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Why has Cambridge University Library established the COVID-19 collection?

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. As with any historic moment, it is crucial to capture records of the event as it unfolds.

Cambridge University Library wants to collect, preserve, and make accessible materials about the pandemic’s effects on the Collegiate University and the city. The Library is interested in materials that reflect how people are experiencing this time, including how they are coping with changes to daily life and the ways this period has impacted work, social activity, and leisure.

These materials might not immediately come to mind when thinking about library collections, but they are valuable primary sources for understanding this period as it happened.

What kinds of material is Cambridge University Library collecting?

All kinds of things! The Library is interested in materials created by staff and students of the Collegiate University as well as the wider Cambridge community, in physical and digital formats.

Examples of materials include, but are not limited to, videos, photographs and images (including posters and leaflets), audio recordings, creative projects, as well as journals and diaries.

The Library is also interested in hearing about websites being used to publish your material on the open web. Library staff will try to collect it by web archiving. As part of this work, websites will be added to the UK Web Archive, which is a collaborative initiative between the UK’s Legal Deposit Libraries (the British Library; the National Library of Scotland; the National Library of Wales; the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford; Cambridge University Library; and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin).

Are all donations accepted?

We welcome all contributions created by members of the Collegiate University or the wider city of Cambridge community.

Scope is important because this is a thematic collection specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, the Library is looking to receive material(s) that illustrate the impact of COVID-19 on your life or Cambridge more broadly. If you have any questions about submitting your materials or about whether they apply to this collection, the Library’s archivists are happy to answer any questions.

It might also be the case that your material is a work in progress. If you plan to donate your material at a later date, please let us know and hold on to it until it is ready.

Can I submit materials created by others?

Please only consider submitting material for which you are the owner or creator and can therefore give permission to be added to the Library’s COVID-19 collection, preserved over the long term, and made accessible for scholarly purposes.

If you want to refer to or nominate material that you do not own, or if you are unsure whether you have the right to donate material, please contact us at

Regarding websites, the UK’s Legal Deposit Libraries are allowed to collect sites with a UK top level domain name (such as .UK, .SCOT, .WALES, .CYMRU and .LONDON) as well as any websites that are identified as being hosted on a server located physically in the UK.

If you find a website that you think applies to COVID-19 and Cambridge, get in touch to nominate it for collecting. You do not need to be the website’s owner to nominate it to the UK Web Archive.

What will happen to my material after it is donated?

Physical and digital materials will be securely stored by the Library and maintained by Library staff now and over time.

The aim is to make these primary sources available to researchers exploring this period of collective history.

If you have any concerns about making your materials accessible or think they could include information of a sensitive nature, please make us aware of this when you get in touch. We will be sensitive to issues of data protection in assessment, description, and access to materials offered.

Who do I contact about donating my physical or digital material, or to ask any questions?

Please contact the Library about this collection at

How do I prepare my digital material to be donated?

If your material is selected for adding to the collection, a Library staff member will be in touch to get information about the format of your donation and to provide further details of the donation process. It will be helpful for the Library to collect information from you about the material (what we call “metadata”), but a template and guidance will be provided to help you describe your donation.

How do I donate physical material now?

While the University Library remains closed, the transfer of physical materials is not possible. In this case, we want you to be your own archivist: hold on to your material until we can take delivery. We will update the collection’s webpage and advertise on our social media pages when the Library is ready to receive physical materials.