Centre for Research Collections Fellowships

Applications are invited for Centre for Research Collections Fellowships (previously known as Library Fellowships) from postdoctoral scholars in any area of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, to examine special collections held at the University of Edinburgh. The University of Edinburgh’s collections include approximately 100km of heritage material including archives, manuscripts, rare books, art, musical instruments and other museum collections.  Many of these unique collections have either not been catalogued or not fully researched, presenting novel opportunities to a wide range of scholarly disciplines.

IASH provides an enviable location in one of the world’s most intellectually inspiring cities, together with a dynamic network of international connections. Home to the Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh has a rich cultural heritage of scholarship and creativity that continues to the present day. In this haven of libraries and archives, galleries and music venues – all set amid iconic architecture – IASH helps scholars to take the humanities beyond campus to engage the public and work with organisations in a variety of sectors.

The Institute welcomes visiting researchers from across the world. Since 1970, over 1,250 Fellows have stepped through our doors. Up to 30 researchers are in residence at any one time in our amazing – and eclectic – nineteenth-century building just on the edge of the University’s central campus, boasting views of the Meadows. From more than 65 countries, IASH Fellows form a global alumni community, and many career-long connections begin at the Institute.


The collections

There are numerous areas of potential focus. At this time we invite applications focused on one of the following:


The University of Edinburgh’s colonial legacy and alumni roles in the slave trade and/or the histories of Edinburgh graduates and staff of colour

We would particularly welcome applications linked to the themes of the new Institute Project on Decoloniality taking place at IASH from 2021 to 2024. Candidates may also be interested in applying for the new RACE.ED Archival Research Fellowships (up to 10 months) to examine specific special collections held at the University of Edinburgh which provide evidence for research which will be part of the Institute Project on Decoloniality.


Malawi collections

Edinburgh, Scotland and the University has had a unique relationship with Malawi from the 19th century as educationalists, researchers, missionaries, business people and health workers from Scotland went to work there.  Collections related to Malawi include but are not limited to the papers of Roberts Laws who established the mission at Livingstonia, the papers of Colin Campbell, lawyer, minister in the government and anti-apartheid campaigner, papers of Kenneth MacKenzie, minister and researcher, papers of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, as well as a small collection of the Malawi Writers Group from the 1960s and 1970s. There is also material in the Centre for the Study of World Christianity not only on religion but that document communities and the issues that were being raised such as education, health and welfare.  The range of material across these collections covers 20th century politics, education, linguistics, economics, decolonisation, development, infrastructure and changing society.  Many of these collections only have basic handlists, and their importance is only just being realised with research being done on decolonisation in the mid-20th century.


Middle Eastern manuscripts

We have a rich collection of some 700 manuscripts from the Middle East and North Africa in Arabic, Turkish and Persian, dating back to the 9th century AD and from a variety of literary, historical and religious traditions.  It is the only such collection of its kind in Scotland and has never had any systematic scholarly study.


Scottish Session Papers

In the 18th and 19th centuries every paper going before the Scottish Court of Session in Edinburgh – Scotland’s supreme Civil Court - had to be printed.  These papers give fascinating insights into the minutiae of everyday life in Scotland, from disputes over land ownership to discussions about inheritance and business ownership.  They also provide rich evidence about women and social groups whose voices are otherwise missing from the historical record.  They offer huge potential for interdisciplinary research, particularly through digitisation.  With the collections in the Advocates and Signet libraries in Edinburgh, there are about 250,000 individual documents – the greatest hidden printed heritage of the Scottish Enlightenment.  The collection is not catalogued and has yet to be researched.


Thomas Nelson archive

We have the records and library of Edinburgh-based educational publisher Thomas Nelson, which give fascinating information about the international business operations of this firm which pioneered new technology.  The archive includes some 80 linear metres of archival material in 900 boxes or volumes, ranging in date from the late 19th century to 1960; there are also around 10,000 books which were retained as the office file copies with notes about binding design and new editions.  The collection is not catalogued and has yet to be researched.

What does a Centre for Research Collections Fellowship offer?

IASH hosts a lively scholarly community of visiting fellows. It is a supportive environment for postdoctoral researchers, while also offering networking opportunities with successful mid-career and eminent senior scholars. The Institute occupies a historic building with private courtyard and leafy views – perfect for uninterrupted thinking, reading and writing. Yet there is also plenty of opportunity to socialise and share ideas.

In short, a 2021-2022 Centre for Research Collections Fellowship provides:

  • Research visit at the University of Edinburgh for three to six months
  • Bursary of £1,300 per month
  • Travel allowance of up to £500
  • Dedicated office space at IASH, University e-mail and library access
  • Library workspace with privileged access to collections, support from curatorial and technical staff, and access to the facilities of the Digital Scholarship Centre
  • An allocated University mentor from the Centre for Research Collections (CRC) or a School within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Weekly Fellows’ Lunch to build community
  • Collegial work-in-progress seminar series for testing new ideas
  • Calendar of engaging events at the Institute and College


Who can apply?

We warmly welcome applications from employees of Universities and other organisations engaged in research from around the world. Selection will be subject to the immigration rules governing the UK.  Applicants must be employed for purposes including investigative research and have a suitable project or study to undertake using a specific collection.

Applicants must have been awarded a doctorate at the time of application, and normally within the last five years (you must be able to produce a transcript, testamur, or a letter of completion/eligibility to graduate as part of your application). You should not have held a previous Fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. Those who have held temporary and/or short-term appointments are eligible to apply.

Application procedure

The closing date

The closing date for the receipt of applications is 30 April 2021. Applications received after that date will not be considered. Decisions will be communicated in July. Please ensure that you supply a valid email address so that you can be contacted quickly after decisions are made.

The application form

Please complete the online application form here.
Any additional supporting documents connected with an application should be emailed to iash@ed.ac.uk.


  • In addition to the application form, a minimum of two and a maximum of three confidential references are required.
  • Applicants should ask their referees to email their reference to the Director at iash@ed.ac.uk by 30 April 2021.
  • Referees should comment on the nature and quality of the research proposal, as well as on the qualifications of the applicant. One referee should certify the successful viva (defence) and final examination of the candidate’s PhD thesis.


  • Consideration will be given to the academic record and the publications of all applicants and their capacity to disseminate their views among a community of like-minded people. Candidates must give evidence of any contact they have made with researchers at the University of Edinburgh, are required to make such contact before submitting their applications, and those who can evidence the relevance of their proposed project to the University of Edinburgh research community will be regarded favourably.  Particular weight will be placed on the quality and timeliness of the project proposed, and we encourage innovative and interdisciplinary topics and approaches.
  • Applications must detail the specific collection with which they plan to engage while at IASH. Fellows are expected to participate in the CRC’s activities (such as delivering a workshop or seminars on their chosen topic, or curating an exhibition at the Library) and a proposal for an event should be described in the application.
  • Fellows are expected to become involved in the CRC and to commit to agreed objectives such as cataloguing, interpretation, digitisation or the provision of an exhibition, workshop, seminar or online learning resources such as a series of blog posts. This will form part of the evaluation of candidates.
  • Only fully completed formal applications will be considered. It is the responsibility of each applicant to ensure that all documentation is complete, and that referees submit their reports to IASH by the closing date. Candidates may like to submit a copy of any one article or publication that is thought to be especially relevant to the research proposal and Fellowship submission. It must be emphasised, however, that no such submitted publication will be returned to the candidate.
  • The Institute was established in 1969 by the then Faculty of Arts to promote enquiry of the highest standards in the Humanities, broadly conceived. It began to receive Fellows in 1970, and is now located as an independent institute within the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Science.  Inter-departmental and inter-disciplinary study has always been encouraged.
  • Fellows must make the Institute their main place of work for the duration of the Fellowship.  It is expected that Fellows will be in residence throughout the tenure of their Fellowship and will contribute fully to the life of the Institute during that time. Fellows give at least one seminar presentation during their tenure, and submit a report on their research at the end of their Fellowship. No regular teaching is required.
  • For information about the scope of work undertaken at the University of Edinburgh, see Edinburgh Research Explorer, or browse through the staff pages of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Applicants looking for suitable accommodation in Edinburgh may find these links useful.

In order to take full advantage of the seminars and lectures which take place during the semesters and to meet with staff in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, applicants are encouraged to apply for periods that will include at least part of one of the semesters.