Bath Record Office welcomes the district’s Local Studies Collection

Bath and North East Somerset’s Local Studies Collection, which comprises local history reference materials, is moving from its home in Bath Central Library to join the Council’s archives held at Bath Record Office in the Guildhall.

10 April 2017

The new combined services will be called Archives & Local Studies to reflect the wider local history resources that will be available from 6 June 2017.

The move will ensure a more comprehensive service to customers and for the first time will place the most popular local history reference resources under one roof.  Specialist staff from both collections will be available to guide visitors and opening hours will be extended.

To give better access to the resources the Local Studies collection will open on Saturday mornings and the Archive service will no longer close one week every month.   Both the Local Studies Librarian and the Archivists will be on-hand to help researchers.

Bringing local studies and archive materials together under one roof was first requested by customers in a survey conducted in 2002 and has been an aspiration long-held by staff as well as those who regularly use the service, such as local people, history researchers and academics.  

This is the culmination of two years’ hard work to bring together the Local Studies Collection with the internationally Designated Bath Record Office to improve facilities and extend opening hours.

Local history lending books will still be available to browse and borrow from Bath Central Library and local branch libraries.  

You can find out more about the new combined services from the Q and A.

Your Questions Answered

What is the Local Studies Collection?

The Local Studies Collection comprises Local Studies Materials, Special Collections and Family History, and includes thousands of reference books, manuscripts, maps, photographs, microfilms and other items dating back to the fifteenth century.

The collection is popular with researchers, academics and local people researching family histories.

Local Studies lending books will not move to the Guildhall and will still be available to browse and borrow from Bath Central Library and local branch libraries.

How will people benefit from both services being under one roof?

The Local Studies Collection complements the historic documents held in the Record Office, which holds city records dating back to 1189, access to census returns and records of baptisms, marriages and burials, and the original records of the city’s council, law courts, police, local businesses, societies and organisations.

Customers frequently need to reference Archives and Local Studies collections to access the full range of research materials available. In the past, this has meant visiting both the library and Bath Record Office.

Having both collections and the combined expertise of the Library and Record Office staff available in one place will provide a more comprehensive and convenient service, drawing on all available resources.  

Knowledgeable and experienced staff – on hand

In particular, visitors will benefit from the staff’s specialist knowledge of the collections, their recommendations of appropriate sources to answer visitor’s questions, and their guidance in finding materials that are not yet catalogued.

The combined services will be staffed by two full-time Archivist posts, one part-time archives assistant and one full-time and one part-time Local Studies Librarian.

What other improvements will we see?

In addition to transferring the Local Studies Collection from Bath Central Library, the Council is taking the opportunity to expand and refurbish the existing research rooms located in the basement of the Guildhall.

Along with much-needed damp proofing, two rooms will be completely refurbished and one new room will be created, making three public research rooms available.  Visitors can browse the online and offline catalogues, carry out their research and examine materials brought to them from the Archive and Local Studies stores.

All the public rooms will be cleaner, brighter and more comfortable. New shelving will be provided in the research rooms, allowing open access to many of the Local Studies Collection’s reference books.

21st Century technology

One of the rooms will be dedicated to a suite of PCs (four in total, including two new PCs), microfilm and microfiche readers, and printers. High speed WiFi will be made available in all of the reading rooms for the first time and desks will feature easily accessible plugs for laptops. The online catalogues are freely available for users to browse from home.

Family historians and other researchers will continue to benefit from free access to popular subscription websites, including Ancestry, Find my Past and the British Newspaper Archive. These are always in regular use, so please call in advance to reserve a PC.

How will it all work?

Some of the reference books will go into the Archive’s stores for immediate access. Less used books will go to our off-site store and can be delivered to you in the office within 24 hours or less. If users call in advance, the staff will be able to help them to plan their visit and, if necessary, request the books from the store so that they are ready when needed.

Do you need to book an appointment at the new Archives & Local Studies office?

We recommend that you make an appointment before visiting the office, but it’s not absolutely necessary to do so, especially if you are only interested in browsing the Local Studies reference books.  Of course, informing the staff ahead of time means that they can advise you on your research and prepare relevant materials in advance.

If you would like to use a microfiche reader or a PC to access our subscription websites, we recommend that you call to make an appointment.

Saturday opening for the Local Studies service is by appointment only, and should you wish to view material from the store, we will require 48 hours’ notice.  

How do you find materials within the Collections?

Many of our users are experienced researchers but we’re keen to open up the service to as many new people as possible. If you’re unsure of how to start your research, the first step is to speak to the staff who will help you to find materials relevant to your search.

While you are welcome to browse the catalogues in the comfort of our newly refurbished research rooms, it’s also possible to browse our online catalogues from home. Once you’ve found what you’re looking for, you can call to ask a member of staff to locate the materials ready for your visit.

If you can't find what you are looking for online, you can also ask the staff whether we hold records relevant to your research.

Opening hours

When the office re-opens in June, both services will open every week, Tuesday to Friday. In addition, the Local Studies service will be available on Saturday mornings by appointment. The Record Office will no longer close for one week in every month.

Can I still access the Collections during the refurbishment?

The Record Office will close for this refurbishment from 14 April to 6 June 2017. During this time it will still be possible for the Archive staff to respond to phone, email and postal enquiries, but public access to the building will not be possible.

The Local Studies Collection will still be available at Bath Central Library until the materials are ready to be transferred around 15 May.

When will the new Archives & Local Studies office open?

We anticipate that the refurbished Archives & Local Studies office will open on 6 June 2017.

Please refer to the Bath Record Office website for more information on preparing for your visit, how to get here and for accessibility information.

To make an enquiry, please call 01225 477421.