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British Library and National Trust doctoral fellowships

Antique books in the library at Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, Norfolk
Antique books in the library at Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, Norfolk | © National Trust Images/Hanne Siebers

We’re delighted to partner with the British Library and invite applications for two three-month doctoral fellowships, starting in March 2024, centred on British Library and National Trust collections as part of our ongoing research partnership.

These fellowships help both the Library and the Trust to interrogate the history, provenance and accessibility of national and international collections, enabling us to use and present them in the most honest way possible. Launched in 2021, our doctoral fellowships aim to establish collaborative research and increase public knowledge about how National Trust and British Library collections have intertwined throughout history.

The March 2024 round of fellowships focus on two important research areas which will lead to increased accessibility and onward interpretation, encompassing manuscripts and digital sound archives.

Arabic language manuscripts fellowship

The first fellowship focuses on Arabic language manuscripts. The study will explore the provenance of such manuscripts, and potentially those in other West Asian and North African languages, in the British Library and National Trust collections. The ambition is to identify owners, scribes, illustrators and other individuals involved in their production.

The British Library holds one of the world’s great collections of Arabic language manuscripts. Numbering nearly 14,000 volumes, they offer a rich resource for the study of Islam and the Muslim world, the Arab world and all aspects of Arabic writing and book arts. In contrast, the National Trust collections include around 40 manuscripts spread across 14 properties. The Trust collections haven’t been studied in any significant way, despite some having been on country house library shelves for almost 300 years.

By focusing on three National Trust properties with significant holdings of Islamic manuscripts, and whose histories and characters overlap with the British Library’s collections, there are opportunities to enhance our understanding of the history of use and ownership of this material, both from a private and institutional perspective. Fourteen individual manuscripts at Belton House in Lincolnshire, Calke Abbey in Derbyshire and Kingston Lacy in Dorset have recently been assessed and catalogued in readiness for this fellowship.

The successful candidate will also conduct archival study into the accession of these manuscripts into the Library and Trust’s collections. Catalogue entries, provenance reports, blogs and social media content will be created to provide a range of interpretative and curatorial materials aimed at specialists, professionals and general audiences. An overall concluding report on the manuscripts’ production, content, circulation and trajectories will also be produced.

National Trust Sound Archive fellowship

This fellowship is currently postponed

Due to the ongoing problems following the British Library's cyber-attack, the application process for the National Trust Sound Archive fellowship is postponed. In the meantime, you can still find all the information about the fellowship if you're considering applying when applications re-open. Please check our @researchNT account on X (formerly Twitter) for updates.

The second fellowship focuses on the National Trust Sound Archive. The archive is the second largest oral history collection held at the British Library, consisting of more than 1,700 items recorded from the 1980s to the present day by 157 National Trust properties. The collection is frequently requested by onsite researchers at the Library but a significant amount of work is required to prepare the collection for online public access.

The aim of this project is for a student to undertake the necessary work for the recordings belonging to two National Trust properties to be rights cleared, fully catalogued with enhanced metadata and then made available for online public access. The student will work with National Trust and Library colleagues to plan a strategy to roll out this work with regard to interviews collected by other Trust properties.

The fellowship will be hosted at the British Library, offering the student hands-on experience of working with digital audio archives. The student will work closely with colleagues at the Trust, and conduct site visits to properties where appropriate, to benefit from the expertise of staff and volunteers in the history of the properties and the oral history collection. There’s also the opportunity to create a blog and social media content and present information at the end of the fellowship to Library and Trust staff.

How to apply

The deadline for the Arabic language manuscripts fellowship applications is Thursday 25 January 2024 at 5pm. Please note that the National Trust Sound Archive fellowship application process is currently postponed. Application submissions and queries should be sent to Please also contact this email address for Word versions of the application form to make submission easier.

The appointed fellow will receive a stipend equivalent to the UKRI minimum doctoral stipend (plus London weighting), as well as reasonable expenses for any fellowship-related travel.

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