Frequently Asked Questions

We recognise that you may have limited time for your research trip to the Museum and want to help you to get the most out of your visit to us. To this end, we have put together some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions to help you plan your visit to us.

Preparing For Your Visit

Do I need to book an appointment?

Our museum is open daily and many of our items are on permanent display. However if you wish to use the archive, consult our manuscript or book collections, or use our libraries and stored collections, you must contact us to pre-book an appointment.

Can I book my visit on any day?

We can accommodate research visits during our opening hours, Monday to Friday.

Owing to the size of the Wood Library, we can only accommodate one researcher at a time so, whilst we will do our best to accommodate requests for specific dates, this may not always be possible and it is helpful if you can provide us with a few options for your visit.

Do I need to tell you what archive materials I need in advance?

In order to get the most out of your research visit, it is helpful if we know what items in the collection you need to access before your visit so that we can ensure they are ready for you on arrival.

Some of our collection is stored off-site and it may not be possible to access it on the day of your visit without prior arrangement.

How can I find and order what materials I need?

You can search the whole of our collection online to check for specific materials.

In addition our staff have an extensive knowledge of Johnson, his circle, and his times and are happy to discuss your research topic and suggest relevant material from our holdings, so please contact us!



On The Day

When should I arrive and when do I need to leave?

We can accommodate research visits during our opening hours.

Currently we open 10.30am – 4.30pm between 1 March – 31 October, and 11am – 3.30pm between 1 November - 28 February.

Entrance into the museum is via the bookshop, where a member of staff on the front desk will greet you and direct you the Wood Library.

What should I bring with me?

You will need to bring some photographic ID (i.e. passport/driving license) with you, and you will need to complete a researcher registration form on arrival.

Your coat and bags can be kept with you in the library.

The Wood Library is equipped with a range of specialist materials to help you access the collection including rests, books snakes, magnifiers, and gloves so you will only need to bring your own research materials, such as notepads, stationery etc.

In order to prevent damage to the collection, you must use a pencil or an electronic device to make notes. Pens and highlighters are not permitted in the Wood Library or Guildhall study space. We have pencils and pencil sharpeners available for research use, as well as limited stationery supplies available for purchase in the bookshop. There are also high street stationers within walking distance if you forget anything.

You are welcome to bring your own laptop, and wifi is available. 

Can I bring food and drink?

In order to preserve the collection, food and drink is not permitted in the Wood Library or Guildhall study space.  

There are a range of cafes, restaurants and shops within a few minutes’ walk of both the Museum and the Guildhall where you can purchase lunch, drinks and snacks, and our staff are happy to make recommendations if required. 

Can I make photocopies?

A4 printing and copying facilities are available by request and at additional cost.

We currently charge 30p (inclusive VAT) per side of A4 for colour copies/prints and 20p (inclusive VAT) per side of A4 for monochrome copies/prints.

Some objects may not be available for copying due to their condition. Museum staff can advise on this and, for most of our manuscripts, scans are available and can be printed for you if required.

Can I take photographs?

You are welcome to take photographs of the majority of items in our collection for individual research purposes. If an item cannot be photographed, staff will advise you of this.

We do have photographs and digitised scans of many of our collections items and are happy to make these available to you on request.

Can I borrow items from the collection?

No, we do not loan items from the collection to individual researchers, and materials cannot be removed from the Wood Library/Guildhall study space during your visit.

However you are welcome to request copies or take photographs of materials, and we are happy to arrange for further research visits if you need more time to consult materials.


Handling Archive Materials

How do I handle the materials? 

Archive materials can be delicate so it is best to handle them carefully!

The general rule of thumb is to handle the materials as little as possible and to be gentle when handling items, opening and closing books, or when turning pages.

We have a range of book rests and book snakes to help you access and handle materials.

It should go without saying, but please do not write/mark any books/manuscripts, turn down corners, or use post it/sticky notes on any of the pages.

If you are worried about handling any of the materials you need, please ask a member of staff and they will be happy to assist you.

What is a book rest and how do I use one?

A book rest supports a book whilst it is being read. They are used to prevent damage to the spine.

We have a range of standing book rests and book pillows available for use in the Wood Library.

If you have never used book rests before, our staff are happy to show you the best way to select a suitable rest and use it to support the materials you are working with.

Book snakes?

Book snakes are weighted book marks that can help you keep a book open.

Using them means you can keep a page open without needing to hold it, which prevents damage to the book from the natural oils found in human skin.

We have a range of book snakes in different sizes and lengths in the Wood Library and our staff are happy to show you how to use them if required.

Do I need to wear gloves?

We generally follow the guidance of the British Library when it comes to wearing gloves so, whilst gloves are available, you will not generally need to wear them when using the majority of our materials.

Staff will advise if gloves are required when handling an object but, in general, we just ask that you ensure your hands are clean, dry, and free from any lotions or creams when handling our collection materials.

What about getting materials off shelves?

You shouldn’t need to get any of our materials yourself as staff will have any pre-requested materials ready for you in the Wood Library.

If you need to access any additional material during the course of your visit, please ask a member of staff and they will get the item off the shelf for you.