Due to Covid-19 restrictions we have introduced different procedures for depositing archives and books.  Please see our guide for details.

What We Collect

We collect material that relates to Somerset’s history or shows what Somerset is like today.  Archives can include written records, maps, photographs, sound recordings and digital records.  For more details please see our Archives Acquisitions Policy and our Local Studies Acquisitions Policy. 

If you would like to deposit oral history recordings, please request a copy of our Oral History Deposit Guidelines.

What We Don’t Collect

We only collect archives that have a strong link to Somerset.  If you have non-Somerset archives that you would like to deposit, we can advise you where would be most suitable.

If you wish to deposit artefacts, museum objects or paintings please contact  Somerset Museum Service, which is also based at the Somerset Heritage Centre.

Ownership of the Records

Archives can either be deposited as a gift or as a long-term loan.

Records that are deposited as gifts will legally belong to Somerset County Council, and be managed by the South West Heritage Trust.

Depositing records on long-term loan means you still own the records, but the South West Heritage Trust is the custodian, and cares for them on your behalf. Parish and Parish Council records are always deposited on loan.  Records that are loans can be borrowed back if necessary (for example for an exhibition or anniversary celebration), and you have the option to be contacted if there are requests to publish material from your collection.

Please note that copyright ownership is a separate issue, and not always the same as ownership of a physical document.

The Deposit Process

Please contact us before bringing in records or sending them to us.  Telephone 01823 278805 or email somersetarchives@swheritage.org.uk.

If you are depositing records in person, come to the main reception at the Somerset Heritage Centre.  Please see our Directions page for information about how to find us.  We have a free car park and can help you bring in records from your car.  A member of staff will go through the records with you, and then you will fill in a temporary receipt form together.  This form contains your contact details, details about the records, details of any records that need to have restricted access, and whether the deposit is a gift or loan.  You will be given a copy of this form to take home with you.

We will re-box the records in acid-free archive boxes and folders so it does not matter too much what you put them in to transport them here.  However, please make sure the records are in a reasonable understandable order.  Please make sure the records are dry and insect-free, and let us know about any mould or other damage to them.

We will accession the records so that we have a complete record of the deposit, and will send you a formal receipt.  This will give you the details of the reference numbers that have been given to your collection.

If we can, we will catalogue the records soon after deposit and send you a copy of the catalogue.

If you have to deposit records by post, we strongly advise you to use a courier or a ‘signed-for’ service.  Our address is: Somerset Heritage Centre, Brunel Way, Norton Fitzwarren, Taunton, TA2 6SF.

Records Containing Sensitive or Confidential Information

Once the records have been listed, the catalogue will become available on our online catalogue.  At this point, unless the records need to be kept confidential for any reason, the collection will then be available for researchers to consult in our searchroom.  Unless there are particular reasons why your collection should not be made available to the general public, anyone who is a registered user of the South West Heritage Trust will be able to look at your records.  All of our users have to abide by the searchroom rules, a copy of which is available on request.

If you would like access to any of your records to be restricted for personal reasons, please let us know at the time of deposit.  We cannot accept records that we are never allowed to make available to the public, but we can restrict access to records for certain periods of time.

Some depositors already have guidelines that state their records should be closed for a set number of years, for example Methodist Records or Masonic Records.

Many of our records contain information that is governed by the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act, and we have systems in place to deal with this.  For more information, please see our Access to Records Under Data Protection and Freedom of Information page.


There is no charge for depositing records as gifts, although as a charitable trust we welcome all donations towards the cost of caring for the collection.  If records deposited on loan are withdrawn at short notice, we may levy a charge to cover our costs.

What Should Be Kept

There are several useful guides as to which records should be deposited with an archive, which should be kept within the organisation and which can be destroyed. Please follow the links below to find our more:

Church of England Parishes

Oral History Deposit Guidelines

Methodist Churches

Parish Councils

Guide to the Deposit of Public Records

Depositing Digital Records

Digital records need to be deposited and cared for in the same way as physical records.  Preserving digital records provides different and new challenges from paper records.

A specialised digital preservation system is needed for their long-term care and to make them available for public use.  Our Guidelines for depositing digital records explain which types of digital records we can currently accept for long-term preservation in our digital preservation system.

Donations to the Somerset Studies Library

We are happy to accept donations of books and related items which will be added to the Local Studies Library.  The donations will legally belong to Somerset County Council, and be managed by the South West Heritage Trust.

We can only accept items relating to Somerset which come to us as an outright gift; for practical purposes we cannot accept loans.  Donations are catalogued and labelled and shelved either in our searchroom for general public consultation, or stored in purpose-built strongrooms, from which they can be requested.  If you have any items you would like to be considered for the library, please contact us on 01823 278805 or email somersetarchives@swheritage.org.uk.

Find Out More

For more information about depositing records with the Somerset Archives and Local Studies team, please see our Acquisitions and Disposals policies:

Somerset Archives Acquisitions and Disposals Policy

Somerset Local Studies Acquisitions and Disposals Policy​