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Norwich's Hidden Libraries

So, you’ve been to the Norfolk & Norwich Millennium Library in The Forum and were bound to be hugely impressed by the choice of books (and other media) to lose yourself in. It would be easy to assume this is the extent of Norwich’s ‘library’ offer – but you’d be wrong! There’s plenty more to discover.

Libraries are, in their very essence, a place filled with books and information for public use. They’re often peaceful and filled with knowledge… but sometimes it’s better to get off the beaten path and explore some of Norwich’s lesser-known collections, in places you might not imagine! You don’t have to be a bibliophile to enjoy these little gems…


SCVA Pete Huggins 600x400

Once you’ve finished perusing the Bacons, Picassos and the Giacomettis at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts (SCVA), you might want to continue your cultural education at the in-house Robert Sainsbury Library. Inside this bijou library are books on a range of specialised subjects including indigenous arts and material culture of Africa, the Pacific Region and the Americas; it’s deceivingly small, actually, because it holds over 22,000 specialist titles!

Though you need a UEA library card to take books out, members of the public are welcome to use the SCVA’s library for reference purposes; for more details visit:


Costume Textile Collection Norwich Collections

Textiles played a huge part in Norwich’s development between the 11th and 18th centuries, bringing huge amounts of wealth to the city and boosting its industry no end. To learn more we strongly recommend a visit to the utterly delightful Museum of Norwich at the Bridewell. Once inside, interactive displays, exhibits and permanent displays on the subject will provide all the information you need to follow the story. However, to really immerse yourselves in the materials, clothes and designs of the time head over to the Norwich Castle Study Centre Collections, housed in the historic building of The Shirehall. Their Costume & Textile collection is stuffed full of fascinating clothing from the 18th century to the 1980’s  - both fashionable and everyday styles – and accessories spanning centuries, as well as other textile items and techniques such as quilting, blackwork and appliqué. There are over 29,000 pieces including clothing from Marie Antoinette, and Queen Victoria!  

What many don’t realise is that they also have their very own reference library; there you can browse books, magazines and catalogues on a range of textile-related subjects and fashion such as the history of dress from the middle ages right through to present day, fashion plates, fashion shoots & photos, 1950’s fashion magazines such as Vogue and even Kay’s catalogues! Flicking through them guarantees hours of procrastination - you can try (and fail!) to resist laughing at the crazy 80's outfits!

Visits to the collections are free for groups of 5 people or less, but must be booked in advance but it’s really easy to book in; visit our website for more details.


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We all know Norwich Cathedral is a must-visit for anyone visiting the city, but among the beautiful Norman architecture (if you haven’t yet walked along the Cloisters – Norwich Cathedral has the second largest in England – then push this to the top of your itinerary!) and the architecturally contrastingly modern Hostry, it also houses a specialist library. There visitors can browse various books from the Dean and Chapter's historic collection plus titles from The Brian Runnett Music Library, Norfolk Parish Libraries and the Norwich Diocesan Association of Ringers (NDA).

The library is open to the public from 9.30am – 4.30pm, Tuesday – Thursday and 12.30 – 2.30pm on certain Saturdays plus they host various events throughout the year; visit the website for further details.


 City view of Norwich ASK PERMISSION BEFORE USE Second Air Division Digital Archive digitalarchive filename mc 376 354x054 600x400

This is a truly unique collection of material that helps visitors learn more about the Second Air Division, a division of the United States Airforce who were stationed in Norfolk during WW2. They sadly lost a huge number of personnel during the war, with men and women serving and helping the war effort in numerous ways. It’s fascinating to discover the experience service people had, as well as spotting familiar haunts in the photos of Norwich & Norfolk! There’s also a digital collection available to browse online.

The collection ranges from the humorous to the poignant; all are well worth a browse to learn more and reflect on. Gems include fun photos of a rodeo with American servicemen that took place at Carrow Road Stadium, lovely images of war Brides and their Norfolk weddings and fascinating pictures and documents relating to wartime Norwich & Norfolk and its effects on the area.

Find out more at

For more information and to plan a trip visit

Images; top - the library at Norwich Cathedral, credit Paul Hurst; middle - Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts credit Pete Huggins; third down - the amazing shoe collection at the Costume & Textile collection, part of the Norwich Castle Study Centre Collections; bottom - City View of Norwich, supplied by Second Air Division Digital Archive (filename: mc_376-354x054)