Searchroom rules

While we aim to give access to our holdings, preservation and security is paramount.

We are committed to providing access to its historical resources for anyone wishing to use them. There are other considerations which also have to be taken into account; preservation and security of the documents, many of which are unique, are particularly important.

The following rules must be followed:

Access to the public searchroom

  • Access to the searchroom (or reading room) is available to everyone.
  • Booking a seat in advance of a visit is advisable, to ensure there is space available.
  • All visitors to the searchroom are required to fill in a signing-in slip
  • Access to the searchroom is free of charge. However, a charge is made for certain services provided within it, such as copying documents or printing. 
  • Access will be provided at the times stated on the noticeboards outside the building, in service leaflets, and on the OHC pages of the county council’s website. It may, though, be necessary for the service to close without notice due to unforeseen circumstances, and the Centre cannot be held responsible for this. Every effort will be made to publicise anticipated closures by notices in the building and through the website.
  • Children are welcome in the searchroom, either individually or in groups (for example, as a school visit) provided they are accompanied by an adult if they are under 11.
  • No animals except guide and hearing dogs are allowed.

Access to documents

  • Oxfordshire History Centre is a member of the CARN reader’s ticket system. Access will not be granted to original material for anyone without a ticket, unless they are the owner or depositor of that material, although if someone forgets their ticket they can sign an agreement form to the effect that this is a one-off and hand over another form of security while looking at documents. If they are the owner or depositor, they must produce reasonable proof of the fact. Children/young people aged 14-18 at school or college can apply for a CARN ticket by bringing in a letter or e-mail from their teacher or tutor: they do not have to provide photographs for a ticket or photographic or any other evidence of their ID.


  • Access to documents within OHC is determined within the framework of the following legislation:
  • Public Libraries and Museums Act (1964)
  • Public Records Acts (1958) and (1967)
  • Local Government Acts (1962) and (1972)
  • Parochial Records and Registers Measure (1978, revised 1992)
  • Law of Property Acts (1922) and (1924)
  • Tithe Act (1936)
  • Data Protection Act (2018)
  • Freedom of Information Act (2000)


  • Certain classes of document and individual documents are closed under data protection legislation. Where possible, such closure will be noted in the catalogues, but we cannot guarantee that this will be the case, and there may be instances in which the member of staff on duty feels it necessary to close a document on the spot where data protection is clearly going to be breached.
  • The History Centre does not accept documents which are permanently closed to public inspection. However, records may be deposited with a limited closure on them, and these documents will not be available for general access until the closure period has terminated.
  • Access to uncatalogued material is subject to its deposit status, and further permission from the depositor may be required before access can be granted. This is to ensure that document security and information sensitivity are not compromised.
  • Where, in the opinion of the Conservation Manager or duty staff, a document   will be damaged by being produced for inspection, the centre reserves the right to close it to public access.
  • In such cases an identical copy of a document (such as a photograph or digital image) will be considered an adequate substitute for the original.

Conduct in the searchroom

  • All bags, including handbags and cases should be left in the lockers provided in reception. The History Centre cannot accept responsibility for visitors’ personal possessions
  • Please do not take any food or drink into the searchroom. Any medication should be taken outside the searchroom, except in an emergency.
  • Mobile phones should be set to silent and only answered outside the searchroom
  • Please keep noise to a minimum, out of consideration for other visitors.
  • To avoid damage to documents, please use only pencils
  • Documents must be handled with care, in the manner and with the gloves and cushions prescribed by members of staff.
  • Use of laptops and other devices is permitted, and sockets are provided. We test the office wiring annually and cannot take responsibility for malfunction or power failure.
  • Photography and the use of memory sticks is permitted providing a photographic permit has been purchased from searchroom staff. Use of flash photography is forbidden, but a copy stand with lighting is available for use.