In line with the Government guidance we will be closing our sites to the public this week (week beginning 2 November). The following closures apply:
Somerset Heritage Centre, Taunton – Open Tuesday 3 November and Wednesday 4 November then closed until further notice
Devon Heritage Centre, Exeter – Open Tuesday 3 November and Wednesday 4 November then closed until further notice
North Devon Record Office, Barnstaple – Open Wednesday 4 November then closed until further notice
We’re looking forward to welcoming you back to use the Archives and Local Studies collections and resources.
Because of Covid-19 we’re making some changes to the way we operate, including rigorous cleaning of public spaces and quarantine systems for documents.
You’ll notice other changes too, including hand-sanitiser stations, screens, signage and floor guides, which are intended to ensure a safe environment for visitors and staff.
The guidance below will help you prepare for your visit.
• An appointment must be made before visiting
• Documents must be pre-ordered
• Contact information must be provided at the point of booking
Please do not book if you live in a local lockdown or Tier 3 area, if you have any symptoms of Coronavirus (Covid-19), if you are awaiting a test result, or if you have been contacted by NHS: Test and Trace.
The Somerset Heritage Centre and Devon Heritage Centre are open for research visits.
o The opening days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
o There are two bookable sessions each day. These are from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm to 4.30 pm. There is a limit of 6 people per session at each centre.
The North Devon Record Office is open for research visits.
o The opening days are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
o There are two bookable sessions each day. These are from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm and 2.00 pm to 4.30 pm. There is a limit of 4 people per session.
Christmas opening: All three heritage centres will be closed from lunchtime on Thursday 24 Dec and re-open from Tuesday 5 Jan.
Booking an appointment
Appointments are essential as numbers will be restricted
• Appointments are released a fortnight in advance.
• Appointments can be booked via Eventbrite.
• Appointments will normally be limited to one morning or one afternoon session per week in the first instance. Please respect this to enable as many people as possible to have the chance to book a session.
• If your research need is not urgent please consider whether you need to book immediately on reopening.
You will need to provide the following information when making a booking:
• Your full name, email address and phone number.
• Your reader’s ticket number if you already have one.
• Document references for pre-ordering (see below for further information).
• If you will mainly require either a microfiche reader, microfilm reader or public access computer then you can make a specific booking for these resources.
• All documents must be pre-ordered. We will not be able to get any documents out for you during your visit.
• Please use our online catalogues to find the references for the items you wish to use
• Documents can be pre-ordered at the time of booking and must be ordered at least 48 hours before your visit.
• You can pre-order up to 6 documents per visit. If you have particular requirements relating to your document requests please phone us to discuss these. Please note that telephone lines will only be answered during temporary opening hours.
o Somerset Heritage Centre – 01823 337600
o Devon Heritage Centre – 01392 888700
o North Devon Record Office – 01271 318792 or 01271 342174
What to do when you arrive
• Sanitise your hands using the stations provided.
• At reception please give your name so that we can confirm your attendance.
• Place bags, etc., in allocated lockers.
Important information for visitors to the North Devon Record Office:
• Barnstaple Library is operating a queuing system outside the building for users of the library service. To avoid needing to queue please explain that you have a booking to use the record office to the member of staff on duty at the door and they will direct you to the Record Office.
Important information for visitors to Devon Heritage Centre:
Access to Great Moor House is currently restricted to staff and our visitors. When you arrive please ring the doorbell on the inner door and someone will let you in.
In the searchroom
• You will be allocated a table or microfilm/fiche reader as booked and asked to read our Covid-19 Visitor Charter.
• All the documents that you ordered will be available for you to work through.
• All documents, library books, and other resources will need to be returned to appropriate trolleys or boxes provided so that they can be quarantined.
• Please be aware of other researchers and of staff and maintain social distancing at all times.
• Hand sanitiser stations will be available for you to use during your visit.
What are you doing to ensure the safety of researchers and staff?
We have installed new signs, perspex screens, floor guides and sanitiser stations. We ask you to practice good hand hygiene, maintain 2 metres distance from other people and take time to read our guidance. We will be cleaning facilities between each session.
How many people will there be at each booked session?
We will be strictly limiting the number of people in the searchrooms at any one time. Initially this will be 6 people at the Somerset Heritage Centre and at the Devon Heritage Centre and 4 people at the North Devon Record Office.
Are you introducing quarantine measures for archives and books?
We will be quarantining all documents, books, microfiche and microfilm for 72 hours after use. This is as recommended by The National Archives.
Will I need to wear a face covering?
In line with government guidance, all visitors will be required to wear a face mask for the duration of their attendance at our sites. The government guidance about the suitability of a face mask and how it should be worn may be found using this link.
We ask that all visitors comply with this requirement for your safety and the safety of other visitors and staff.
Will everyone need to wear gloves?
No, you will only need to wear gloves if handling very delicate or photographic materials. We are providing sanitiser stations and cleaning facilities and are quarantining documents. We are following best practice guidance on limiting risks from the virus while also caring for the documents.
Will staff be enforcing social distancing and safety measures?
We ask all visitors to follow our Covid-19 Visitor Charter which explains the safety measures that are in place. We will allocate seating to provide social distancing. Any concerns should be notified to a member of staff.
How will you comply with NHS: Test and Trace?
We will hold your booking details relating to each visit in order to comply with NHS Test and Trace guidelines.
We have a QR code available as part of the NHS Track and Trace App.
Will the air conditioning in the searchroom be used?
Air conditioning systems will generally not be used at present, but where possible windows will be opened to allow ventilation.
Booking and facilities
Can I visit without an appointment?
Not at present. An appointment is essential. The numbers in the searchrooms will be strictly limited and you will only be able to attend with an appointment.
I’d like to extend my booking to more than one session, is this possible?
The limit has been put in place to allow as many people as possible to access the archives and local studies resources. If you would like to discuss your visit further, please contact the relevant site.
How do I find the document references to order my documents?
There are Help Guides on our online catalogue pages to help you search for relevant material. You can find the links to our catalogues here. Our research guides also provide details on many popular areas of research.
I forgot to order my documents, can I order on arrival?
All documents must be ordered when you make your booking. We will be working with reduced staff on site at any one time for safety and will need to have all your documents available for you ahead of each session.
This will be my first visit. Will I need to complete a registration form on arrival?
You will be able to complete your registration as part of the online booking process. You will need to bring relevant ID to show when you come to the site. We will allocate you your Reader’s Ticket number on arrival.
I am a new user. What ID will I need to bring on my first visit?
We need to see evidence of your printed address and your signature. These can be on two different pieces of ID if necessary. Acceptable forms of ID include a drivers’ licence, utility bill, debit/credit card or bank statement. We unfortunately cannot accept passports.
Will lockers be available?
Lockers will be available and will be allocated on arrival. All lockers and keys will be thoroughly cleaned between each use.
Will toilet facilities be available?
Toilet facilities at the Somerset Heritage Centre and Devon Heritage Centre will be available. Disabled toilet access will be available on the second floor at North Devon Record Office/Barnstaple Library, with public toilet facilities also available close by.
Will I be able to get copies of documents?
We advise you to bring a camera and purchase a photographic licence if you would like to take copies. We can take orders for photocopies (where the document is suitable for this) but will not be able to provide copies during your visit. Any copies ordered will be sent on either to your email address, or by post with the addition of a postage fee.
Will all resources be available?
We aim to provide access to all resources required, including original documents, maps, books, microfilm and microfiche. The need to quarantine items for 72 hours after use means there is a slight possibility that an item may not be available during your visit. We expect this issue will be minimised by the requirement to pre-order your documents.
I only want to browse the library. Do I still need to book an appointment?
Yes, an appointment will be needed for any access to the searchroom as we are applying a strict quota to visitor numbers to enable social distancing.
Can I access items from the North Devon Athenaeum (NDA) collections at the North Devon Record Office?
Yes, you can request items from the NDA collections using the online booking system. Please consult the NDA online catalogue to obtain references.
Can I access items from the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) collections at the Somerset Heritage Centre?
Yes, you can request items from the SANHS library or archive collections using the online booking system. SANHS members wishing to borrow an item from the SANHS library will need to email or phone to make an appointment and give details of what they wish to borrow.
Can I get help from staff with my research?
We aim to be as helpful as possible. However, due to social distancing it will not be possible for us to stand or sit near you to give specific help or guidance.
Will I be able to access the computers on site and will they be clean?
There will be access to a small number of computers. These will have keyboard covers that will be cleaned between each session as well as during sessions when required. We will also provide hand sanitiser stations.
I want to use a reader-printer, microfiche reader or computer but am worried about sitting close to other people. Will there be enough space between researchers?
We have measured the distance between seats and will be allocating specific seats to ensure distance and safe access. We have removed access to some readers and computers to ensure this distance is maintained.
I usually borrow a pencil when I forget to bring one. Will I still be able to do this?
Unfortunately, we have removed all the pencils. You will need to bring everything you need with you. You will be able to purchase a pencil if you don’t have one with you.
I usually bring in all my files using your clear plastic bags. Can I still do this?
We ask you to limit what you need to bring with you as the clear plastic bags will not be available. You may bring your own clear bag if required, but you will be asked to leave any other bags in the lockers provided.
Will you be taking contactless payments only?
We would prefer you to pay by contactless payment at the Somerset Heritage Centre and Devon Heritage Centre. However, cash payments will be accepted at all our sites.
I’d like to stay and eat lunch in the refreshment area. Will this be allowed?
Unfortunately, the refreshment areas will not be available for use and refreshments will not be available to purchase on site.
What can I access online to reduce the need to visit?
Most parish registers are available on subscription services (Ancestry for Somerset registers and FindMyPast for Devon registers). A small range of other documents are also available via these websites. Many maps are available on Know Your Place or the Somerset Historic Environment Record. Please see our Research Guides for further information.
Can I deposit documents with you at the moment?
Yes, we are accepting new accessions of documents at all our sites by appointment. New guidelines about the steps you need to take are available. Please follow the appropriate guidance for the site where you are making the deposit –