Centre for Research Collections Fellowships


Applications are invited for Heritage Collections Research Fellowships (previously known as Library Fellowships) from postdoctoral scholars in any area of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, to carry out research based on any of the Heritage Collections held at the University of Edinburgh.

The University’s collections include archives, manuscripts, rare books, art, musical instruments and other museum collections representing four centuries of collecting, and occupying 100km of shelving.  They are managed by a multi-disciplinary team of curators within the Centre for Research Collections (CRC).   The collections offer almost limitless possibilities for research across a wide range of scholarly disciplines.  The Fellowships offer privileged access to the collections and curatorial team, enabling forms of collections-based research which are difficult to accomplish through ordinary reading room services.  The Fellows are expected to be correspondingly engaged with the CRC, contributing to projects or events as appropriate.

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 encourage 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 Institute Project on Decoloniality which took place at IASH from 2021 to 2024.

Identities and Inequalities

The CRC collections offer a range of objects and materials which explore or illustrate the intertwined concepts of identity and inequality. There is significant research potential not only in collection material and objects, but also in the records connected to the infrastructures and individuals related to the collections’ histories.

  • Records of the Art Collections, including: portraiture; Edinburgh College of Art holdings; Torrie collection; Contemporary Art Research Collection
  • Musical Instrument Collection: Instruments from world cultures, including the Cannon Collection (116 items) and Morris Collection (27 items)
  • The Gilchrist Collection of Scottish school text books and educational material
  • The Archives of the University, including those of merged institutions: Edinburgh College of Art; Moray House
  • Papers of Kenneth McKenzie (Race Relations)
  • Papers of Rev. Bruce Kenrick (Founder of Shelter)
  • Edinburgh Association for the University Education of Women

International Connections: Focus on Africa 

There is a wealth of material within the collections which either originates in Africa, or records relationships between Scotland and Africa.  It offers huge research potential, but much of it has been little explored.  Examples of collections include:

  • Centre for the Study of World Christianity – religion, but also education, health and welfare of communities in Africa, through text, audiovisual, photographic material and some objects, e.g.:
    • Records of the Sudan United Mission, focussed on Nigeria
    • Records of Regions Beyond Missionary Union, material on Democratic Republic of Congo
    • Papers of Fergus Macpherson, containing oral histories on Zambian independence
    • Papers of Frank Longley, Nigeria
  • Manuscript books from Ethiopia, and from Arabic-speaking North Africa, some dating back to the 9th century.These are part of the collection of Middle-Eastern manuscripts.
  • Archives documenting a unique relationship with Malawi: Scotland, and the University has had a relationship with Malawi since the 19th century, through educationalists, researchers, missionaries, business people and health workers active there, including:
    • Roberts Laws who established the Presbyterian mission at Livingstonia,
    • Colin Campbell, lawyer, minister in the government and anti-apartheid campaigner
    • Scotland Malawi Partnership
    • Malawi Writers Group, from the 1960s and 1970s
  • Archives documenting scientific research carried out in Africa, including:
    • Papers of Barry Dawson, from his work as part of the Tanganyika Geological Survey in the 1960s. These are held in the Geological Museum.
  • Musical Instruments from cultures across Africa. Further research is required to understand better where some of these instruments originate, in order to interpret their musical and cultural uses.

Materials and Materiality

Any aspect of the materials, production and manufacture of objects in the collection, or the wider context in which they were produced.  Examples of collections which we are particularly keen to see used include, but are not limited to:

  • The New College Pamphlet collection (Scottish publishing of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries)
  • The Freshwater Collection of publishers’ decorated cloth bookbindings
  • The Thomas Nelson Publisher’s Archive, and the associated File Copy Collection
  • The Geological Models Collection, held in the Geological Museum. These include models in a variety formats illustrating crystal structures, geological formations and fossils, as well as relief maps. They have never been properly studied.
  • The Contemporary Art Research Collection, featuring moving image artworks, printed works, sculpture and installation
  • Art Collection Paolozzi Mosaic Fragments
  • Art Collection Performance-based artwork holdings
  • Musical instruments from across the world, using local and readily available materials or materials that have been imported through exploitation or legitimate trade.

What does a Heritage Collections Research 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 2024-2025 Heritage Collections Research Fellowship provides:

  • Research visit at the University of Edinburgh for three to six months
  • Bursary of £1,500 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 independent researchers, 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 should be employed for purposes including investigative research (or be an independent researcher) 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; if you have not yet graduated, 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 the next round of applications (for visits from August 2024 to July 2025) is 17:00 GMT on 26 April 2024. 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 26 April 2024.
  • 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.

Date de candidature
3 to 6 months
Sciences sociales