Archives and Special Collections support for research, learning and teaching

Archives and Special Collections play a strong role in supporting research, learning and teaching both within and beyond the University of Surrey. As well as supporting academic research with our extensive knowledge of the collections and advice on other sources of relevant archives, we can also provide more structured assistance with teaching and learning.

Archives and Special Collections support for research within the University

Our archives are probably most relevant to colleagues in the School of Arts however we may be able to help with any research with a historic or local dimension. We also encourage students in digital or media subjects to use our collections and services as material for development projects.

Our archives are unique primary sources which offer immense scope for academic research across disciplines and at various levels. Many of our collections are relatively under-explored which means plenty of possibilities for new discoveries.

All researchers are most welcome to contact us and find out more about what the archives have to offer. The best place to start is by exploring our collections and investigating our previous research projects.

Services we provide to inspire research

One-to-one advice - Please let us know about your research interests. It may be that we have relevant material which isn't highlighted on the website, or know of something elsewhere that might help you.

Collaborative research projects - We are very keen to collaborate with you on bids for research funding where our involvement and collections can support you.  We are able to provide support and guidance on developing such proposals.  Discover more about a number of highly successful research projects developed around the archive collections.

Archives and Special Collections support for teaching and learning within the University

Our archive collections can help academic staff at the University with their work in teaching and learning. We are very keen to develop re-usable resources which enable students to encounter collections in virtual space. Please contact us and find out more about what the archives have to offer.

Services we can provide to embed archives in teaching and learning

Induction sessions – These sessions introduce students to our collections and explain how to make the most of primary sources elsewhere. The research room can comfortably hold a group of up to 12-15 and provides an ideal environment for working with rare books; archives and manuscript collections with assistance from our expert staff. Where it is impossible to split a group, we can offer similar sessions in teaching rooms, though we find students benefit more from engaging with original materials in the distinctive setting of the research room.

Group teaching - We are experienced in working with course leaders to help deliver group teaching and research sessions based on the collections. We are able to develop a programme of teaching and group sessions based around the collections which directly ties into a specialised subject and gives students a first-hand opportunity to work with primary source material. We are also able in consultation with a course leader to assist by making material available for sessions where the class is led solely by the course leader.

One-to-one sessions with students – We are experienced in working with undergraduate and postgraduate students to help them to develop their ideas for research projects based on our collections. We can offer bookable one-to-one sessions, to enable students to discuss their dissertation proposals or research projects and discover what resources are available to support their work. These tend to work best as follow-ups to the group sessions where students have been encouraged to discover more. Our familiarity of working with students and the resulting feedback we have received from their lecturers has demonstrated the real benefit to them of using archives in their learning experience.

Archives and Special Collections support beyond the University

We are keen to welcome groups from beyond the University who wish to learn more about what we can offer and engage in research with our collections. We also embrace opportunities to visit interested groups and present details of our work and collections. All researchers are most welcome to contact us and find out more about what the archives have to offer. The best place to start is by exploring our collections and investigating our previous research projects.

Archives that inspire research

Archives and Special Collections are keen to collaborate on research proposals based on our collections. Our archives are unique primary sources which have offered inspiration to a number of collaborative research projects. Here you can discover more about these innovative explorations and if you wish to engage your research ideas with our archives please get in contact to discuss further.

Digital Dance Archives

The innovative Digital Dance Archives (DDA) was the result of an AHRC-funded collaborative research project carried out by academics and archive staff at the University of Surrey and Coventry University. The one-year pilot project investigated the potential to search innovatively across different archive formats. The DDA is a portal to explore the integrated archive collections and a treasure chest of user-generated content.
Specific archive collections are chosen for their broad historical and stylistic range and for their visual interest. The content format includes photographs, drawings and moving images drawn from the archive collections at Surrey and the Siobhan Davies Replay archive hosted by Coventry University. Visitors to the website can explore this constantly expanding digital archive.  They can locate their research inspiration not only by traditional text search terms but also discover content through its visual similarity, be it colour; posture or sequence of movements, through innovative search technology created as part of the project.  The curious user can select and compile content into virtual scrapbooks; tag and share memorable images and view and annotate film from the 1950s onwards.
If you are curious about this innovative website please go to to begin your exploration.

Pioneer Women: early British modern dancers

This AHRC-funded collaborative project between Surrey and Middlesex University unlocked two previously closed archive collections containing unique material representing forms of ‘barefoot dance’ that were prominent in early twentieth century Britain and to re-establish their largely forgotten place in dance history. The archives are specific to the work of Madge Atkinson (1885-1970) and Ruby Ginner (1886-1978) both pioneers of early British modern dance forms which embraced naturalism and neo-classical ways of moving. In addition the project processed materials from two solo dancers working in modern dance forms influenced by European practice; Ludi Horenstein (also known as Ludmila Mlada or Rosemary Young) and Leslie Burrowes.

An oral history project has provided valuable supplementary documentation and additional resources to enhance the archives' content and usefulness. An international symposium 'Moving Naturally' was a central event for the research in terms of publicising the high archival and intellectual value of the collections and the project research.

Contexts culture and creativity: enriching e-learning in dance

This JISC-funded project created Open Educational Resources to enhance student-centred learning and maximize the interaction of digital resources and archive collections. Enriched e-learning packages were designed utilising archive content and these were distributed via the VLE and Digital Dance Archives website. The learning packages emphasise cultural and contextual content, and creative modes of using digital resources in the learning environment.

Where we are

University Library, George Edwards Building,  University of Surrey,  Guildford,  Surrey GU2 7XH,  United Kingdom T: +44 (0)1483 689235 F: +44 (0)1483 689500

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