Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Teaching with Special Collections

There are several excellent options for teachers and researchers to engage students and other audiences with primary sources. Either by requesting items from the Special Collections for use during lectures or by integrating our educational resources into your lesson plans.

Lectures, presentations, and symposia

Teachers may use original items from the Special Collections in the lecture rooms of the University Library. To book a lecture room and obtain permission to use items from the Special Collections please fill in the online request form. Those who want to use material for podcasts, symposia, and other presentations should also use this form. Requests need to be made at least two weeks in advance.

Request form

Read  Hanteerinstructie voor objecten before your lecture. During the lecture only the teacher is permitted to handle the objects. The number of objects to display must be limited. Exceptions are allowed only after approval from the curator.

Overhead visualiser

It is recommended to use the overhead visualizer for displaying the objects during lectures. The visualizer can also be used for online lectures. The visualizer may only be used after instruction. 

The next visualiser training session is on 13 mei, 11h00 to 12h00.

More information and registration for the training

The visualizer gives teachers the opportunity to enrich their presentations with material from the Special Collections. Books, manuscripts, prints, drawings and photographical material can be displayed live on screen, both in the UBL lecture room and during online classes.

The overhead visualizer makes various forms of interactive teaching possible:

  • The device has a high-quality camera. This makes it possible to show details that are hardly or not visible to the naked eye. Therefore students do not have to stand shoulder to shoulder in order to view the material properly.
  • Students can watch the lecture live via Teams or Kaltura Live.
  • Teachers can zoom in and out in a user-friendly way, and freeze the screen to compare prints on consecutive sheets of a book.
  • During the lecture, teachers can take snapshots and short videos and store them on a USB stick for later use.
  • It is also possible to book the visualizer to record videos in preparation for a lecture.

English subtitles are available for the video below.

Due to the selected cookie settings, we cannot show this video here.

Watch the video on the original website or

Research suggestions for students

Our curators have compiled a list of items and collections that have not yet been extensively researched and would make good topics for a bachelor's, master's or PhD thesis. 

Go to research suggestions

Teaching aids

Items from the Special Collections are often valuable and fragile, visiting the Reading Room may therefore seem daunting to students. This tutorial aims to help students discover UBL's Special Collections and get them engaged with primary sources. After completing the tutorial, students will know what special collections are, how material can be found in the online catalogue and printed catalogues, how to make requests, and how to properly handle the material when visiting the Special Collections Reading Room.

The tutorial may be incorporated into Brightspace, in which case it is also possible for teachers to add assignments to the tutorial. Contact your subject librarian for more information.

Go to the tutorial

Collection Guides is the primary discovery portal for many archival and other unique materials. This tutorial (also available in Dutch) will help students explore and use Collection Guides for their research. 

The tutorial can be integrated into Brightspace. Contact your subject librarian for more information.

Go to the tutorial

Digital Manuscripts in the Classroom is an educational resource on medieval manuscripts. The website provides a means to integrate medieval manuscripts in the classroom through short introductory texts aimed at non-experts. Integrated questions prompt students to examine certain aspects of the manuscripts. At this moment three ‘educational routes’ cover the following subjects: Books for Professional Use; Liberal Arts and Education; Religion and Devotion. Hopefully, other subjects can be added in due time, with the help of teachers and students.

Go to Digital Manuscripts in the Classroom

All manuscripts presented on the website were selected from Leiden’s Special Collections and digitised by library staff, thanks to funding made available by the then Rector Magnificus of Leiden University Carel Stolker. The website was designed and realised by the library’s Centre for Digital Scholarship.

In 2020 IIIF was implemented in Leiden’s image repository, the Digital Collections. The IFFF Advanced Viewer enhances the viewing experience and enables lecturers numerous new ways to share digital images, to compare and annotate them, to select details in images, and to link to images without needing to copy them (even when those reproductions are part of different repositories). 

Due to the selected cookie settings, we cannot show this video here.

Watch the video on the original website or

Mouse&Manuscript is a collection of interactive lessons on codicology and oriental manuscripts. Its aim is to stimulate teaching on codicology in and outside the classroom, and to contribute to the disclosure of Leiden University’s rich collection of oriental manuscripts. The website now contains 28 lessons based on manuscripts from the Muslim world, from the Maghrib to Mughal India, including lessons on Coptic manuscripts. Each lesson presents a manuscript in the IIIF Advanced Viewer, which means students can leaf through the manuscripts and zoom in to great detail.  Topics range from scribal errors to notes, from dots and hamzas to torn parchment. All lessons include questions and assignments, and many include links to Open Access suggestions for further reading.

Go to Mouse & Manuscript

In the project The Art of Reading in the Middle Ages (ARMA), seven European heritage institutions added 30,000 digitised medieval items to Europeana’s database and improved the quality of another 30,000, thus bringing medieval reading culture within the grasp of users.

Within the project, much attention was paid to developing teaching materials for primary, secondary and higher education, including small games and videos.

Due to the selected cookie settings, we cannot show this video here.

Watch the video on the original website or

Go to ARMA

For BA students four learning scenarios were created within a digital learning environment covering different aspects of reading culture in the Middle Ages:

  1. Book inventories (and what they tell us about reading in monasteries): The 11th century book inventory of Corbie

  2. Discovering online-resources (as well as ancient authors) through medieval manuscripts from Corbie Abbey

  3. Medieval Book Production: Manufacturing Manuscripts

  4. Medieval Book Production: Manufacturing the Printed Book (the first printed books, the book market, book makers, sellers and consumers)

In collaboration with Dr. Irene O'Daly of Book and Digital Media Studies, UBL created an eight-part video series about material aspects of the handwritten codex: Exploring the Medieval Manuscript Book. The video series offers an accessible introduction to medieval book history and can be viewed without further explanation on YouTube.

Video series ‘Exploring the Medieval Manuscript Book’

Due to the selected cookie settings, we cannot show this video here.

Watch the video on the original website or
This website uses cookies.