Introducing our new ‘Book a visit to view our documents’ service

With seat reservations and advance document ordering remaining in place for now to help us manage our reading room services in line with government and public health guidance, we have spent the last few months developing a new ‘Book a visit to view our documents’ service.

Created in response to visitor feedback, the new service provides a streamlined way for visitors to book a visit. In advance of the service going live at midday (BST) Monday 19 April, we thought we’d share screenshots of some of the steps in the process to help you prepare to make a booking, and tell you about some of the main benefits that we hope it will bring.

You can book a standard visit or a bulk order visit.

More seats will always be available, and will be updated regularly 

The new service will offer four weeks’ availability on a rolling basis, with new dates added daily. This means that, when it goes live on 19 April, you will be able to reserve a seat for dates between 27 April and 22 May (inclusive). 

We’ve made this change in response to visitors expressing a preference for choosing slots from a larger range of available dates.  

The new service will offer four weeks’ availability on a rolling basis

Seat booking and document ordering now combined into one process on our website 

Fewer clicks and steps in the booking process make it simpler and easier for visitors – it’s also all on our website, which means that document references and reader ticket numbers will be checked and validated immediately, meaning that any errors will be flagged and can be rectified on the spot. 

This makes it easier for visitors to ensure that they’re getting the document that they want, without the risk of disappointment on the day of their visit.  

Enter your reader’s ticket number
Order your documents

Visitors can manage their own bookings 

We’ve introduced the ability for visitors to manage their own bookings and make changes to their document order up to five working days before their visit. This removes the need for visitors to contact us if they want to make any changes.  

Tell us what you think

We’ve carried out extensive user testing in the development of this new service, and we’d like to hear what you think. We’ve included a feedback survey in the service itself – please do use it to tell us what you think. 

If you’re interested in helping to shape our future digital services by taking part in our user research programme, get in touch with our digital user experience team: uxresearch@nationalarchives.gov.uk.  

31 comments

  1. Dorian Gerhold says:

    What time will booking begin on 19 April? This is essential information.

    1. Piriya Pordes says:

      Hi Dorian,

      The service will open at midday on 19 April.

      Thanks,
      Piriya

  2. Keith Roberts says:

    I am an infrequent visitor. My curreent research requirements are split between documents in WO 95 and WO 153. The latter are maps. Will I be able to order across these 2 areas for the same day.

    1. Piriya Pordes says:

      Hi Keith,
      If part of your order contains large documents please choose a Map and large document reading room seat when you reserve your visit – this should ensure that all of your documents are sent to the Map and large document reading room.
      Thanks,
      Piriya

  3. David Matthew says:

    Firstly I hope I do not see again TNA staff in the building not wearing masks without a medical or other reason. The issue of documents being ordered and then turning up to be told that they are not available because the departments (including TNA) are still sitting on them needs to be addressed. Have you built in enough capacity into the booking system so that it doesn’t crash when researchers log on on Monday lunchtime.

    1. Piriya Pordes says:

      Hi David,
      In accordance with national regulations, everyone in the building must wear a face covering unless they are exempt, eating and drinking, or conversing with a person who lip reads. We strongly encourage anyone who is exempt to wear an exemption lanyard.
      We cannot guarantee that all documents will be available for someone’s visit. If a large number of their order isn’t available we would contact the reader. We have provided 3 reserve documents so we can order those up if we need to. If there is a particular document the reader would like to be notified about they can add this to their additional comments.
      We’ve carried out a reasonable level of testing to make sure the booking system can handle some demand spikes.
      Thanks,
      Piriya

  4. Alon Shapira says:

    Will the Invigilation Room be open? If not, is there a date in mind?
    The underlying question, will WO 416 be available?

    1. Piriya Pordes says:

      Hi Alon,
      The Invigilation room will be accessible with limited spaces to maintain social distancing. We will allocate these spaces before your visit, so if we can’t give you a space we will let you know.
      thanks,
      Piriya

  5. Sue Moore says:

    Is the Map Room and large document available from 19th April?

    1. Piriya Pordes says:

      Hi Sue,
      The Map and large document reading room will be open from 27 April.
      Thanks,
      Piriya

  6. Neil Ashton says:

    Looking forward to the reopening! To confirm though that you will be closed Saturday 1 May, with the first available weekend booking being Saturday 8 May? (i.e. normal BH long weekend rules apply).

    1. Piriya Pordes says:

      Hi Neil,
      We will be closed from Saturday 1 May to Monday 3 May for the May Bank holiday.
      Thanks,
      Piriya

  7. Dorian Gerhold says:

    Where will ‘Book a visit’ be on the website?

    1. Piriya Pordes says:

      Hi Dorian,
      The link will be available from midday today. Keep an eye out for the booking link on our homepage https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ as we will update it at midday.
      Thanks,
      Piriya

  8. Daniel Lubin says:

    Where do we find the “book a visit” portal on the website?

    1. Piriya Pordes says:

      Hi Daniel,
      The booking link will be available from midday today. Keep an eye out for it on our homepage https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/ as we will update this at midday.
      Thanks,
      Piriya

  9. Mark Palmer says:

    Can you confirm when the building will open going forward? I appreciate that the reading rooms will be open from 10am, will the building be open earlier to allow entry to lockers and maximum productivity when the room are open?

    Thanks

    1. Matthew de Ville (Admin) says:

      Hi Mark

      Doors will open from Tuesday to Saturday at 09:30.

      Best wishes,

      Matthew De Ville

  10. Dorian Gerhold says:

    All I’m getting is an error message (at 12.13). Is it just me, or is there a wider problem? And if the latter, will there be a revised starting time?

  11. Richard says:

    Just booked a visit with no problems and looking forward to it.

    Could you advise of a number to contact on the day should there be travel delays?

    Thank you in advance.

  12. Richard says:

    I have booked documents to view on Saturday 8 May, received a booking reference and confirmation email.

    Could you advise me of the opening times – doors open to the public as well as Reading Room times please – on that day as the opening times shown online (https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/visit-us/opening-times/) state that the site is closed Saturdays?

  13. Martin Roberts says:

    I wish to research Army Lists in the bookcase. Am I able to do so and where do I sit? I asked this question yesterday but did not receive a reply.

    1. Matthew de Ville (Admin) says:

      Dear Martin

      Apologies for the slow response. You’ll need to order the documents you’d like to see in advance of your visit, i.e. they will be retrieved from the archives before you arrive. To find the document references, you’ll need to search on Discovery, our catalogue. There’s more information about how to book a visit and what you’ll need to do on this page.

      Best wishes,

      Matthew De Ville

  14. Richard says:

    I see that today (Tuesday 20 April) the information I requested regarding Saturday hours and general door open has now been added to the opening hours page.

    It would have been nice to be told of this and even have had a thanks for pointing out that it was omitted when I looked for it.

    1. Matthew de Ville (Admin) says:

      Apologies Richard – we’ve had problems accessing the comments today, and have only just managed to start responding. Many thanks for pointing out the incorrect opening hours – we made the correction following your message.

  15. Richard says:

    Thank you Mathew.

    Hopefully all your IT access problems have (or will soon be) resolved as there is clearly an appetite to view documents in person.

  16. Paul Bevand says:

    I asked the other day about access to Library items – specifically Navy Lists – when you reopen but my question seems to have disappeared. Could you clarify what the system will be as regards ordering these – on the day? In advance? Any limit on number that can be ordered? Thanks.

    1. Matthew de Ville (Admin) says:

      Dear Paul

      Apologies for the slow response. You’ll need to order the documents you’d like to see in advance, and before you confirm your visit. You can either book a ‘standard’ 1-day visit, which enables you to see up to 12 documents, or a ‘bulk order’ 2-day visit, for which you’ll have access to between 20 and 40 documents. You’ll need to have researched the documents and gathered the reference numbers ahead of making your booking. More information on the booking service can be found on this page.

      Best wishes,

      Matthew De Ville

    2. Matthew de Ville (Admin) says:

      Hi Paul

      I realise I didn’t quite answer your question properly before, so I’ll have another go.

      Because we are only available to offer a pre-booked service at the moment, you must have a confirmed booking to visit the archives. So you won’t be able to visit just to see library items (which might not have a catalogue reference) – you’ll need to enter the catalogue reference of at least one document on the booking form.

      When making your booking, Navy Lists (and all library items) must be ordered in advance using the comments box on the document order form. There isn’t a fixed limit on the quantity, but it will normally be limited to what will fit on a trolley, which will be brought to you in the reading room.

      I hope that helps.

      Best wishes,

      Matthew

  17. mwhroberts says:

    Dear Mathew, I don’t think you understood my request on Army Lists. Before Lock Down, there was an excellent collection of red Army Lists of Officers from the 1800s to 2010, plus RN officers and RAF officers on the first floor outside the secure controlled reading rooms. I don’t believe they are held under Record Numbers but are stored in year sequence in bookshelves which one could pull out oneself and research at a local table. Does that service still exist and can I book in to make use of it.

    Regards
    Martin Roberts

    1. Matthew de Ville (Admin) says:

      Hi Martin

      My mistake – I see what you mean now. That service doesn’t quite exist as it did before.

      Because we are only available to offer a pre-booked service at the moment, you must have a confirmed booking to visit the archives. So you won’t be able to visit just to see library items in the place they were before – and you must enter at least one document reference on the booking form.

      When making your booking, you can order Army Lists using the comments box on the document order form. There isn’t a fixed limit on the quantity, but it will normally be limited to what will fit on a trolley, which will be brought to you in the reading room.

      I hope that gives you the information you need.

      Best wishes,

      Matthew

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