Teaching and learning using the Special Collections

Special Collections , SOAS Library plays an active role in teaching and learning activities at SOAS and beyond. 

Teaching sessions offer participants a rare opportunity to handle original material from the collections, and to see behind-the scenes, including tours of our purpose-built archive stores. Our professional archivists are also on hand to help students and staff to understand, locate and use primary sources for their own learning and research needs.

We aim to support innovative group teaching based upon our unique collection of archives, manuscripts and rare books.

Past sessions for SOAS students

These have included:

Descriptions of many of these teaching sessions are available on the SOAS Special Collections blog .

Locating material

Our collections reflect the British interaction with Africa and Asia over the last 250 years, and include the archives of missionary societies , NGOs and campaign groups , and business organisations ; several thousand unpublished literary, religious, and other manuscripts in over 130 different languages; and a diverse collection of rare books , dating back to the 15th century.

Course leaders are asked to undertake the selection of material for individual teaching sessions. We are very happy to use our professional knowledge of the collections and finding aids to assist in locating potentially relevant material.

Booking sessions

We welcome teaching proposals from academic staff who wish to use our primary sources in their teaching.

All requests will be considered, including those from teaching staff at external academic institutions. However, priority will be given to requests from SOAS course leaders in support of the teaching and learning objectives of the School.

"Most of my MA students have no previous background in archival work; the SOAS archivists have helped surmount this by designing an introductory afternoon-long workshop"

- Dr. Joel Cabrita, course leader, African Missionaries MA module, 2012/13

Teaching sessions are currently offered on Mondays only in our Special Collections Reading Room, Level F, SOAS Library, subject to availability.

To request a session please email special.collections@soas.ac.uk. Please include details of the course, proposed dates, references for the archives, manuscripts or rare books required, and the level of input desired from Special Collections staff

Session space can get booked up quickly in term time, so please contact us well in advance. We require at least 4 weeks notice of any proposed teaching session.

Please note that ideally the maximum group size for a teaching session is 10 people. However, we can discuss with course leaders the best way of managing larger groups.

If you have any queries about putting together a proposal, please contact us for an informal discussion.