Our Collections Assistant, Helen Price, explains how the Research Centre Team have been supporting researchers.

Since returning to the campus in August, the Special Collections Research Centre Team have been busy finding innovative ways to allow researchers to continue to access our amazing collections. Just over a year ago the Research Centre was filled each day with the hum of researchers eagerly poring over their selected material. Sadly, we’re currently having to limit in-person access, but we are proud and excited about the developments in our service over the last few months.

Access Images

We are now offering free access images to all researchers. Members of the Research Centre Team use mobile devices to take images of material on request which can then be emailed directly to the researcher. We can provide, for free, as many images as we can produce in one hour. Access images are ideal for quite specific material, be it either text or image based. This service has proved a very popular option and we have taken an average 4000 images per month for the last 6 months!  Higher resolution, professional quality images can also be produced by our Digitisation team

Creating access images. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Virtual Consultations 

We are also offering virtual consultation video calls. These sessions are ideal for gaining an overview of a particular collection or examining material to determine specific images to request. We use a webcam to display the material and we can also use screen sharing to offer support for browsing the catalogue and queries about accessing and requesting material. Running these sessions has been a steep learning curve and we’re still exploring ways to improve the experience, from camera stands, pen-cams and table-top lights to recording the sessions so the material can be viewed again later.

Our researchers continue to play a huge part in helping us to develop this service by offering their valuable feedback and suggestions as well as their patience as we try new techniques and technologies.

Special Collections manuscripts. Image credit Leeds University Library.

Continuing Support for Students, Staff and External Researchers 

We know how difficult the last year has been for all researchers and we are delighted to be continuing to provide access to the collections. This semester we have been busy supporting students with their dissertations, providing images and information for television broadcasts and supporting academic staff with remote teaching sessions. We’ve also been assisting external researchers with academic publications, family history and many other projects.

The past year has highlighted the international diversity of our researchers. With this in mind, we are exploring ways to continue offering the best possible remote access to our collections even when we are able to welcome more visitors back to the Special Collections Research Centre.