Please take the time to read these guidelines, we appreciate your co-operation: 

On the day of your visit

  • Please bring your own supply of paper, pencils, and pencil sharpeners.
  • Laptops and cameras are allowed, however out of consideration for all our readers, cameras/phones must be in silent mode with no shutter sounds and the flash switched off. No tripods, stands or scanners are permitted.
  • We do not allow pens, food, or drink in the Research Room. Refreshments are available to purchase from the café on Level 0. 
  • The Museum lockers outside the Archive and Research Room will be in use so please leave any coats, bags, or laptop cases there before entering the room. You will need a £1 coin to operate them.
  • To ensure the protection of our collection the air conditioning will be switched on. Please bring in additional layers as it may be cold.
  • Please ensure your hands have been washed and are completely dry before handling any items from the collection. We may ask researchers to wear gloves in certain instances for preservation reasons and staff can advise on these.
  • Please follow staff advice on issuing and return of material. If another researcher is at the staff desk, please wait until they have finished before you approach it. 
  • We ask you to minimise moving around the room as much as possible and to refrain from chatting with other readers.
  • You can pick up weights (glass and snakes), paper markers and cushions. The Librarian will show you where these are. They must be returned to the Librarian at the end of the session.
  • If you wish to access any of the books from the Research Room shelves, please take them to your desk. If you wish to use them the next day, please return them to the Librarian and let them know you wish to reserve the items. Otherwise return any books used to the Librarian and state that you have finished with them.
  • There is free public WiFi access available to our visitors in the Research Room.
  • We do ask that if you feel unwell or have COVID-19 symptoms you cancel and re-arrange your appointment by emailing [email protected] to help us protect our staff and visitors. 

Photography and copying 

  • Self-photography with a personal camera for personal non-commercial uses and other 'fair dealing' copying purposes is permitted and free. Please let the Research Room staff know that you would like to take images with your personal camera so they can issue you with a permit.
  • Self-photography may not be allowed in some cases if the item can be damaged or in cases where no copying in any form is permitted.
  • Copies of material from our collection can be requested on our collections, sales and licensing page

Reserving material for future visits

  • We can keep material on reserve for you and we would be grateful if at the end of your visit you could let us know whether you would like us to do so.


  • Toilet access is available on Level 0. An accessible toilet is available on Level 2 to the left of the Peace and Security: 1945-2014 exhibit. 

Safe handling of the collections in the Research Room

  • We have created the below video to guide you in the safe handling and use of different items from our collections in the Archive and Research Room at IWM London.
  • Most of our material is rare and fragile and needs to be handled with care to ensure it is preserved for future generations of researchers.
  • If you are unsure about how to handle any items in our collections, please ask staff in the Archive and Research Room for help.

Guidelines for handling the collections in the Archive and Research Room

Maria Castrillo: “Hello and welcome to the Imperial War Museum. My name is Maria Castrillo and I’m Head of Collections Access and Research at IWM. If you're planning a visit to the Archive and Research Room soon, I want to run you through some simple and useful handling guidelines to ensure our collections remain in good condition for the use of researchers now and in the future.

IWM Archive and Research Room is located on the second floor of our flagship building in Lambeth Road, London. When you arrive, a member of staff will welcome you and ask you to put any large personal belongings in the lockers outside the room, so you only need to bring in what is essential for your work. Before you start your research, make sure your hands are clean. Wash them with soap and water and ensure they are dry and clean before and when handling any items.

Avoid using alcohol gel, hand creams or perfume as fragrance and moisture can damage materials. Be mindful of long hair or wearing long jewellery, as it can catch or tear paper and other materials. Food and drink are not permitted while handling collections in the Archive and Research Room as they can damage items permanently. We also ask that you use a 2b pencil if you need to make notes or we can provide you one if you have forgotten to bring it. The reason for this is that if you accidentally mark an item with pencil, it is easier to remove than pen.

The use of laptops is also permitted in the Archive and Research Room. We recommend that you bring only what you need inside the Archive and Research Room and that you keep your desk as clutter free as possible. Loose documents normally come inside an acid-free grey folder. Very often folders are tied in with linen tape. Folders can rest flat on the text surface without any need for supports.

Open the folder and handle the items inside with care from right to left, as if you were reading a book. Avoid touching the text as far as possible as the moisture of your fingers can smudge the ink. When you're finished, place all the items in the same order as you found them, evenly and flat inside the folder to avoid creating any bumps that can damage the contents.

If you're issued with a box of files, please handle one file at a time and ensure you don't have multiple files open at the same time as the contents can get mixed up, especially if the folder contains small items.

Handling photographs requires extra care. Always pick up loose photographs from the edges. If the photographs have been placed in protective polyester pockets, you don't need to wear gloves and please don't distract them from the enclosures. If the photographs are not protected, you will need to wear neutral gloves which we can provide. The reason for this is that the surface of the print can be scratched or damaged by the natural moisture of your fingers. Some of our photographs are in bound volumes and albums which can be quite fragile. You will not need to use gloves to turn the pages, but it is important to use supports to ensure that the spine of the volume is protected. Some of archival and printed material comes in bound volumes. Although these can look robust, they need to be carefully handled. Carry large volumes and box closed under the arm with a spine down or in front of you with two hands. Volumes and books need to be supported to protect the spine when placed on the desk and staff will set this up for you. Once open, take care when turning the leaves and use a page turner where necessary. Sometimes you might need to use a white snake to hold the pages open but avoid placing it on text areas. Volumes can be opened at 120 degrees or 90 degrees if they are very tight.

If you need to remove a book from the open accent shelves in the Archive and Research Room, don't pull it off the shelf by the top of the spine or by gripping the spine. Simply reach to the back of the shelf and push the volume out by the full edge. Alternatively, you can carefully push the box on either side of the required volume and lift it off the shelf. Be cautious of the touch jacket, they often have tears present which are vulnerable. If you're handling a paperback book, please handle it with care and don't flick through it as if you were reading a novel. Some of our sound archive recordings are still in cassette tapes. Always handle the tapes from the plastic case and avoid touching the brown magnetic tape. Place carefully the cassette tape inside the player, close it and play it. Keep the tapes away from any magnetic fields such as mobile phones and similar electronic devices, as they can damage the recordings. If you are unsure about how to handle any materials, ask staff in the Archive and Research Room for advice as they are always happy to help. 

If you notice issues with any items, please report it to our staff. We will contact our colleagues in the preservation and conservation department so they can assess the item and decide if it needs to be repaired. The most important thing is to pay attention to how you handle the collections. Some of our materials might not look old or fragile but they are often irreplaceable. We want to make sure that you and other researchers can continue to access them in the future, so please help us preserve them for future generations. We hope you have found this video useful and if you have any questions please contact us.”

We have created this video to guide you in the safe handling and use of different items from our collections in the Archive and Research Room at IWM London.

Most of our material is rare and fragile and needs to be handled with care to ensure it is preserved for future generations of researchers.

If you are unsure about how to handle any items in our collections, please ask staff in the Archive and Research Room for help.