What can I take into the reading rooms?

To help us ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, and preserve the records for future generations, please observe our guidance for using the reading rooms and handling documents:

  • Only bring what you need with you – the fewer items you have, the quicker it will be for us to check when you arrive
  • No coats, bags and umbrellas
  • No food and drink, including chewing gum and sweets
  • No pens, or pencils with erasers
  • No sharp objects
  • You may take notebooks into the reading rooms, along with clear plastic folders and clear pencil cases.
  • Please ensure that laptops and mobiles are on silent mode, and that you disable the flash on any camera equipment.
  • We encourage you to bring an extra layer of clothing in case you find our temperature-controlled spaces cold.

A complete list of rules is available from the welcome desk, the Enquiry Service Manager or online.

Lockers and cloakroom

Our lockers are free to use and located in our ground floor cloakroom.

We provide visitors to our reading rooms with clear plastic bags, as part of our security measures to protect the records in our care. You can find these bags in our cloakroom, near the lockers. More detail about the environmental impact of these bags can be found at the bottom of this page.

Photography and camera stands

You can use your hand-held camera, phone, tablet or laptop to take still images of documents. We provide camera stands in our reading rooms or you can use universal adapters that enable smart phones or tablets to use these stands. We do not have enough camera stands for every visitor to our reading rooms and you are more likely to be guaranteed a stand if you book your visit in advance.

You may not use any device that scans images, or that has an integral or external stand or extension (such as a tripod or selfie stick).

Flash photography is not permitted. Copyright applies to all records: please ask a member of staff for details.


We do not allow gloves to be worn in our reading rooms, unless you are handling photographs, in line with long-standing guidance relating to the preservation of our collection.


We would strongly recommend that you only bring what you need with you – the fewer items you have in your bag, the quicker it will be for us to check it when you arrive.

Suitcases and other items that are too large to fit inside our lockers are not allowed inside the building: please make arrangements to leave luggage elsewhere. Our lockers can accommodate items with a maximum size of 43 cm x 42 cm x 24 cm.

Nearby luggage storage providers can be found by searching on www.stasher.com.

Lost property

If you leave something behind, please contact us to see if it has been handed in. We normally keep lost property for one month.

Our clear bags and the environment

We are conscious of the impact that plastic bags can have on the environment, and we therefore supply bags which are made of oxo degradable plastic film.

  • Degradation process: The degradation process starts with the heat of the extrusion process and continues in two steps. In step one, chemical degradation happens either by ultraviolet light, heat, oxygen or film stress, where over time the molecular structure of the product is reduced significantly. The film will become fragmented. This process is irreversible and continues to a point where the film becomes water wettable. This is step two, called biodegradation, where the micro-organisms attach themselves and consume the remnants.
  • Result & degree of degradation: 100% of the product degrades after degradation process is completed. The result of the degradation is carbon dioxide, water and biomass.
  • Environmental conditions needed for degradation: Significantly, the oxo film does not need a biologically active environment to start degrading – this will happen even if the plastic is left in the open air. The factors that accelerate degradation: ultraviolet light; heat; oxygen; and film stress (such as pulling and tearing). Once the process is initiated it is irreversible and will continue in a landfill or under water.
  • Comparison with bio or photo degradable film: Oxo degradable film degrades over time and is speeded up by light, heat or stress and slowed down by cold. It cannot be stopped. Bio degradables will only degrade once buried and microbes are present. Photo degradables will only degrade with UV light. The oxo film will degrade even if unfortunately dropped as litter.
  • Time needed for degradation: As little as sixty days or as long as five to six years. The bag should give minimum six months to around eighteen months full useful product life.