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Using archives

Image - making notes from archives


An archive is a body of documents (in any form or medium) which were created or received, accumulated and used by an individual or institution during the course of their daily activities and functions, and which have been preserved for their continuing value.

Our archives date from medieval times to the present and are internationally significant. They cover a wealth of subject areas and can support research and learning in a wide range of fields. Particular strengths include archives relating to:

  • Literatures in English from the eighteenth century to the present, including an internationally significant body of modern literary archives.
  • The history of Nonconformity, notably the history of Methodism from its birth to the present day.
  • The University of Manchester as an institution, its predecessor bodies and numerous academics who have been associated with the University.
  • The history of science, technology and medicine.
  • The social, political, economic and industrial history of Britain.
  • Landed estates in the North West of England, notably family muniment collections from Cheshire.

Find out more

The provides an overview of our archive collections. For each collection there is a brief summary of contents and references to online catalogues and other sources of information.

Detailed catalogues of many of our archives are available through Elgar, the Electronic Gateway to Archives at the Rylands.

A small number of archives which are not on Elgar have online catalogues hosted by The National Archives’ Discovery website.

Some archives only have hard-copy catalogues which are only available in the Reading Rooms.

Contact us

Some archives are not yet fully catalogued. Access to many modern archives is restricted under the Data Protection Act  or under their terms of deposit.

Requests for access to modern (post-1914) archives must be made well in advance of your visit, so that an archivist can check the material and decide whether it can be made available. 

For any enquiries relating to our archive collections, please contact us.