RESEARCHING AT THE SOMERSET HERITAGE CENTRE
The Somerset Heritage Centre's opening hours are:
Closed Period 2013: Please note that the searchroom will be closed for two weeks from Monday 21 January-Friday 1 February 2013 for our annual project work period. During this time, it will not be possible to use the archives or library collections. We will continue to answer enquiries by post, email and telephone during this time. We reopen as normal on Monday 4 February.
There are 23 document and 20 fiche spaces at the Heritage Centre, plus space for visitors to consult library books. We also have four microfiche/microfilm reader-printers, and one PC where you can copy images from fiche and film onto your own USB stick. If you would like to look at microfiche or original documents, please make an appointment before you visit, to make sure we have space for you - we can get very busy, and sometimes we cannot accommodate visitors who have not booked beforehand. To make an appointment, please phone 01823 337600 (+44 1823 337600 from outside the UK) or email us, allowing two days for a reply to your email. If you want to look at anything bigger than a 25" Ordnance Survey map (such as other maps and architects' plans), please book the map table, which you can do for half a day at a time - otherwise, especially if we are busy, we may not have space for you to look at large documents.
For the address and a map of the Somerset Heritage Centre, please see the directions page.
Documents are produced as and when they are needed, stopping an hour before the office closes. You can pre-order up to four documents to have waiting for you when you arrive. After that, you can order four documents at a time per desk. We get things out as and when you need them, until the hour before we close, although it make take 10-15 minutes for documents to arrive. If you have a long list of documents to get through in a short space of time, please email us your list a few days beforehand so that we can be prepared for you. On Saturdays, as we have fewer staff, it is very helpful if you can email or phone us in advance with the references of the documents you would like to look at.
We need 24 hours' notice to produce some of our photographs. This is because they are kept in a cold store (to preserve them for longer), and they need to come up to temperature gradually to avoid damage. Information about which photographs need pre-ordering are on the online catalogue. You can pre-order any number of items from the cold store.
We issue our own readers' tickets, which are valid for four years. If you have not visited us before, please bring some form of ID containing your name and current address (e.g. a driving licence, or utility bill), so that we can issue you with one of our readers' tickets. Please be aware that we do not accept passports, tickets from The National Archives or library cards. We accept CARN tickets issued by us in the past, but not CARN tickets issued elsewhere - we are no longer part of the scheme.
The Somerset Heritage Centre consists of two buildings on the same site. Building 1 is at the front of the site, and contains the searchroom and the archive and library strongrooms. Building 2 contains the museum and Records Management stores and the technical areas (e.g. archive and museum conservation and the design department).
The main searchroom has an area for microfiche/microfilm viewing, tables for consulting archive documents, open-access library books and five People’s Network PCs. There is wireless Internet access and plug sockets are available for laptops. There is a separate research room for consulting museum objects.
You can bring in digital cameras to take photographs of documents, as long as you buy a photography licence (available from the main reception).
The charges for the licences are:
If you intend to publish images or to post them on the Internet, you will need to apply to the Archives and Local Studies Service using our permission to publish form: permission to publish form (PDF version) or permission to publish form (Microsoft Word version) (new window)
There is a large, free, public car park at the front of the building. There is a small refreshment area with tables and chairs. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and water are available, and there is also a vending machine selling snacks. One sandwich van visits the premises every weekday at around 10 am, and a different hot food and sandwich van visits at about 1 pm.
There are three disabled parking spaces for Building 1 and three for Building 2. Both buildings have disabled toilets. There is a height-adjustable desk in the searchroom, and a hearing loop in Building 1 reception, searchroom and learning room, as well as a portable hearing loop for the rest of the site.
It is entirely free to visit the Heritage Centre and consult our resources, to use the North Somerset Archive Service, to receive general advice about your research and to deposit historical records here. There is a range of charges for copying, camera use, detailed research, conservation work and education services. Please see our charges leaflet (new window) for more details.
The Somerset Heritage Centre has brought the whole of the Somerset Heritage Service onto one site, as well as the Somerset Studies Library. You can consult the archive and local studies collections in the searchroom. Part of the library collection is on open shelves in the searchroom, and the rest of the collection can be ordered from the strongrooms – we get things out as and when they are needed. The archive catalogue can be seen at home at www.somerset.gov.uk/dserve and the library catalogue at www.librarieswest.org.uk.
You can use the five People’s Network computers to look at the online Historic Environment Record, as well as websites that the Libraries Service has subscribed to. This includes the family history website Ancestry.com, which has the 1841-1911 censuses and First World War service records and medal rolls.
Objects from the museum reserve collection can also be consulted at the Heritage Centre, in the Museum Research Room (please phone 01823 278805 to make arrangements first). Archaeological reports can also be consulted, either in the Archives Searchroom or in the Historic Environment office, depending on how complex your enquiry is. You can save time by looking at the Historic Environment Record database before your visit, to find out the site numbers (PRNs). If you have a complicated enquiry, please contact the Historic Environment office on 01823 347431 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society library is also housed at the Heritage Centre. This includes a large selection of journals and other published works, glass plate negatives and collections of watercolours of Somerset places. Part of the library is on open shelves in the searchroom and around the building (staff will be able to direct you), and everything else can be ordered out from the strongrooms.
We hold records for the whole of the historic county of Somerset, including what is now Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset. Our records span a huge variety of subjects, but some of the principal sources include:
For more information on our main sources, please see our detailed research guides.