A view showing York Railway Station from an elevated position to the south-east, with a line of cars, probably taxis, parked along the road in front
York Railway Station in 1928. Photographer: Walter Scott © Historic England WSA01/01/04989
York Railway Station in 1928. Photographer: Walter Scott © Historic England WSA01/01/04989

Historic England Archive - Access Policy

The Historic England Archive’s Access Policy reflects the commitment in our mission statement

We enable people to understand, enjoy and engage with the heritage of the built environment of England through collecting, preserving and making available, records of its places and people.


This policy applies to the holdings of the Historic England Archive (HEA). It does not relate to records held elsewhere in Historic England.


We aim to:

  • provide excellent services and facilities to enable anyone with an interest in our collections to access them
  • provide physical access that is in keeping with the long term preservation of the collections in our care
  • increase digital access to our collections by developing online resources
  • provide learning resources based on HEA’s holdings
  • seek the views of users and potential users to help us to evaluate and improve the services we offer

Online access

The HEA provides the following free online resources:

  • Find Photos – a catalogue to our terrestrial collections including 1 million records and over 600,000 photographs, drawings, reports and plans
  • Aerial Photograph Explorer – a map giving access to over 400,000 digitised photos taken from our aerial photo collections

These resources can be accessed via the Historic England Archive web page.

Enquiry service

The HEA provides a free basic enquiry service and charged-for priority and research services. Full details of the services offered are available on our website.

Due to limited staff resource, we may refuse complex and/or voluminous requests, but we will suggest alternatives where possible.

Visits to the Public Search Room and Library

The Public Search Room and Library are usually open to the public Tuesday - Thursday, 9.30am - 12.30pm and 1.30pm - 4.30pm. Staff are always available at our enquiry desk to supervise use of original material and provide advice.

All key information about visiting is provided on our website.

Visitors must book in advance and are issued with a security pass and by making a booking they accept our terms of use.

We restrict what can be brought into the Public Search Room & Library to protect the archive material from damage and to keep it secure.

We admit those under 16 who are accompanied by an adult and supervised by them at all times.

Find out more about visiting the Archive and Library.

Restrictions on Access

We are committed to providing the widest possible access to the collections we hold, but we may restrict access to vulnerable or damaged items to prevent further deterioration.

Occasionally restrictions may also be applied due to the sensitive content of a collection.

When we need to restrict access, we will tell our users and offer alternatives if possible.


The HEA is committed to providing a core level of free access to its collections to anyone with an interest in the historic environment.

There is no charge to visit or view items in the collection and we provide free search services.

In accordance with HM Treasury guidelines, we charge for copies and for some search services. Our price list is available in our Public Search Room and on our website.

Our charges for copying reflect the cost to us of producing copies.

Copying is subject to the condition of the item, copyright and any restrictions on access.

Reproduction permission

We permit the re-use of items in our collection in line with the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015.

An application form is available to request permission to reproduce items in our collections.  Where we can issue permission, we do this via an electronic letter that specifies the permitted use and terms and conditions. 

We may charge a reproduction fee which is calculated based on the use requested.  We will always advise of any fee and request confirmation before issuing permission. 

Where we cannot issue permission due to third-party copyright, or where additional permission from a third party is required, we will direct users to the appropriate rights holder(s) where possible.


We provide introductory tours of the Archive in Swindon for anyone who would like to find out more about what we hold and how we care for our collections.

We work with national and local heritage and cultural organisations to plan and deliver outreach events including initiatives such as Explore Your Archives, Heritage Open Days and The Big Draw.


We offer a wide range of learning resources on our website which makes extensive use of the HEA’s images.  Over 7,000 images are freely available for classroom use.

Our Heritage Schools programme aims to help school children develop an understanding of their local heritage and its significance.

Consulting our Users

We carry out targeted user consultations in order to inform the development of online resources. We carry out some consultations ourselves and engage others to conduct specialist user research for us.

We send a link to a short anonymous survey with all our emails to users of our enquiry service and encourage feedback. We have anonymous paper feedback forms for visitors.
We aim to investigate complaints thoroughly and promptly.

Policy review

This policy will be reviewed by the Archive Management team every 2 years. The next date for review is June 2024.