Advice to researchers wishing to consult religious archives

The editors thought that new readers and researchers might welcome the following advice on approaching religious archives.

Do as much preliminary research as you can in journal volumes such as Catholic Archives Society and Recusant History to identify the archive/s and the document/s needed.

Write to the archivist indicating the general topic of your research, the time period being researched and giving as much detail as you can about the sources that you would like to see: not every archive has a full catalogue or listing.

In your first approach send an original letter of recommendation from your academic supervisor or someone who knows your work well supporting your request.

Be as flexible as you can about the timing of your visit remembering that most archivists in religious archives have other responsibilities and may only have a limited time in the archive each week.

You may not hear for some time, and if so you may need to send a second letter.
Ask about using a digital camera before you go: in many archives (religious and secular) they are still not permitted. You should also mention if you need a socket for your laptop.

Remember these are private archives and access is not automatic.

Send a copy of any resulting publication to the archives you have consulted: they are very interested in what researchers write.

You will generally be asked to sign a form when you arrive agreeing to conditions for using the archive.

Follow normal archival practice over pencils etc.

The Editors

October 2006