The archives collections can be used for the research of family history, general historic interest or for legal and evidence purposes.

The Archives Catalogue

The East Riding Archives Catalogue is an online database of items held in our archives and local studies collections. It does not show the item, but describes what it is and provides the finding number needed to request to view it. It also gives the date, and for books, shows author and publication date. To view the originals, you need to visit the archives.

Why does the catalogue not show items?

There are almost 400,000 items in our collections so not all can be digitised. Some are too fragile to create digital copies. Some are protected by copyright law and cannot be replicated to show online, others are closed for data protection reasons. You may be able to make or order a single copy of open items for private research. See our using the archives page.

Using the catalogue

The catalogue is a searchable database. You can do a simple search by keyword, or filter specific items with an advanced search.

When you find an item you would like to view, you can request to view it in the Research Room at East Riding Archives. Use the reserve items to view form to book your visit and reserve the item in advance and our staff will have it ready for when you arrive.

What's in our collections?

Our archives collections are full of hidden treasures that reveal secrets of East Riding heritage. It's more than just documents and records, it's about looking back into forgotten lifestyles as well as preserving memories of the East Riding today.

It's more than names and places, there are more curious documents and memories collected as well. Can you solve maths questions from 1750? Will you bake a 200-year-old cake fit for a princess? Look at the types of records we hold at East Riding Archives and find out.

What's in the archives

Policies on collection and access

We maintain a number of policies on our standards on preservation and access to historic records available to download and read.

The Conservation Workshop

On your next visit to the Treasure House, take a look inside the Conservation Workshop next to the Research Room. You might be able to see our Conservator at work preserving or repairing documents.

Conservation involves both reviving documents that are close to ruin and preserving documents in good condition so they remain that way to be accessed by generations to come. We hold many valuable documents and essential records, but some do not arrive in a condition that is ready to be handled. Items could have been found covered in mould, stained by flood waters or met with a number of possible accidents. It is our job to rescue these items. Cleaning and piecing them together again before we can preserve them in special acid-free storage boxes, in environment controlled strongrooms, where they will stand the test of time. Only in this way can we maintain a permanent archive of the East Riding.

There's a special machine or tool for every possible job in the conservation workshop.

Archives brought into the conservation workshop are very fragile, and need a delicate touch.

There is science and skill to conservation of historic documents. In this image, a chemical treatment for unstable historic ink is being prepared.

The edges of documents are usually the first to suffer damage. It is important to store collections properly.

Consolidating very fragile paper prior to repair.

The image to the left shows a document before the conservation process, and the image to the right shows the same document partway through repair treatments.

Historic ink can be very fragile, easy to fade and remove.

Archive collections need to be stored in dry, cool conditions or else they may get mouldy like this unfortunate document.

East Riding Archives welcome tour groups to find out more about the fascinating work we do. Get in touch to find out more.

Caring for the collection

Discover how our conservators take care of our collections and tips to preserve your own too.

How the conservator looks after documents
How you can look after documents

Conservators look after the physical well-being of historic documents and objects. In particular, archival conservators work with the various formats of historic documents in the form of books, parchment, paper, maps and plans.

We care for the ERA archive by monitoring the condition of the collection and providing a secure and stable storage environment. We assess any new items that come into the building and provide safe archival packaging. We also advise on handling and display.

In addition, we also carry out repairs to damaged documents. These can include

  • Cleaning away surface dirt (and even washing paper using specialist techniques, to remove decay by-products and pollutants).
  • Neutralising unstable inks. Removing unstable historic repairs. Flattening creased, distorted or rolled items so that they can be handled or photographed.
  • Repairing and re-binding books. Repairing torn or weakened paper and parchment.

Conservators are specially trained in the craft and science of materials and repair techniques. They follow a code of professional ethics.

While science and modern technology certainly has a place in conservation practice, many of the techniques and tools we use are traditional and would be recognised by the craftspeople who originally created the books and documents we work on.

Conservation is not the same as restoration. We aim for minimal intervention and our job is to preserve documents and the information they contain, not return them to a 'good as new' condition.

Our conservator has shared tips on how you can look after your own documents and handle ours safely.

When you visit the archive to access our documents you will be provided with advice and equipment to enable you to handle documents safely.

Different formats and materials have different needs. We are lucky that the historic paper and parchment people used to write on in the past has stood the test of time, but the same can't be said for a lot of modern paper, photo-reproductive techniques and digital media. Your documents might not be old now but we'd like to give them the chance to be around for future generations!

Tips on how to preserve your own documents:

  • Handle your documents carefully and protect items that are already fragile or damaged.
  • Make copies of documents you intend to use often, especially if they are fragile. Don't handle originals more than you have to.
  • Use archival, acid-free packaging. If you want to display a document, talk to a professional framer who should be able to advise on safe materials and mounting techniques.
  • Store your records in a suitable place; cool, dry and dark is best!
  • Things to avoid: improvised repairs (sticky tape is a conservator's nightmare!), too much light heat or damp, spilled food and drink.