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Image: detail from Drawings of Egypt, 1839 - artist unknown (RCMS 117)RCMS 117

Online catalogues

An increasing number of RCS collections may be located via online catalogues and portals.

For published material, first consult LibrarySearch or Newton, the University Library’s online catalogues.

These includes catalogue records for nearly 66,000 items, including rare books and pamphlets, special collections such as the Cobham collection on Cyprus, colonial and Commonwealth periodical holdings, Blue books, official publications from Malaysia, Hong Kong, the West Indies and many parts of Africa, yearbooks and commercial directories, staff and civil lists, bibliographies, monographs on Africa, Canada and Cyprus and Commonwealth fiction and poetry.

The online catalogue will also give you access to published material on the Commonwealth and British Empire held within the University Library's main collection.

For further guidance on locating official publications, see: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/rcs/rcs_op_project/index.html

As only 25% of published collections are currently catalogued online, if you fail to locate information via our online catalogues, try the card catalogue located in the Rare Books Room behind the glass wall.

For archival material, first consult Janus, the Cambridge archives portal: http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/

This includes catalogue descriptions of RCS archival collections, including manuscript archives and photographic collections. Cataloguing into the Janus database is ongoing, with approximately two-thirds of RCS collections catalogued to date, so researchers are recommended to check regularly for new collections.

RCS Photographers Index: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/rcs_photographers/

This provides a biographical index to photographers known to have taken images in the RCS photograph collection. There are links to digitised images, where available. It should be used in conjunction with Janus and the typescript photograph catalogues.

RCS Photograph Project gallery: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/rcs_photo_project/gallery1.html

This thematic gallery illustrates the breadth and quality of the RCS photograph collection. There are currently over 700 digital images in the gallery, with associated metadata. Topics range from military and transport images to townscapes and images of daily life, and from missionary work and religious and civil ceremonies to work in mines and farming.

These images may also be accessed via DSpace: http://www.dspace.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/752

Select Browse Communities & Collections, then select University Library, Royal Commmonwealth Society Photograph Project.

Mapping Asia: http://www.asiamap.ac.uk/index.php

A project funded by the Research Support Libraries Programme to provide support for research on Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The Mapping Asia website includes descriptions of the following seven RCS collections: British Association of Malaysia, Burney, Church Missionary Society, Cobham, Fisher, Malcolm MacDonald and the Queen Mary Collection on India.

South Asia Through Official Eyes: http://satoe.bodley.ox.ac.uk/

A project funded by RSLP and Concord to produce a union list of South Asian post-Independence official serial publications. The project website lists holdings in the Royal Commonwealth Society collection and in Cambridge University Library Official Publications Department.

Mundus: http://www.mundus.ac.uk/

The Mundus Gateway is a web-based guide to more than four hundred collections of overseas missionary materials held in the United Kingdom. The Gateway includes an entry for the Church Missionary Society photographs which form part of the RCS Photograph Collection

Southern Cross Resource Finder: http://www.scrf.org.uk/index.html

The Southern Cross Resource Finder (SCRF) is a web-based resource that enables users to discover collections in libraries, archives and museums that are useful for the study of Australia and New Zealand. It includes a description of material relating to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific in the RCS Library.  It has been produced by and is maintained by the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, King's College London.

Other catalogues

Significant parts of the Royal Commonwealth Society collections have yet to be catalogued online. Enquirers are therefore recommended to use the following catalogues:

Card catalogue

This is located in the Rare Books Room, behind the glass wall. It includes entries for monographs, pamphlets, journal articles, official publications, directories and yearbooks, periodicals and annual reports across the Commonwealth and colonial territories.

The card catalogue includes an author catalogue, a biographical catalogue, a periodical titles catalogue, a catalogue of society publications and a subject catalogue; the latter sub-divided firstly by geographical region and then by subject chronologically.

The Blue Ring File (located on the low shelf beside the catalogue) gives more information about using the catalogue, including a list of the most common abbreviations and subject headings used.

Please bear in mind that the card catalogue includes items re-catalogued on the computer catalogue. Please check the computer catalogue for new shelf marks.

Photograph catalogue

This is located in the Manuscripts Reading Room. It consists of 60 spring-back folders, containing detailed descriptions of collections and individual photographs. The first folder explains the layout of the catalogue, which is organised primarily by country, with separate volumes for special named collections.

To determine which folders contain photographs of which country, refer to the Royal Commonwealth Society Country Classification Guide. The prefix Y30 precedes the country classification – e.g. Y3022 refers to photographs of India; Y307 photographs of the West Indies.

There is also a card index of to portraits held in the RCS photograph collection, although this is not fully comprehensive and researchers are advised to use it in conjunction with the photograph catalogues. It is divided into two sections - portraits of members of the Royal Colonial Institute and other portraits. The Portraits Index is located on a windowsill in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Approximately 45,000 photographs are included in the microfiche edition of the Royal Commonwealth Society Photograph Collection, published by IDC. There are two boxes of microfiche and an accompanying guide. See: 
Guide to the microform collection, Royal Commonwealth Society, London, photograph collection, edited by John Falconer. (Leiden: IDC, 1988). This guide is shelved with the other catalogues behind the Superintendents' desk in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

A major retrospective cataloguing project is underway to produce a web-searchable catalogue of the photograph collection. Approximately two-thirds of collections have already been catalogued on Janus: http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/, where descriptions of collections may be browsed and searched, along with those of other Cambridge archives. Cataloguing is ongoing so researchers are recommended to check regularly.

The photograph catalogues should be used in conjunction with the Photographers Index: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/rcs_photographers/index.html. This provides a biographical index to photographers known to have taken images in the RCS photograph collection. There are links to digitised images, where available. See Gallery link below.

The RCS Photograph Project gallery: http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/rcs_photo_project/gallery1.html
This thematic gallery illustrates the breadth and quality of the RCS photograph collection. There are currently over 700 images in the gallery, along with associated metadata. Topics range from military and transport images to townscapes and images of daily life, from missionary work and religious and civil ceremonies to work in mines and farming. 

Manuscript and Archive catalogue

The manuscript catalogue of the library of the Royal Commonwealth Society, edited by Donald H. Simpson. London: Mansell, 1975. ISBN 0720104483

A copy of this published catalogue is kept in the Manuscripts Reading Room behind the Superintendents' desk. Copies are also available in many research libraries around the world.

Most manuscripts and archives have been catalogued on Janus: http://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/. Descriptions may be browsed and searched, along with those of other Cambridge archives.

One major collection yet to be recatalogued on Janus is that of Col. Henry Burney (1792-1845), RCMS 65.  Burney was Envoy to Siam and Resident at the Court of Ava, and his papers include correspondence, reports, memos and documents relating to his official activities as well as notes and translations on oriental subjects, and manuscripts collected by him in the countries in which he served. Please contact the RCS Librarian for more information.  Handlists are kept with the papers and may be requested in the Manuscripts Reading Room.