There’s an interesting and well-illustrated (in the print version at least) article on the variety and strength on special collections in UK universities in the 7 May version of the Times Higher.
However, in focussing on the special collections as single curios, the article rather downplays the Importance that such collections can have within education.
What is one person’s eccentric oddity may actually form the spine of somebody else’s research. Moreover, put different special collections together and you might get some very interesting relationships building up, and a critical mass of primary source material to inform innovative and engaging teaching and research.
The Discmap project, managed by the University of Strathclyde, is looking precisely at these issues, studying the special collections within the UK’s universities and then developing priorities for digitisation. Its final report is due for publication in early Summer 2009, and should provide interesting food for thought and how future digitisation within the UK is taken forward.