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Special Collections Brief Guide


Special Collections & Archives is located on the First Floor of the McClay Library, it provides access to the Library’s rare books and manuscript collections, as well as more modern material relating to Ireland and Ulster in particular. 

The books, pamphlets, journals, manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and maps located here are considered to be of lasting research value.  In order to ensure the preservation of our material readers should note the following restrictions:

  • Access to manuscripts, early printed material and discrete collections (i.e. Percy and Smith) is normally only between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.  Please contact us in advance of your visit.
  • Special Collections items may not be borrowed
  • Photocopying of Special Collections material is restricted and permission to copy is granted at the discretion of Special Collections & Archives staff
  • Consumption of food or drink in the Reading Room is not permitted

Who may use Special Collections

Special Collections is open to the academic and student community at Queen’s as well as outside researchers.  An appointment is not necessary to use the Henry/Hibernica collection.  Advance notice is necessary if manuscript, archive or early printed materials are to be consulted.  It may be useful to contact the Special Collections & Archives Enquiry Desk in advance if you require assistance.

Visitors should report to the Library Reception and a further registration will be required at Special Collections & Archives.  Please note that you will need photographic ID and evidence of your address (if this is not incorporated in the photographic ID).


How to use Special Collections

On the Library Catalogue, items held in Special Collections can be identified by the location McClay Floor 1 (Special Collections).  To consult an item in the Reading Room you should complete a Request Slip (pink if you are a cardholder at Queen’s and white if you are a visitor).  It is important that you include full details of the item on this form, incomplete slips will cause delay.

Guides to manuscripts and archives are available from the Special Collections & Archives Enquiry Desk or by consulting the Special Collections & Archives web pages.

General Guidelines

Readers must bring their library or visitor registration card.

Most requests will be dealt with immediately and materials will be brought to the Reading Room for consultation.

When a reader is finished consulting material it should be returned to the Special Collections & Archives Enquiry Desk.

Material which will be required again may be held at the Special Collections & Archives Enquiry Desk to facilitate quick access (please ask staff).   The holding over of material is on a non-exclusive basis and it will be issued to anyone else who requires access to it.

Please note that if items are in high demand staff may impose restrictions on their use to ensure fair access.

Special Collections Reading Room

A separate leaflet, Reading Room Rules and Guidance, is available at the Special Collections & Archives Enquiry Desk.  Reading Room users should ask for a copy, and be familiar with it when using the Reading Room.

Please note that ink may not be used in the Reading Room.  Bags and other material must be stored in the lockers provided and not brought into the Reading Room.

Photocopying/ Scanning/ Digital Photography

Permission to photocopy/ scan/ photograph Special Collections material is granted at the discretion of Special Collections & Archives staff.  Similarly, permission to use a digital camera in the Reading Room must be granted by Special Collections & Archives staff.  Users should not assume that permission to photocopy will automatically be granted. As a general rule, Manuscript material may not be copied. Access to the relevant permission forms can be found here.

How to cite Special Collections material

Please acknowledge your source in the following manner:

Name of Collection, Box Number, Folder Number, Special Collections, The Library, Queen’s University, Belfast.


Contact Details

Special Collections | The McClay Library | 10 College Park | Belfast | BT7 1LP

Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 6333 | Email: | Web: