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Exhibition Lending Policy

Exhibition Lending Policy

Special Collections & Archives policies supplement Queen’s University Library Resource Development & Management Policy.  This document is complemented by the following SCA documents:

Preservation Policy

Collections Information Policy

Governing Body

Queen’s University Belfast


Special Collections & Archives (SCA) is responsible for management, collection development and preservation of the Library’s manuscript, map, and rare print collections, including modern material relating to Ireland and Ulster in particular. The institutional archive of Queen’s College Belfast and Queen’s University Belfast is an important and substantial part of our unique holdings too. The materials (books, pamphlets, manuscripts, correspondence, music, photographs, maps, records and plans) held in Special Collections are considered to be of lasting research value and include examples of the earliest printed works (incunabula), and books and pamphlets published between the 16th and early 19th centuries, as such they are intrinsic to local, national and international cultural heritage. In order to preserve the material for future readers these collections are housed in a secure and environmentally controlled setting, a proactive focus on appropriate handling and ethical management along with recourse to external expertise as required are central to the management and preservation of the collections in our care.


SCA was established as a distinct unit in the University Library in 1929. In 1984 a purpose built restricted access store with air conditioning was built in the Main Library to house Special Collections materials, the University Archive was stored separately. A dedicated reading room and office was established nearby for patrons to consult SCA materials. In 2009 a new library building was opened which included a bespoke SCA Store and reading room in compliance with BS5454:2000 guidelines. The University Archive also moved to the new McClay Library, it is co-located with additional restricted access storage space on a separate floor. The Special Collections service at Queen’s provides access to the Library's rare and early printed bookmap, and manuscript collections, as well as to more modern material relating to Ireland and Ulster in particular. The collections are interdisciplinary in content with particular strengths in Irish Studies, literature, history and politics, including nineteenth and early twentieth century China. The distinctive, rare and unique collections in SCA holdings support the research and teaching mission of Queen’s University and scholarship internationally. As these collections are an important part of our cultural heritage they are accessible to the general public as well as the staff and students of Queen’s and external researchers.

SCA has moved from supporting and developing a traditional print based collection to bridge and embrace the digital environment through creation of digital surrogates, development of new e-resources (JSTOR Ireland Collection) and a range of resource discovery tools to support research, teaching and learning (RASCAL, finding aids, databases) at Queen’s, internationally and outside the academy.   

Roles & Responsibilities

The Head of Special Collections and Archives is responsible for co-ordinating the preservation activities of the department and advocating for appropriate conditions in which to house, manage and document Special Collections & Archives holdings. Requests for exhibition loan are considered by the Head of Special Collections & Archives and recommendations are discussed with the Assistant Director for Library Services on a case by case basis.

Special Collections & Archives at Queen’s University Belfast are maintained primarily to support University teaching and research. They also attract researchers from abroad. Much of the material in our holdings is rare or irreplaceable, especially in the case of the manuscript collections as these are unique. When considering items for exhibition loan it is necessary to balance a range of priorities. These include the security and preservation of the item/s, the needs of the academic community, the Library and University’s own programme of exhibitions and the needs of the wider community. 

All staff, Student Assistants and Interns working in Special Collections & Archives department are responsible for implementing the preservation policy in line with their respective roles and responsibilities.

SCA aims to maintain awareness of and compliance with current standards and recommendations for storage and exhibition (PD 5454:2012 Guide for the storage and exhibition of archival materials) and relevant legislation (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988), external professional advice is sought where appropriate. A proactive approach to preservation is adopted for the collections managed by SCA staff which is underpinned by training and guidelines to promote good practice in handling (all staff and patrons), storage and access.

Lending Policy

1. Application must be made in writing[1] at least six months prior to proposed date of loan

2. Early discussion and where possible a visit to view works under consideration is recommended

3. Exhibition loans are made to institutions with professional library, archive or museum staff, not to individuals

4. The Borrowing Institution should be prepared to complete a Facilities Report[2] (detailing security, environment and insurance)

5. All costs associated with the loan must be absorbed by the Borrowing Institution

6. Written approval of the Director of Information Services or a designated signatory is necessary before any loan may proceed

7. Final decision in all cases rests with the Director of Information Services or designated member of Library staff

8. Materials may not be considered for loan if:

  • they are in current demand for teaching & research at the Queen’s University of Belfast
  • they form part of the Library & University’s own current exhibition/outreach programmes
  • they have been donated with exhibition or display restrictions
  • Queen’s University Belfast does not have legal ownership
  • they have not been fully catalogued
  • they constitute a significant part of a single collection
  • they have been used in recent exhibitions, for microfilming, digitisation or conservation
  • there are no digital or facsimile surrogates available

9. Loan decisions will also take account of

  • the availability of staff to process the loan
  • the nature and facilities of the Borrowing Institution
  • the physical condition of the requested item/s
  • the acceptance of reproduction restrictions by the Borrowing Institution

10. In some cases it will be necessary to substitute with photographic reproductions

Associated Records and Documentation

  • Exhibition Loan Record (for Queen’s use only)
  • Exhibition Loan Request Form
  • Facilities Report Form

[1] Exhibition Loan Request Form (Borrowing Institution)

[2] Facilities Report Form (Borrowing Institution)