Nau Mai, Haere Mai, Tauti Mai!
Special Collections at University of Otago Library preserves and provides access to special, rare and unique books and manuscripts. We do this to support learning, teaching and research within the University, throughout Aotearoa, and internationally.
Access is available on-site in our reading room and from a distance.
Located on the first floor of the Central Library on the University's Ōtepoti | Dunedin campus, our space includes a gallery, a reading room, and secure storage for books of all shapes and sizes – from the earliest examples of European printing through to private handpress books published in the 21st century, from 'serious' literature to 'pulp' fiction.
Special Collections also holds several named collections, illustrated manuscripts, periodicals, pamphlets and ephemera, together with the Ōtākou Press and Bibliography Room archive.
More detailed information about the different parts of our collections.
We work in close collaboration with Hocken Collections, which documents and celebrates the histories, cultures, and natural environments of Aotearoa New Zealand, the Pacific, and Antarctica.
Special Collections are open to all researchers and visitors on:
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30am to 12pm
We are open at other times by appointment. If you are unable to visit us in person, we offer a distance research enquiry and consultation service.
Using Special Collections
We are a permanent research collection with dual responsibilities: we are providing access for current researchers and hold collections in trust for future generations. To protect and preserve our books and manuscripts, we put some restrictions on how you can use them.
Collection items are for reference only and cannot be taken away from the Library. They are stored in closed access stacks, and you cannot browse the shelves yourself. The titles we hold can be searched and requested via our Library Search | Ketu catalogue, and Special Collections staff can help you to locate specific items for your research. Staff will retrieve the items you request and bring them to you to look at in our reading room.
Special Collections can also organise and host hands-on classes for students to work with collection items; get in touch to discuss this further.
Searching our collections
Search for books and other items on our catalogue:
You can limit your search to find items held in Special Collections only by using the Advanced Search.
There are also additional finding aids, including collection inventories for manuscripts and early printed books, and some of our named collections.
Gallery and exhibitions
The Special Collections Exhibition programme is currently on hiatus. The Library plans to re-initiate its Exhibitions Programme in 2023.
The Special Collections Gallery hosts regular exhibitions to showcase the collections and celebrating the history and research of the University of Otago.
Printer in Residence and Ōtākou Press
The Printer in Residence programme is currently on hiatus. The Library plans to re-initiate its PiR programme in 2023.
The Printer in Residence programme at the Library was initiated in 2003 in partnership with English and Design Studies Departments to encourage an awareness of the facilities in the Library and to foster book-making within the University and to the wider arts community.
The Special Collections Librarian selects and hosts an established letterpress hand printer from Aotearoa New Zealand and local Ōtepoti Dunedin artist to produce a limited-edition publication.
Some Printer in Residence publications from previous programmes between 2009–2017 are still available be purchased: