What to expect when you get there

What to expect when you get there

Rules and regulations

If you are visiting a formal professionally staffed archive repository there will almost certainly be a supervised room where you will work.  This is often called a searchroom or a reading room. There will be rules and regulations to follow such as wearing gloves to handle materials. These rules are designed to protect the records from harm.


Catalogues are descriptions of archives made to help researchers decide whether it would be useful to visit and look at the items. The Archives Hub site provides a guided tour of archive descriptions to help you understand how things are described in many archives.

If you don’t understand a particular catalogue, ask the archivist for help.

If you have already searched online catalogues to find the exact references for the material you require, some archive services allow you to preorder items so that they are waiting for you when you arrive.

Remember to record the reference numbers of items that you make notes from, so that you can include them if you cite from the items in your work. Also find out the official name of the repository and its repository number (see the ARCHON Directory). If you were citing the author of our item UGC53/1/1, your full reference would be: University of Glasgow Archive Services GB0248 UGC53/1/1.

Visiting privately held archive collections

If you are given privileged access to visit a private home, organisation or business to look at their records, you may not be given any catalogues or other finding aids. They may just allow you to browse so try to leave everything exactly as you found it.  Don’t for example rearrange the records to suit your particular research. Original order is an important archival principle as it means that everyone is able to see the records in the order that they were created or received.