The Special Collections Handbook

Here’s an invaluable blog post by Viv Dunstan, a historical researcher who is a wheelchair user, on her experience of using archives.  Searchrooms are often small, cramped spaces which are tricky to get around.  Staff are helpful but there is only so much they can do.  She explains the value of good quality catalogues which help readers decide whether they need to visit at all, and of digitisation on demand.

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Viv’s experience of archive spaces is easy to recognise.  So many archive services are constrained by unsuitable buildings, squeezing users into whatever corner can be created for them.  All I can suggest to those services with difficult spaces of this kind is to consult users about their experiences, do the best you can with what you have, and use accessibility concerns to help you make your case for improvements.  Our reading room is better than some but is far from…

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