Balliol College Archives & Manuscripts

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Visiting the archives

This page contains important information for all potential visitors. Please read the whole page carefully.

Balliol's archives and manuscripts are accessible to researchers in recently restored and adapted premises in St Cross Church, Holywell. All archives and manuscript collections are at St Cross, while most early printed books are stored and consulted in the College Library on the main Broad Street site. More information about the St Cross Church project is here. For appointments to consult early printed books at Balliol, regardless of location, please contact the Librarian.

Visiting us

Planning your visit: All visits are by prior appointment. It is advisable to contact us at least a fortnight in advance of your intended visit so that we can help to make the most of your research time. If you are visiting from overseas, please contact us as far in advance as possible, and preferably before finalising your travel plans. Seating for researchers is limited and available places do fill up. The Centre is sometimes closed to individual researchers for group visits, College events etc, so it is essential to plan research visits well in advance. The Historic Collections Centre is normally open during much of University vacations, but may be closed on some public holidays and during other advertised periods of institutional closure, including a fortnight at Christmas.

Please let us know in advance if you are coming with another person. Seats are limited, and if two people are working together we will try to schedule them at a time when other researchers will not be disturbed by conversation.

Making appointments: Since Michaelmas Term 2011 all archives and manuscript material are consulted in the Historic Collections Centre at St Cross Church. Once you have determined by correspondence and consultation of finding aids that you will need to visit the Centre, please make an appointment with the archivist via contact details available here.

Identification: Readers are required to complete a registration form on their first visit and may be asked for proof of identity on all visits. Members of the University of Oxford or other universities should bring their University Cards. Students should bring, or preferably send in advance, a letter of introduction from their tutor, including their reasons for wishing to consult specific archival material. Other researchers should bring valid photo ID, though a Bodleian Libraries card is not required.

Practicalities: The reading room is situated in an old stone building and is essentially unheated, so readers will want to bring an extra layer of warm clothing at any time of year. Outdoor coats and jackets are not permitted in the reading room.

Computers and cameras: Readers are welcome to use laptops/tablets. Non-flash photography of manuscript and archive material is permitted whenever possible; please ask first, and see our Reprographics Policy. Please notify staff in advance of your visit if you wish to have access to the internet during your visit, so that you can be registered on the system in time for your arrival. There is Wifi in the reading room, including the Eduroam network - if you are registered on Eduroam via your home institution, further registration is not required. There are power points (electrical plugs) by most reader desks; please ensure that you have the correct power adapter/transformer for your device and the UK electrical system.

As a courtesy to others working, devices including cameras must be set to SILENT and mobile phones must be switched OFF in the reading room. The church's thick stone walls block most mobile signal in any case.

Food and drink including water may not be consumed in the Centre, and researchers will normally be required to leave the building during the unstaffed lunch hour. The nearest eating places to St Cross church are the Social Sciences Library Cafe (100m from St Cross), which also has a common room where you can eat your own lunch, and the University Club (500m away). There is a branch of The Missing Bean cafe in the Law Faculty's student common room (across the road from St Cross). More restaurants and supermarkets are in Holywell Street (300m from St Cross), the High Street (500m away) and the city centre (700m away). A good resource is the Oxford Daily Info.

Opening hours for researchers

  • normally, Monday-Friday 9.30am-1pm and Monday-Friday 2-5pm - may be closed during any part of this time for classes or events
  • Mon-Fri 1-2pm: closed for lunch. St Cross is not staffed during this time; researchers are required to vacate the building as well.
  • evenings and weekends: closed

When you arrive

A member of staff will meet you and provide instruction on ordering and handling procedures on a first visit. Correct handling of ancient documents is the most important factor in helping to preserve them while also being able to make them available for research. Please help us to continue to do the best possible for both manuscripts and researchers by reading the following in preparation for your visit:

All users of archives or manuscript material are required to sign a form of undertaking prior to consultation of records that they will abide by the terms of UK copyright law and the Data Protection Act. In particular they must agree to comply with the relevant conditions of access under DPA: that any information they obtain from the collections will not be used to support measures or decisions with respect to living individuals, and that it will not cause or be likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress to any individual data subject who is still alive, or likely to be alive.

Please see the Reprographics Policy for information about photocopying, digital images and taking photographs.

Why do I need an appointment?

  • There are times when the Centre is closed or when staff can only provide support for internal College enquiries.
  • The number of readers who can be accommodated on any one day is small; by arranging your visit in advance, you will be sure of a seat and can plan your time. If two people are working together we will try to schedule them at a time when other researchers will not be disturbed by conversation.
  • Pre-ordered items will be ready for you when you arrive, maximising your research time.
  • In addition, staff will be able to
    • advise you on other relevant collections
    • provide finding aids in advance in most cases
    • notify you of any materials which are not available for consultation

Researchers should be aware that arranging to visit a small archive is like requesting a meeting rather than a trip to the public library. They should apply the usual courtesies of keeping appointments punctually and notifying the archivist of delays or changes of plan. Appointments not kept waste both a professional archivist's time and another researcher's opportunity to visit.

Finding Us

Since the new facility opened in Michaelmas Term (October) 2011, all archives and manuscripts are housed and consulted in the college's Historic Collections Centre at St Cross Church, Holywell.

Driving and parking in central Oxford are very restricted. However, the city centre is well served by public transport and the church's location is easily accessible by foot.

View St Cross Church, St Cross Road, Oxford OX1 3TP in a larger map

Walking/cycling directions to St Cross; distance from Balliol College in Broad St 1/2 mile (800m):

1) East along Broad Street, becomes Holywell Street. Continue to T-junction at Longwall Street. [3 short blocks]

2) Left on Longwall Street, becomes Manor Road. Cross at belisha beacon (marked crosswalk) and continue north beside black churchyard railings. [1 block]

3) You have arrived. St Cross Church is at the junction of St Cross Road and Manor Road. Main entrance is at the west door on Manor Road. Ring buzzer mounted on side of notice board.

Step by step illustrated guide from Balliol's Broad Street site to the door of St Cross

Driving requires approach from the north via Parks Road and South Parks Road or from the south via Magdalen Bridge and Longwall Street / St Cross Road.

Access for persons with disabilities

There is wheelchair access to and within the Historic Collections Centre. Please let us know in advance if you have mobility restrictions or other disabilities so that we can help you to plan your visit.

- Anna Sander

You do not need to request permission to download or print one copy of any of the images on these pages for your personal private study or research purposes.
You do need to request permission in writing to use any of these images for any publication in any format, including any use on a website.

The archives and manuscripts of Balliol College are open by appointment to enquirers in person at the Historic Collections Centre in St Cross Church, Holywell.
Enquiries should be sent in writing (email or post).
There is no charge for Archive enquiries, but donations for Archive purposes are always appreciated.
Updated 12.xii.17
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