University of Portsmouth Rare Books and Manuscripts Fund

The allocation of funds by the University of Portsmouth, with the aid of the Students Union, in order to purchase rare books and manuscripts, be they printed or handwritten, to help better aid the University's Humanities department, as well as aid in making the University more attractive to applicants. While the University Library does possess a small rare books collection, it has proved of little use to many Humanities students, particularly historians.

  • Petition submitted by Connor Scott-Butcher on Dec 9, 2020


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How Will This Idea Benefit Students?

Rare books and manuscripts are a very important tool to many humanities students. For a history student, particularly given the current climate of Covid, primary resources has proved to be harder and harder to access. The University has made great strides within the last few years in getting access to primary archives but even still, books often aren't available through these systems. 

With a growing market for rare manuscripts and the growing number of retailers of these items, manuscripts that aren't available in these archives or databases are going into private hands, often never to be seen again, in some instances. This can often make a students' job harder, especially if the source they need is in a private collection. With the formation of a fund, the purchasing of documents and rare books will aid the study of current and future students by giving them greater access to primary documents.

Further, with the growth in a rare books and manuscripts, it puts the University in a better light. In the University rankings, several Humanities departments rank in the mid-ground nationally. Funding a rare books and manuscripts collection will increase the University's standing, as it's departments can rival many of the Red Brick Universities through improved resources. This improved standing within the UK makes our Humanities more attractive to applicants, as the University presents an image of being better equipped for their learning.

However, the fund should not simply be set up to purchase items for the sake of purchasing them, they should have specific focus on the specialist areas being taught at the University. As a History Course Rep, I speak largely for that department: Primary documents for the English Revolution, the French Revolution, the Opium War would be useful to historians in terms of manuscripts for starters, though other areas such as Soviet Russia, British Cinema, the Occult, social history and others would be useful to other modules taught by the faculty. However, this does not exclude Sociologists, Psychologists, Criminologists, and others, as access to diaries and reports will also benefit these subjects.

Manuscripts and rare books are not overly expensive and aren't always scarce. But this pricing and availability makes it easy for them to be hidden away in private hands. With a fund, the University can emancipate these resources for the current and future students at the University of Portsmouth, whilst providing an attractive incentive for application.

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