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Library Hub Discover: Showcasing Science Libraries and Historic Collections

This blog post forms part of History Day 2022, a day of online interactive events for students, researchers and history enthusiasts to explore library, museum, archive and history collections across the UK and beyond. History Day is part of the Being Human festival, the UK’s national festival of the humanities, taking place 10–19 November 2022.

Library Hub Discover exposes rare and unique research material by bringing together the catalogues of around 190 major UK and Irish libraries. In a single search you can discover the holdings of the UK’s National Libraries (including the British Library), many university libraries, and specialist research libraries.

Here’s a selection of the libraries and historic collections you can explore on Discover relating to science and technology:

Wellcome Library

Photograph showing the interior of the Wellcome Library
Wellcome Library

Wellcome Collection is a free museum and library for the incurably curious. Inspired by the medical objects and curiosities collected by Henry Wellcome, it connects science, medicine, life and art. Through its exhibitions, live programming, and digital and publishing activity, it makes thought provoking content which aims to challenge how we think and feel about health. The library is one of the world’s finest for the study of the social and cultural contexts of health. It houses some 2.5million items including rare medieval manuscripts which relate to medicine and the body, such as vividly illustrated almanacs, scrolls and practitioners’ manuals, as well as a growing collection of contemporary resources.

Find our more in our Feature: Wellcome Collection

Science Museum Library

Photograph showing interior of the Science Museum Library
Science Museum Library

The Science Museum’s world-class library collections chart the world-wide development of science, engineering and medicine from the fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Holdings include academic and scholarly works, textbooks and popular works in English and other European languages, as well as books on the history and biography of science, technology and medicine, and their social impact.

Royal College of Surgeons of England Library

Photograph showing the exterior of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Royal College of Surgeons of England

The Royal College of Surgeons of England possesses an outstanding library on surgery, dental surgery and related subjects, that dates from the late 15th century to the present day. In 2013 the RCS collections were was awarded Designated status by Arts Council England. The rare book collection comprises a nationally and internationally important collection of around 8,000 items including: 57 incunabula; an extensive collection of 16th and 17th century duodecimos; around 300 elephant folios; a significant collection of anatomical works by authors such as Vesalius, Albinus, Cheselden and most of the major anatomists from the 18th century onwards.

Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow

The College library was founded in 1698 when the College acquired its first permanent building, and contains works dating from the 15th century onwards. Being the only royal medical college for physicians, surgeons and dentists in the United Kingdom means that its holdings contain a wide range of medical subjects. Many of the key medical, anatomical and surgical texts of the 16th and 17th centuries are represented and the Library is particularly strong in the areas of anatomy, medicine, surgery, botany and materia medica in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Photograph shows the interior of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Library
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow Library

The Library houses the collection of Dr William Mackenzie, founder of the Glasgow Eye Infirmary, and hence has good holdings in historical material relating to the diseases and surgery of the eye. Local historians are well served by the Glasgow Collection consisting of works relating to the history of Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

Royal College of Nursing

The RCN Library and Archive Service is Europe’s largest nursing resource, with a wealth of print and e-resources available on line, or in one of their libraries – in Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London.

Photograph showing close-up of page from “A Booke of Medicines and Receits” by Sir Robert Morton, 1637.
“A Booke of Medicines and Receits” by Sir Robert Morton, 1637. A handwritten compendium of about 200 home remedies for common ailments, including one for sore eyes: “Take monkey-pease (woodlice) stamped and strayned into a little beer and drink it”. Image copyright: Royal College of Nursing.

Find our more in our Feature: Royal College of Nursing Library and Archive Service

The Royal Astronomical Society Library

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) was founded in 1820, and encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. It has more than 4,000 members, mainly professional astronomers and geophysicists, as well as students, amateur astronomers, historians of astronomy and geophysics, and others with an interest in geo- and astro-sciences.

Photograph showing page from from Tycho Brahe’s Great Brass Globe as illustrated in Astronimiae instauratae mechanica, a second edition of which is housed at the RAS Library.
Tycho Brahe’s Great Brass Globe as illustrated in Astronimiae instauratae mechanica, a second edition of which is housed at the RAS Library. Image copyright: Royal Astronomical Society.

Find our more in our Feature: Royal Astronomical Society Library

Rothamsted Research

Photograph showing archival storage area at Rothamsted Research Library
Rothamstead Library

Rothamsted Library is one of the oldest specialist agricultural collections in the UK. The Library reflects the Institute’s research interests, with comprehensive collections of books and journals in soil science, plant sciences, agronomy, entomology (including apiculture), nematology, pesticide science, plant diseases, mycology and biomathematics.

Find out more in our Feature

Rothamsted Library

NHS Wales Libraries

The NHS Wales Library Service promotes evidence based practice and provides quality health information to support patient care, education, professional development, training and research. Libraries are located in each of the major hospitals in Wales and offer a friendly and helpful service. Cardiff University Library works together with the NHS Wales hospital libraries in the AWHILES Partnership. There is a shared library catalogue, and the records of the 20 NHS Wales hospital libraries are included in Library Hub alongside those of Cardiff University Library. Enquiries about books or resources held by individual NHS Wales hospital libraries should be addressed to the library concerned.

National Railway Museum

Photograph showing the entrance of the National Railway Museum Library
National Railway Museum Library

The library and archive collections at the National Railway Museum form one of the largest resources of railway and transport history in the world. The Library Collection is international in scope and covers all time periods. It includes:

  • Over 23 thousand books and 800 journal titles, of which 300 are current subscriptions
  • Railway company works archives and drawings
  • Official publications and publicity such as Accident Reports, holiday guides, timetables and tickets
  • Technical records describing locomotive performance and design
  • Extensive photographic, art and poster collection

Read more in our Feature: National Railway Museum Library – Search Engine

Institution of Civil Engineers

The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) was founded in 1818 by a small group of idealistic young men and was granted a royal charter in 1828 where it declared that its aim was to “foster and promote the art and science of civil engineering”. With over 130,000 titles, including major conference series and over 900 periodical titles, the ICE Library is the largest single resource in Civil Engineering in the world.

Photograph showing the interior of the Institution of Civil Engineers Library
Institution of Civil Engineers Library

The ICE archives contain records relating to the ICE from its formation to the present, as well as records relating to prominent engineers of the past, including James Brindley, John Smeaton, Thomas Telford and The Rennies; and engineering wonders like Marc Brunel’s Thames Tunnel, Robert Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge, the Forth Railway Bridge, and the Panama Canal.

Energy Institute Library

Photograph showing the interior of the Energy Institute Library
Energy Institute Library

The Energy Institute Library holds an extensive collection of material on the energy industries, ranging from oil exploration to petrol retailing, nuclear energy to renewables, technical to business, and dating from the mid-19th century to the present day.

Find out more in our Feature: The Energy Institute Library

Cranfield University

Cranfield is an exclusively postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management. At Cranfield campus the Kings Norton Library, designed by Sir Norman Foster, serves the School of Aerospace, Transport and Manufacturing, the School of Water, Energy and Environment and the School of Management. The Management Information and Resource Centre is located within the School of Management and provides additional embedded support for staff and students in the School. The Barrington Library is based at the Defence Academy on the Shrivenham site and serves Cranfield Defence and Security.

Photograph showing the exterior of Kings Norton Library at Cranfield University.
Cranfield University

Their specialist collection focuses on tackling real world challenges within these industrial and commercial sectors:

  • Aerospace
  • Agrifood
  • Defence and Security
  • Energy and Power
  • Management
  • Manufacturing
  • Transport Systems
  • Water

More information

View full list of Discover libraries, with details of their collections

Watch our introductory video on using Discover

Find out how to conduct basic and advanced searches

Follow us on Twitter @JiscLibraryHub

Read more features on our blog exploring libraries and their collections


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