Supporting teaching and learning

The Library’s world renowned Special Collections span five millennia and cover topics from Gilgamesh to Ginsberg.


Special Collections are a powerful tool for enhancing the Manchester Student Experience

Research students in study session

The collections are a unique resource of rare books, manuscripts, maps, archives, art works and objects which lend themselves to research and learning across the spectrum of subjects.

Special Collections are a powerful tool for enhancing the learning experience.  They offer glimpses into past worlds, ideas and beliefs which raise interesting questions around contemporary concepts and values.

The Special Collections team combine curatorial expertise with innovative digital technologies and services to provide support for distance, blended and online learning. We are here to support staff, students and researchers.

Students who engage with our unique collections enhance their learning in several ways:

  • Primary sources take you closer to the people, events and themes you are studying.
  • They will enhance your research and critical analysis skills.
  • You can make genuine discoveries and interpret sources that have never been used before.
  • And don’t forget the all-important ‘tingle factor’ - the thrill that comes from handling and reading old books and documents, personal diaries, intimate letters and first-hand accounts of historic events.
  • Our specialist staff can offer tailored advice showing you how to make the most of the Library’s unique collections.

By incorporating primary sources into your assessed work you will demonstrate that you have taken the next step in your academic journey – behaving as an independent researcher and thinker.

Support for tutors using Special Collections in the classroom

Special Collections offer a rich and often unique resource which will enhance your impact, broaden the students’ perspective, and increase engagement.



Our curators can work with you to identify collection items and to create and deliver collections-based seminars. This enables you to teach your students directly from the collections and embed these sessions into your courses.

  • Teaching sessions can be held at the John Rylands Research Institute and Library, the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre (located in Manchester’s Central Library) and at the University Main Library, or, if suitable, online.
  • We offer bespoke dissertation sessions for third-year and postgraduate students on finding and using primary sources.
  • We can digitise objects from the collections to support your teaching.
  • Our specialist staff can offer tailored advice showing you how to make the most of the Library’s unique collections.

Find out more

If you are interested in organising a session with Special Collections, please fill in the Special Collections teaching request form and we will be in touch:

Special Collections teaching request form

You can also email us for general information or questions:

To find out how the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre can support your teaching or learning, please visit their website or email

More information on Teaching and Learning with Special Collections for staff and students at The University of Manchester can be found on our Medium platform.

The themed teaching resources on Medium offer a curated collection of primary source materials aimed at those designing and delivering teaching and learning or students looking for a dissertation topic