Accessibility statement

 Visiting Us - COVID-19

In response to COVID-19, we’re making some changes to the way we operate. These changes are intended to help create a safe environment for both visitors and staff so that we can reopen our doors and get back to the work we love.

The guidance below will help you prepare for your visit. We look forward to seeing you and thank you for your patience and cooperation as we navigate these unprecedented circumstances.

Essential Information

  • Access to the archives (including microfilm resources) is by appointment only
  • Documents and microfilms must be requested in advance of your appointment
  • Contact information must be provided at the point of booking
  • For the safety of you and all visitors and staff, we strongly recommend that you please wear a face covering throughout your appointment

Please do not book or attend an appointment 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.

Opening times

For visitors to the Borthwick we are open Monday to Wednesday from 10am to 4pm. Please note that the search room and microfilm room are closed between 12.30pm to 1.30pm to accommodate staff lunch breaks and to allow us to clean tables and prepare work spaces for afternoon appointments. 

For the safety of our visitors and staff, we are limiting the number of appointments available. There are two bookable sessions each day. These are from 10am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 4pm. All-day appointments are available subject to availability.

Booking an appointment

Please contact us to book an appointment, either via email or phone:

Ordering documents

  • In order to ensure that documents are safely quarantined in advance of your visit, we ask that all documents are pre-ordered when you make your booking (and no later than five working days before your visit). We will not be able to get any documents out for you during your appointment.
  • You can order up to six documents per morning or afternoon session. If you make an all-day appointment, you may order a maximum of 12 documents.
  • Use our online catalogue to search our holdings. If you can’t find what you need or have any questions, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.

What to do when you arrive

We're based in the University of York Library, on the Heslington West campus. Unless you are exempt from doing so, please wear a face covering when inside the Library.

Please tell staff at the Library entrance that you have an appointment at the Borthwick. Staff will also be available to direct you to the Borthwick reception and search room.

  • Please sanitise your hands using the stations provided.
  • At the Borthwick reception, please give your name so that we can confirm your attendance.
  • You are welcome to take a pencil, loose notepaper, a laptop, phone and/or camera into the search room with you. Please note that a photography permit will be required in order to take photographs. Staff can provide more information if this is of interest to you.
  • Please take the time to familiarise yourself with our Searchroom Regulations (PDF , 162kb).
  • Please place all other personal belongings in allocated lockers. 

In the searchroom

  • You will be allocated a table or microfilm reader as booked and asked to read our Visitor Guidance
  • For the safety of you and all visitors and staff, we strongly recommend that you please wear a face covering throughout your appointment. You will need to provide your own face covering.
  • All the documents that you ordered will be available at your table for you to work through.
  • At the end of your visit, please leave all documents on your table.
  • Please be aware of other visitors and staff and maintain social distancing at all times.
  • Hand sanitiser stations will be available for you to use during your visit.
  • Unfortunately, we won’t be able to provide pencils and note paper.
  • Please help us accommodate as many visitors as possible by vacating your table promptly at the end of your appointment.

What remote services are on offer?

We will be able to respond to enquiries via email, telephone, post and social media during this time. We will be unable to complete searching or transcription and translation service requests at this time.  Our copying service has been resumed.

Our online catalogue - Borthcat - is still available.




How can I get access to your resources remotely?

Many of our Parish registers, Bishops’ Transcripts and Marriage Bonds and Allegations are available via Find My Past, and our Cause PapersArchbishops' Registers, and Retreat hospital archive are available, for free, 24/7 online.

Safety measures

What are you doing to ensure the safety of visitors and staff?

We have introduced new document quarantine processes, installed new signs, perspex screens, and hand sanitiser stations. We ask you to practice good hand hygiene, maintain two metres distance from other people and take time to read our guidance. We will be cleaning our facilities between each session.

How many people will there be at each booked session?

In order to ensure effective social distancing measures are in place, each morning and afternoon session will accommodate no more than four people at a time in the searchroom and two people at a time in the microform room.

Are you introducing quarantine measure for archives and books?

We will be quarantining all documents, books, microfiche and microfilm for 72 hours after use. This is currently best practice across the archives sector.

Will I need to wear a face covering?

We strongly recommend that you wear a face covering when visiting the Borthwick Institute for Archives unless you are exempt from doing so.

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 Visitor Guidance 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?

With your consent, we will hold your booking details relating to each visit for 21 days in order to comply with NHS Test and Trace guidelines.

Booking and facilities

Can I visit without an appointment?

Unfortunately, no. Reopening the search room by appointment only not only allows us to maintain safe numbers of visitors, it also gives us the time needed to ensure that documents are assessed before use. For safety reasons, we are also working with a reduced number of staff onsite. As a consequence, we are unable to admit visitors without an appointment.

I’m not sure which documents I will need. Can I make my requests on the day of my appointment?

Unfortunately, no. Due to reduced numbers of staff working in the search room at any one time, all documents must be retrieved in advance of your visit. We will not be able to retrieve documents for you during your visit. Retrieval in advance allows us to ensure that your documents are available and have been safely quarantined before use. It also ensures that you can make the most of your time with us.  Our staff are available to help you select documents before your visit. Please contact us via email or phone.

How far in advance do I need to book my appointment?

In order to ensure that your documents are available and have been safely quarantined, we require that appointments are made no less than five working days in advance. We understand that this might feel like a long wait and thank you for your patience.

How do I search your catalogue in order to identify which documents I’d like to see?

Information on how to search our online catalogue and learn more about our holdings is available. If you need any help or have any questions, please do get in touch via email or phone.

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.

What facilities will be available?

Toilets will be available. The library cafe will be providing a takeaway service serving sandwiches and hot and cold snacks. Unfortunately however, no seating will be available in the cafe or at the Borthwick.

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 digitised copies (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.

Can I browse your finding aids and reference library? 

For the safety of all of our visitors and staff, access to our paper finding aids and reference library is restricted to staff only. Many of our finding aids and other resources are available digitally. Please contact us for more information. Where this is not the case, our staff will be happy to search paper resources on your behalf.

Can I get help from staff with my research?

Yes! 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.

I want to use a microfilm reader, 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. Each reader space is more than two metres apart. 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. 

What types of payment can you accept?

We can take contactless or card payments. Unfortunately, we cannot accept cash.

What resources can I access online to help me prepare for my visit or reduce the need to visit?

You’ll find a number of research guides on our website that are designed to help visitors discover and interpret the archives in our care.

A number of our archives also have dedicated search tools or are available to browse online.