Visit the archive

Reading Room and Library

The reading room is open three days a week, Wednesday-Friday 10.00am-4.00pm. We have a late night opening on the second Thursday of every month, 1.00pm-7.00pm.   Please email or ring 0203 757 8511 to book an appointment to view original material or to ask an enquiry.

We have desk spaces for eight people at any one time in the reading room, so we ask that everyone books an appointment in advance to view archive material.   If you haven’t booked an appointment, then we can only allow access if space is available.  Be aware that we are only able to retrieve up to 10 references from the archive store once a day.

The reading room contains our two reference library collections: The Runnymede Trust library and Black Cultural Archives library.  There are two computers in the reading room that you can view digital material on and access the internet.  We also have plenty of power points if you wish to bring their own laptop or device.

Frequently asked questions

How can I find out what you hold in the archive collection?

Firstly our subject guides listed on our Discover page will provide you with a variety of subject information of what we hold, but also what is held within other repositories. Secondly you can look at our online catalogue available on our website, please click here to go the Catalogue. or browse the catalogued collections through the Browse page.  For more details you can view our Highlights of the collection document.

What can I expect on my first visit to the reading room?

 Upon arrival, please report to reception. We ask that all reading room users deposit their bags and jackets in the secure lockers in the basement, which can be accessed via a lift or stairs; this is for security and safety purposes in the reading room.  After signing in, obtaining a locker key and depositing your bag and coat, you will then be escorted up to the reading room from reception. We also ask that you sign in and out of the reading room, in case of an emergency.  We do not permit food or drink in the reading room. We ask that reading room users take pencils only into the reading room, and not pens.  There are two computers in the reading room. You are welcome to bring personal devices, such as laptops and tablets, and there are power points available in the reading room.

Why aren’t visitors able to enter the archive store?

Like many other archives, we have to ensure that the environment of our archive store is continuously monitored.  In order to keep within the temperature and humidity levels, we must minimise the amount of physical access to the store. This ensures that we can preserve the unique archive material that we have been gifted  for the long-term.  You access material through the reading room, as we retrieve material that you request from the archive store.  We provide tours of the heritage centre for groups, which includes a visit to the archive store.  For details and to book a heritage centre tour, please contact Collections via   Alternatively look at our virtual tour of the building.

How can I donate material to the archive collection?

Black Cultural Archives has a collection policy that states what we wish to collect.  If you have some original material that you wish to donate to the archive or library then please view the Contribute page for further details.

How can I obtain copies of images?

We do not have a photocopier for preservation reasons.    Self-service photography is currently charged at a flat-rate of £2 per day in the reading room.  Those taking photographs will be required to complete a Reprographics Form. We have recently invested in new scanning equipment, that will be available soon for researchers to use.

We currently offer a limited scanning service; please email or ring 0203 757 8511 for further details and costs.  All orders are processed by members of staff for security and preservation reasons.  We have a responsibility to ensure that our collections are safely preserved for the benefit of future generations, and copies will only be supplied if they can be made without risk of damage to the original.

Researchers are reminded that the onus for satisfying the legal requirements of the Copyright Acts rests with them. Copyright in photographs and other artistic works is particularly stringent; it is illegal for us to make a copy of images without the copyright holder’s permission. Should you wish to publish extracts from any copies you are provided with, or require scanned images of photographs, you are responsible for ascertaining the ownership of copyright and obtaining the necessary permission from the copyright holder.

Why are there no digital images/oral recordings available online yet?

The answer to this is two fold; firstly Black Cultural Archives is just beginning to start to digitise the collection.  A large proportion of our audio visual collection is only available on older formats such as audio cassette, mini digital video or VHS.  This requires specialist software and hardware to convert to digital formats.

Secondly, we do not own the copyright for all of the collections that we hold.  We are therefore liaising with donors and funders, to increase the amount of digital resources to be made available online in the near future, through our online catalogue and website.

How can I listen to the oral histories?

At the moment our digital oral histories can be listened to in the reading room.  We are looking into adding digital clips of recordings onto the online catalogue.   We are able to provide printed or digital copies of transcripts, where available.  A full list of oral histories can be accessed here.