interest may arise and in such cases the advice of The National Archives National Advisory Service may be sought.

4.3.2 Printed books, periodicals, pamphlets, tracts, and offprints It is in general not the policy of the Special Collections Section to acquire second identical copies of items already held in its collections. The exception to this rule is in the case of items with a significant provenance or association.

Later or earlier editions of a published work already held may be acquired, particularly where the edition in question differs substantively in content from that already held, where it fills a gap in otherwise comprehensive holdings or where it is of particular bibliographic, literary or historical significance.

4.4 When gifts of books, other printed matter or archives are offered to any of UCL.s libraries it is recommended that Special Collections staff are informed whenever appropriate, so that relevant advice and assistance may be given. It is also recommended that Special Collections staff are consulted, when appropriate, when stock weeding exercises are conducted in the libraries, as some items no longer deemed relevant to current teaching or research may have historical significance and may therefore be appropriate acquisitions for Special Collections.

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Guidelines for Gifts, Donations and Bequests

The Director of Library Services wishes to encourage gifts of special collections material, provided that is falls within the scope of this Collection Development Policy. Financial donations to support the purchase, storage, cataloguing or conservation of the collections are also warmly welcomed.

UCL is pleased to accept gifts of material on the understanding that:

  • All gifts of material become the property of UCL
  • Ownership of legal title may need to be established first
  • Copyright and data protection issues are standard
  • For printed material, UCL reserves the right to dispose of items that are in poor physical condition, duplicate existing stock, fall outside the scope of the Collection Development Policy or otherwise superfluous to requirements
  • For archival and manuscript material, permission to weed collections is assumed unless otherwise stated at the time of transfer
  • Library Services will catalogue gifted material for its online catalogue, as resources permit
  • Gifted printed material will normally be classified by subject and will be interfiled on the shelves with other material. Volumes from a single gift will not necessarily be shelved in one place
  • If the donor wishes, a commemorative bookplate will be inserted in all printed volumes from his or her gift that are added to stock
  • If appropriate, a note of the gift may also be included in the online catalogue record for each printed item. This will enable a list of the contents of the original donation to be created, regardless of the physical location of the material in question
  • Gifted manuscripts or archival material will normally be arranged and catalogued as separate whole archival groups, but individual items may be added to existing collections
  • A note of the provenance will be included in the online catalogue for archive groups or single items where appropriate

For all gifts of a significant size potential donors are asked to consult the Director in advance, so that the receipt, storage, cataloguing and conservation implications of the donation can be discussed in detail. Gifts of significant size may be defined as those gifts whose review, cataloguing, processing, storage and conservation cannot be covered by existing LS resources.

Policy last updated December 2007
Due for review January 2009

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Last modified 5 December 2008

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