New suite of research guides launched

by Dr Kirsten Mulrennan, Archivist

The department is pleased to announce the launch of a suite of new online research guides, which highlight the strengths of its collections in line with 8 key research themes: architecture; the Bolton Library; archival diaries; the Dunraven Papers; estate and family history; literature; military history; and the National Dance Archive of Ireland (NDAI).

Each guide begins with an outline of the department’s main holdings in relation to each theme from its wide-ranging archival, rare book and reference collections. The guides provide an in-depth overview of the research strengths of these collections, outlining the types of records researchers can expect to find, illustrated by document and photograph samples. ‘Research tips’ are provided throughout the guides to draw attention to important research considerations, such as information relating to access to individual collections, or recommended related holdings in other archival institutions. The guides also include links to further reading and resources under each of the respective themes, encouraging researchers to use the guides as a starting point for their own research journey. In this way, the department hopes that these guides will be of valuable benefit for students at all levels who wish to research a topic further, for undergraduate coursework, Final Year Projects, postgraduate theses or publication.

Please note that the research guides are not designed as exhaustive sources on the department’s holdings under each research theme. Watch this space, as the guides are expanded and new thematic guides are added as more collections are catalogued. As always, if your particular research topic is not included, please do not hesitate to make enquiries to a member of staff.

The guides can be found under the new ‘research’ tab on the main website, and are complemented by supplementary resources such as: a video introduction to the department and its collections; quick links to all collection catalogues; a list of frequently asked questions in relation to archives and archival research; an A–Z list of useful online resources for archival and rare book research; and a glossary of terminology used in rare book cataloguing and research.

A summary of each research guide is outlined below, while an alphabetical list of all 8 research guides is available here.

Any faculty and students interested in using the research guides and associated collections in their teaching and coursework, please email


This guide outlines our primary and secondary source holdings relating to Architecture. Family and estate archives often feature architectural records, such as sketches, drawings, plans, and elevations, which document elements of the built environment including churches, schools, hospitals, railway stations, farm buildings, mills, and public and private houses. Photographs and picture postcard collections also present valuable sources for tracing developments in architectural styles through time, while map collections reflect the development of rural and urban space. We also hold a number of printed texts relating to architectural history and features, as well as individual buildings, estates and towns in the general special collections, as well as the Norton and Leonard Collections.

Bolton Library

This research guide is a snapshot of the Bolton Library as it stands during the compilation of the Glucksman Library’s digital catalogue of the collection. Commencing in January 2018, we are now nearly four years into the cataloguing of the collection, and the themes and works listed in this guide have been selected from the 5,000 titles completed so far. The guide has been arranged thematically, with rare, interesting, and keystone works selected under 12 research themes. As the cataloguing project proceeds, more themes and more treasures will come to light, and this guide will be broadened accordingly.


Launched in September 2021 in collaboration with the Department of History, and funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, this resource is designed to assist students and researchers at all levels with their research. It is based on three diaries held in the University of Limerick‘s Special Collections and Archives Department. Using these diaries as working examples, it aims to build basic archival and information literacy, and outline useful historical research methods. Its five lessons offer both a broad introduction to the work of the Special Collections and Archives Department and its collections, as well as specific research advice relating to historic research methods, the consultation of archival diaries as sources for social history, and guidance relating to the reading and transcription of archival sources.

This guide also includes a number of interactive features, including sample document analysis, quizzes, transcription exercises, as well as an ‘escape room’ online game, all of which allow researchers to test their knowledge as they progress through the resource.

Dunraven Papers

The Dunraven Papers (D/3196) is among the largest and most frequently consulted collections in the Special Collections and Archives Department. It comprises over 15,000 documents and some 225 volumes ranging from the early 17th to the early 20th century, with a notable concentration of material for the period 1830–1870. The Dunraven collection is a rich source of research material on an exceptionally broad range of subjects. This guide covers 8 of the most important research themes that run throughout the collection. However, this list is by no means comprehensive, and may evolve as the collection is catalogued in full – contact the department for more information.

Estate and family history

This guide brings together a number of our archival collections contain material relating to the history of several Munster families and their estates. Landed estates held their property for a very long time and produced a large quantity of a variety of written material.  This provides a rich resource for students of virtually every aspect of history.  It is important to note, however, that the type and nature of information estate collections contain is linked to two factors: the activities on the estate and the lands associated with it on the one hand, and the lives and activities of the families who owned it on the other.  While some items, such as leases, maps, surveys, and accounts can be found among most estate papers, no two collections are exactly the same.


This guide outlines our primary and secondary source holdings relating to literature. Our archives contain the personal papers of many Irish authors and collectors of literature. These collections contain personal correspondence and notes, manuscript drafts and unpublished material, reviews, newspaper clippings and photographs which provide additional context to the published works of these authors. We hold a number of rare and first editions of published literature, as well as extensive reference material, in the general special collections, as well as the Norton, Leonard and Gilsenan Yeats Collections. We also hold a number of smaller printed literature collections, such as those relating to Elisabeth Bowen, George Egerton and Gothic literature.

Military history

This guide outlines a number of our archival collections which contain material of military interest, including correspondence, diaries, and photographs. We also hold a number of key reference texts to help get you started with your research. However, we do not hold any official military records. The guide outlines archival highlights in relation to a number of different periods in military history: the First World War; the Irish War of Independence and Civil War; the Spanish Civil War; and the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

National Dance Archive of Ireland (NDAI)

The National Dance Archive of Ireland (Cartlann Náisiúnta Damhsa na hÉireann) was founded in 2010 in partnership with Dance Research Forum Ireland, the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, and the Arts Council. Housed at the University of Limerick’s Glucksman Library, the NDAI collects, preserves, and provides access to dance-related material donated by individuals, companies, and dance organisations. In this short guide, you will find information on collections relating to the three main genres of dance represented in the National Dance Archive of Ireland: ballet, contemporary dance, and traditional Irish dance and its derivatives.