Find out everything you need to know about Search Engine, our dedicated library and archive centre, before you visit.
Search Engine is open Wednesday to Saturday 10.00-16.30.
On Wednesdays, we are open for books (including our children’s book area), journals, microfilm, films and PC access. Access to our archives is available Thursday to Saturday. Find out more on our Plan a Research Visit page
Before you visit
Visiting in person
Visitors to Search Engine can consult over 25,000 books and journals, as well as our world-class archive collection that includes around 1 million engineering drawings, 11,000 posters, 2,300 prints and drawings, 1,000 paintings, and 1,750,000 photographs.
Search Engine is open to all visitors to browse books and magazines and use computer access for online resources without booking, however if you do wish to reserve a library table in advance please contact us. If you wish to view our archive collections or rare books we strongly advise providing a minimum of 7 days’ notice to reserve a table and let us know about the material you wish to access.
Access and facilities
Search Engine is easily accessible to visitors via stairs or the lift in the corner of Great Hall, near the information point.
Search Engine can be a quiet space. We have comfortable seating, a children’s library and railway films playing quietly.
We have two accessible toilets at the entrance to Search Engine
We have an induction hearing loop at the reception desk.
We have height-adjustable tables in the library and in the archive reading room.
Magnifying glasses are available on request.
If a physical visit is not possible, we operate a paid research service, Inreach.
See our museum access page for more information on facilities, maps and parking.
Reader registration and access to archives
To make a booking or to enquire about access to archival material, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we recommend giving at least 7 days' notice before your visit. Emails will be responded to as soon as possible on the days Search Engine is open. You will also need a museum admission ticket as well, and we recommend you do so in advance of your visit to save time when entering the museum.
Access to archive material is via our supervised research rooms in Search Engine. On your first visit you'll need to bring one form of identification with you (e.g. a passport or driving licence) so we can register you as an archive user.
For archival items, you can request a total of nine items during your day’s visit. If you have ordered less than nine items, it may be possible to order up to an additional three items during our three timed retrievals through the day. This will depend on the format of item and staff availability. Heavy, large format or fragile material often requires more preparation and staff time to retrieve, and photographic negatives will require several days’ notice to condition check and acclimatise.
It may be possible to make an archive booking with less than 7 days’ notice, but it will depend on availability of space in the reading room, staff resources and the type of material requested.
Using the research room
We cannot currently offer photocopying. Please bring a camera with you if you wish to photograph any material instead.
We offer a free enquiry service to help you find out what’s in our collections and direct you towards resources that may help with your research. You can email us at email@example.com—we respond to enquiries within 20 working days.
You can also look through our Research Help section, where you'll find lots of resources which may help with your research.
The Search Engine team can't carry out research for you, but if you are unable to visit, you may be interested in our Inreach service.
The Inreach Service is our team of expert research volunteers. They can carry out research on your behalf at a cost of £25 per half day. As well as the results of their search, you will receive a log of all the sources they consult for you and you may also receive copies of archival material. Their service is ideal for anyone that would find it difficult to visit the museum in person.
To request a quote, please download the request form below which you can return to us via email or post:
If you have any other queries about our Inreach service, you can contact the team at: firstname.lastname@example.org