Access to collections and services

The Special Collections Reading Room including TUC Library Collections is located at our Aldgate Campus in the historic Wash Houses building next door to Calcutta House, home to our School of Art, Architecture and Design. Access is via the Goulston Street entrance.

Admission for external visitors is by appointment only and enquiries for access should be sent to:

You can also call on: 020 7320 3516

There is no charge for access. The building is fully accessible and is serviced by a lift.

The Reading Room has spaces for study and research and also holds some material on open access. Most of our material is stored in closed stacks and must be requested in advance.

A microfilm reader/scanner/printer, multifunction scanner/photocopier and facilities for playback of CDs, DVDs, Audio and Video Tapes are available for use.

Important notes for visitors. Please take time to read these, especially if this is your first visit.


  • The opening hours of the Special Collections Reading Room
  • The University reserves the right to refuse admission.

Security and Collection Care

  • Bags and coats must be left in the lockers in the basement; there are clear plastic bags available in the Special Collections Reading Room for valuables that should be kept with you at all times. We also have a cloakroom next to the locker room with a lockable rack, which readers are welcome to use.
  • The Special Collections Reading Room is open to visitors for reference and research purposes only. Special Collections materials must not be removed from the Reading Room.
  • No pens may be used in the Reading Room. Pencils are available at the Information Desk.
  • Documents, books and other Special Collections items must not be marked in any way.
  • No item of food or drink may be brought into the Reading Room.
  • Smoking is not permitted in any University building.
  • All material should be handled with care and in accordance with Special Collections handling guidelines, which are set out below.

Access to Collections and Services

  • Access to certain materials is subject to special conditions, e.g. readers may be required to wear gloves.
  • Do not change the order of the loose material; the arrangement must remain the same.
  • Material held in the vaults must be requested in advance in writing. Producing documents on the day may be difficult.
  • Readers who know they will need access to the microfilm reader-scanner are advised to mention this when they make an appointment to visit so that an appropriate desk may be reserved.

Reader Responsibilities

  • Readers should not behave in any way likely to disturb others.
  • Mobile phones and personal audio equipment should be switched off in the Reading Room.
  • Cameras without flash and mobile phones with photographic capability may not be used in the Reading Room without staff permission. A form must be completed before photocopying or digital photography of any Special Collections material. It allows copies/photographs to be taken for fair dealing purposes (i.e. research or study). Publication of any such copies or photographs is not allowed. It may, however, be possible to publish material subject to copyright and to prepayment of an agreed fee.

Copyright and Publications

  • Readers are reminded that the onus for satisfying the legal requirements of the Copyright Act rests with them. It is the reader's responsibility to obtain permission from the copyright holder before publishing extracts from any documents. Fees are payable for the reproduction of any copyrighted material for commercial purposes (for more information of what constitutes 'commercial purposes', please ask a member of Special Collections staff).
  • Readers are requested to deposit a copy of any resulting (published) article, pamphlet or book with the University's Special Collections.

Privacy Note

  • We keep a record for statistical purposes, of the names of our researchers and the institutions they are affiliated to, together with the list of documents they have consulted. We do not share this information with anyone else. If you do not wish to have your name added to our database, please let us know.

The materials held in this repository are unique and irreplaceable. Careful handling can help to preserve them for future generations. Therefore, we ask you to observe the following guidelines:

Please do:

  • Ensure that you have clean hands when handling the material.
  • Use pencils only.
  • Use the book support cushions provided for fragile or large volumes, and snake weights to hold open pages.
  • Turn pages in volumes slowly and with care, ideally from the top right corner rather than the bottom right. This reduces the chance of tearing more fragile pages.
  • Consult loose papers one file at a time. Place the file flat on the table and turn pages over with care, retaining the original order. Keep tags and fastenings in place.
  • Consult oversize items on the large desk at the back of the Reading Room.
  • Carefully unroll maps and use the soft weights provided to hold the edges down.
  • Use gloves to handle photographs, negatives or slides where these have not already been placed into transparent sleeves.

Please do not:

  • Disturb the original order of the documents or rearrange them.
  • Lean on material, or use improvised devices to prop up volumes or weight pages open.
  • Place materials over the edge of the table, or on the floor, chairs or windowsill.
  • Lick your fingers to separate pages.
  • Mark, annotate or alter the material in any way.
  • Remove material from transparent sleeves without staff permission.
  • Lie books face down. Staff will provide acid-free page markers to help you keep your place.

Our Library Catalogue holds records of many of the published materials held in our Special Collections. However, there are archival resources that are only recorded on lists that are available from the collections' web pages eg The Archive of the Irish in Britain web page and The Frederick Parker Collection to name just a couple of our collections.

Themed lists and topic guides

We are creating themed lists of relevant material to help researchers using the collections and more of these lists will appear here soon. These lists will also be updated periodically.

Artists' Books

Furniture History in London Metropolitan University Special Collections

Local History and Maps

Photography in Special Collections

Resources for Fashion Students

Textiles in Special Collections

Upholstery Books and Journals in Special Collections

Digitised Resources

Digitised content from the Archive of the Irish in Britain can be searched for and accessed from our online archive.

We also have a small selection of resources digitised in our Online Exhibitions and Previews web page.

Library services and special collections

Content added to our webpages and online catalogue has received due diligence checks for intellectual property and ownership rights. It has been shared to support educational research and provide wider access to our collections online. However, if you are concerned that there may have been a breach of your intellectual property and/or ownership rights, please do email and include the following information:

  • Your name and contact details
  • The URL and description of the content you wish to challenge
  • Evidence that you are the rights holder or their authorised representative
  • The reason for your request

On notification of a possible breach, the work in question will be made unavailable for public access, and then further examined in response to the enquiry. We will acknowledge receipt of your enquiry by email. Once further checks have been performed to assess the validity of the case, the claimant will be contacted with a response.

In our Special Collections and Archives there may be a need to retain personal data beyond the usual time periods specified in data protection legislation. This may be because the data about the owner, originator or participator in the content and material we hold may be of lasting interest for future research or there may be a legal compliance for us to retain that data.

In many cases, this data is confidential and only visible to the Special Collections staff and the Library Management Team.

We are compliant with data protection legislation and this means that we are not always able to share personal data in our holdings.

We follow the guidance from The National Archives in order to protect and retain any such data and under certain circumstances, the data is under embargo according to time periods advised by the National Archives.

If you have any concerns about the data that we may hold please email us and include "Data Protection query" in your email subject line. or telephone us on 020 7320 3516.

Please also refer to the University's policy on data protection and information about subject access requests.

Special Collections Mission Statement

The mission of the London Metropolitan University Special Collections Department (which includes among others, the University Archives), is to collect, organise, preserve, and make accessible the permanent records of the University as well as rare and unique collections that support the University’s teaching and research.



Right, opportunity or means of finding, using or approaching items and/or information about items. This is a wide definition of access that includes on-site and off-site access, support for the core business of the governing body, digital access and outreach and learning activities. A sub-set of access is: Engagement.


Engagement means more than simply contact with archives and archive services; it also involves understanding and a sense of personal value, ownership, empowerment. Engagement may be with internal and/or external stakeholders.


  1. The Special Collections Department aims to make the published material, objects and archival collections held by the University available for consultation and research.
  2. The Special Collections team will not be able to provide access to records where that access would constitute a breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulation.
  3. Any individual who abides by the rules and procedures of the Special Collections Department is welcome to view the records held, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, disability, religious or political affiliation, or any other similar differentiation, in line with the University’s Equality and Diversity Policy February 2019 .
  4. Access to information about the collections can be obtained from a variety of places:
    1. via paper finding aids held in the Reading Room;
    2. online through the Special Collections’ webpages, some of which include links to pdf lists and inventories of named collections;
    3. online catalogues (eg the Library Online Public Access Catalogue or OPAC, or the Portal for the Digitised Archive of the Irish in Britain (EPrints);
    4. The online archive collection management software (currently being implemented)
    5. via archival information networks such as AIM25, the Archives Hub and The National Archives Discovery portal;
    6. by contacting Special Collections staff by letter, telephone, email, or in person during opening hours. The email address is
  5. Library Services is committed to providing a high quality service to all users including Special Collections users. However, in the event that a user is unhappy with the service provided, we will endeavour to resolve the problem. In the first instance any complaint should be made to the Senior Library Assistant (Special Collections). In the event of an unsatisfactory resolution, the issue will be referred to the Head of Library Customer Services or can be escalated through the Library Services guide to resolving library problems and to the University Librarian.

Access on site

  1. Original documents and publications held in the Special Collections can be consulted at the Special Collections Reading Room, The Wash Houses, Aldgate Campus, Old Castle Street, London E1 7NT
  2. We ask that users of the Special Collections make an appointment prior to their visit in order to ensure that adequate staff and resources are available to fulfil their requests. Although we do endeavour to accommodate users who have not made an appointment, Special Collections reserves the right to refuse access to users without an appointment.
  3. Users with disabilities may wish to consult our webpage which covers accessibility of the Special Collections Reading Room and what assistance you can expect from the staff.
  4. Users are able to visit the Special Collections Reading Room during designated opening hours. The Special Collections Department may occasionally have to close to the public during designated opening hours for teaching and group visits. Any planned closures will be advertised on the Library Services and Special Collections webpages in advance, or if unexpected via Library Services Social Media.
  5. Our staff will provide courteous and helpful guidance to any user who visits the Special Collections Reading Room. Users can expect to receive assistance in using finding aids and catalogues and to identify useful research materials and primary sources. Users will also be made aware of how to handle archival material and fragile publications.
  6. We aim to make all material from our holdings accessible to any individual. However, there are certain circumstances under which we may restrict access to individual records or collections. These are as follows:
    1. Legislative purposes: in particular Data Protection Act 2018 and General Data Protection Regulation. In order to ensure the right balance between openness and safeguarding individuals’ right to a private life some records containing personal information about an individual might be closed. Researchers may apply for early access to closed records, by submitting a written request to the University Librarian. These applications are reviewed on a case by case basis. Any request for information on living individuals must be directed to University’s Information Compliance Officer.
    2. Preservation purposes: access may be refused to collections items in a particularly fragile condition or where handling is likely to cause damage to the records. The decision to refuse access on the grounds of preservation purposes is made at the discretion of the most senior member of Special Collections staff on duty, but arrangements may be made to provide access to a surrogate copy. Researchers are entitled to apply for access to such material by submitting a written request to the University Librarian.
    3. Depositor’s wishes: some of the collections held have been deposited here by their legal owners to allow consultation by researchers. When this occurs, we enter into a deposit agreement with the owner. Occasionally, depositors may stipulate that certain conditions must be met for access to be granted, or ask for a designated closure period to be applied to particular documents.
    4. Business sensitivity. Certain university records are closed for a period following their creation. Researchers are entitled to apply for access to such material under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, by submitting a request to the University’s Information Compliance Officer.
    5. Uncatalogued material. A proportion of our holdings are catalogued, but some holdings remain uncatalogued. Access to uncatalogued material may be restricted, due to the staff time needed to find the required information.

Remote Access

  1. We recognise that on site access is not always possible. We will endeavour to provide remote access where resourcing allows.
  2. We will respond to all enquiries received from the public by telephone, letter, or email. All written enquiries will be answered within 10 working days of receipt.
  3. We will provide information on our holdings, and perform limited research within our holdings free of charge. For particularly lengthy or detailed research we will refer users to the list of private researchers approved by The National Archives.
  4. We will provide access to selected material online through digitisation projects, blogs and online exhibitions as far as is reasonably practical.

Digital Access

  1. Access to digitised content of the collections is provided via University's digital repository EPrints (Archive of the Irish in Britain), Special Collections webpages, the archives collection management system (once implemented) and the four TUC Library project websites.
  2. There is currently no single point of access to born-digital records for all collections, either on site or remotely.
  3. In certain circumstances access to born-digital material may be provided at request and upon satisfactory copyright clearance procedure over a secure transfer (downloadable link).
  4. Due to limited resources, technical dependencies, software obsolescence and software licensing restrictions Special Collections cannot guarantee that born-digital original records can be rendered within currently available technology. Whenever feasible we will aim to provide surrogate copy produced through the process of format migration.

Copies of Documents

  1. We endeavour to provide copies of documents to onsite and remote users at reasonable cost to the user. These charges are displayed on on our Special Collections webpages in the section entitled Scan on Demand.
  2. We have a responsibility and duty of care for the unique resources in our care and may refuse to copy documents if the process is likely to cause damage to the document.
  3. The decision to undertake or refuse to make copies of documents on the grounds of preservation is made at the discretion of the most senior member of staff on duty.
  4. Copies of material are created and provided to or taken by users with regard to copyright and intellectual property law.
  5. No user will be provided with copies of documents, nor permitted to take their own digital photographs of documents, without first completing a copyright declaration form.
  6. Copies of material are created or taken for private research use only.
  7. Copies provided or taken for commercial purposes may be subject to a reproduction/licensing fee.

Monitoring and Improving Access

  1. The Special Collections Department is committed to improving access provision. We continually monitor the numbers of readers accessing the collections in order to understand how better prioritise our limited resources.
  2. We collect data on both Reading Room visits as well as online engagement through social media channels and Google Analytic (and other measuring tools) on our webpages. This insight is then used to plan further cataloguing and preservation work as well as outreach and engagement activities.

Outreach and Engagement

Special Collections staff develop, plan and review audience-focused approaches and user-centred strategies in order to offer greater potential for producing measurable outcomes that showcase the value and impact of collections. Please refer to Outreach and Engagement Strategy to learn more on activities supporting research, teaching and learning, cross-institutional collaborations as well as public engagement activities.

Next Review Date July 2022

It might be that Special Collections staff can help researchers investigate documents via our visualiser equipment which allows us to use a desk based camera to share views of documents prior to arranging a visit or arranging for a document scan. Contact us to discuss how to facilitate this.

Note: this is intended to help researchers make a judgement about future research or request for scan service and not a substitute for them.

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