Please note that our usual searchroom access is currently suspended. See Using archives and reference material for up to date information on using our collections.

What is the searchroom?

In order that we can preserve the records in our care, archives and reference material can only be accessed in the environmentally controlled searchroom. This is a quiet area where we ask that you turn off mobile phones and respect other users by keeping noise down to a minimum.

What can I take into the searchroom?

Make sure you have your CARN ticket with you, a pencil (no pens) and paper and any research notes you need to help with your enquiries. The searchroom can be cool so you may wish to bring an extra layer of clothing to ensure you are comfortable whilst you carry out your research. Laptops and digital cameras can be used but we will ask you to put laptop and camera bags in the lockers provided.

We make a charge for each shot taken with a digital camera and you will be asked to complete a copyright form. If you are taking more than 50 images it would be cost effective for you to purchase a day pass which allows you to take unlimited images for one day. Please see our List of fees for details.

What will I find in the searchroom?

Staff in the searchroom will point you in the right direction and answer questions relating to your research. They will show you how to use the personal name and street name indexes, the archive collections catalogues and the Trade Directories.

Two computers are there to allow you to search the online catalogue. If you have a wifi enabled device there is free wifi throughout the public areas including the searchroom. The password changes each month so look out for notices in these areas.

What can’t I take into the searchroom?

Coats, bags and all personal belongings should be left in one of the secure lockers provided. These can be found off the arcade. Food and drink should not be taken into the searchroom.

There is a refreshment area in the arcade where you can sit and enjoy snacks, cold and hot drinks purchased from the coffee trolley. The use of portable scanners is not allowed due to the risk of causing damage to documents during handling and scanning.

How do I use the searchroom?

When you enter the searchroom sign the reader’s register on the staff desk and give your County Archives Readers Network (CARN) ticket to the staff on duty. They will return it to you when you have finished your research and wish to leave the searchroom.

Once you have completed a request slip indicating what items you would like to see they should be placed in the tray on the staff desk. We retrieve the items you have requested every half hour (at quarter to and quarter past the hour), so please bear in mind if you have not ordered in advance there will be a short wait before your documents are ready.

On Saturdays there is no collection between 11.45am and 2.15pm. The final collection of the day is 45 minutes before the searchroom closes.

Can I order items in advance?

If you have found original documents on our online catalogue that you would like to view, please contact us prior to your visit with the reference number and description for up to 5 items and we will get the items out for you. Please contact us by noon the day before your intended visit at the latest.

Do the documents need special care?

Documents should be treated with the utmost care. We ask you not to lean on them or apply unnecessary pressure. Documents and reference books cannot be taken out of the searchroom.

You should take care to keep files and bundles of documents in the order in which they were given to you and if you wish to have an item copied, please ask a member of staff for a marker slip to identify the specific page(s).

Volumes should be placed on one of our book cushions or book rests to support it, and we have special document weights to use with rolled maps and plans.

Staff on duty will advise on how specific documents should be handled and treated and there are notices on every desk detailing our photocopying and handling policy.