Find out what it’s like in an archive, and how to prepare for your visit.
Start at home
- Look on the archive’s website to see if they provide research guidance and to find out how the archive is arranged
- If the archive has an online catalogue, take some time to find out how to use it. Don’t expect it to be like Google – a simple keyword search will not always work
- Do some research before you come. Read some published books first for ideas, or talk to relatives if you’re doing your family history
- Check different archives and organisations for relevant documents. You might find useful material in a number of different places
In an archive
- Bring plenty of patience and tenacity with you. Researching can take a while and relevant documents may be in a number of different places
- Be prepared to use a computer to search for documents or to view digitised records. You might also need to look at documents that are on microfilm and microfiche
- Recognise both the limitations and potential of the archive – you may not find exactly what you are looking for, but you could find new sources you didn’t know existed
- Bring a pencil – ink is not allowed near the records in archives
What’s it like to visit an archive?
Before you visit an archive, get a feel for the experience by reading these blog posts:
- Where do I start my research?
- Planning a visit
- The boy who found the horse
- My Tommy’s War: An Eastender in the Lancers
- University of Northampton: Doing research at The National Archives
Go to the Archives hub: A guide for the Inexperienced for further guidance.
Ready to start?
Want to ask us a question?
- You can contact us, via our online forms, by email, phone or live chat