Welcome to our archives
The archives cared for by Barts Health are amongst the largest and most important hospital collections in the UK, with records filling over 2.5km of shelving. We hold records dating from 1137, shortly after the foundation of our oldest hospital, St Bartholomew's, to the current day. They include records relating to staff, patients, buildings and management of the hospitals in the current Barts Health group, as well as numerous other hospitals, institutions, charities, organisations and individuals relating to health care and training in the City and East London. The majority of this material is normally available for research, though some more recent material may be restricted under the Data Protection Act.
Archive appointments may be booked between 9.30am and 4pm, Tuesday to Friday, and must be booked at least one week in advance. Documents must be ordered in advance of your visit.
The archives will be closed to appointments and enquiries during the Christmas period from Monday 25 December 2023 to Monday 1 January 2024 inclusive, and then from Monday 8 - Friday 19 January 2024 for our annual Collections Fortnight, when we focus on large collections preservation and cataloguing projects. All enquiries received during that time (with the exception of urgent clinical or legal requests of Subject Access Requests under the Data Protection Act) will be placed in a queue, and we will endeavour to respond as soon as posisble after we reopen.
For more information on what to expect when you visit, please read the ‘Visiting the Archives’ section below carefully before contacting us to book an appointment. It is possible that we may have to cancel or reschedule your appointment at short notice due to staff absence or changing public health guidance, so please check this webpage and our Twitter feed for the latest information.
If you would like to support our work, please consider making a donation to support the work of Barts Health NHS Trust Archives and Museums. Please click here to donate. Want to keep up to date on collections news and activity? Click here to join our newsletter mailing list.
Visiting the archives
The archives searchroom is located on the ground floor of the Kenton and Lucas Block at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, accessed using entrance Kenton and Lucas entrance C.
- Access to the searchroom is by prior appointment only. Appointments are subject to availability.
- Appointments are usually for one person only except by prior arrangement. Please let us know if you will be accompanied by someone acting in a support or carer role or if you have any additional access requirements.
- Requests for appointments should be made at least one week in advance. Same day requests will not be possible. You will need to order your documents for consultation at the time of booking; all documents for the following week must be ordered by 12.30pm on the Friday before. You can search our catalogue online to identify material relevant to your research.
- Opening hours are 9.30am to 4pm, Tuesday to Friday, with a short closure for lunch between 12:30pm and 1pm.
- All users must complete a researcher registration form in advance of their visit. Completion of the form indicates agreement to comply with our Regulations for access to the archives [pdf]
- On arrival, please ring the doorbell for the Archives (opposite the door at entrance C) on arrival, so that a staff member can let you in. If you are running late, please call us on 020 3465 7608 or email to inform us.
- Please do not visit the archives if you are experiencing any symptoms of infectious illness eg Covid-19 or norovirus.
Searching the archives
Searching the archives
To find out more about our archives, search or browse our online catalogue. We can help and advise researchers, so please contact us with your enquiry. We also have a suite of research guides, designed to highlight some of the key research themes across our collections and to tell you where you can find, access and understand the relevant records. This is an expanding resource and we will be adding more guides over time.
We aim to be as helpful as possible, but we do not have the staff resources to carry out detailed research for you.
What we hold
We hold records of over 35 current and former hospitals as well as many organisations, institutions and individuals associated with the hospitals and with health care and health education in London - over 100 individual collections. You can find a full list of archive collections, with links through to the online catalogue, here [pdf] 782KB
View the locations of the hospitals for which we hold records and click through to our catalogue using the map below:
We are continually adding new material to the catalogue, and undertaking conservation work to ensure that the archives can be accessed now and in the future.
In recent years, generous funding from the Wellcome Trust, The Medical College of St Bartholomew’s Hospital Trust, and Barts Charity has enabled us to add thousands more items to our online catalogue. Read more about previous projects The Fight Against Tuberculosis, STIs in East London in the Twentieth Century, and A Study in Specialism on the project blogs, and find out more about the history of Whipps Cross Hospital captured through the Whipps Cross Voices project through the project website.
Accessing archives and archival datasets online
You can search catalogue descriptions of over 70,000 records online, using our online catalogue. Although the majority of the records listed on the catalogue can currently only be consulted through a visit to the archives, afew collections or series of records have been digitised and can be accessed online, as follows:
- Images from the St Bartholomew's Hospital Pathology Illustrations collection are available as part of the Wellcome Collection's image catalogue.
- Search and browse the Student Registers for St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical College, 1906-1934 and indexes to earlier students
- Search the St Bartholomew's Hospital Journal from 1893 onwards
A few films from our audio visual collections have been digitised and may be viewed at our YouTube channel, alongside short videos produced by the archives team to highlight items and stories from the collections.
The Historic Hospital Admission Records Project (HHARP) is an online database of admission records for four historic children's hospitals, including the Alexandra Hospital for Children with Hip Disease, records of which are held in our collections. The database of admissions for the Alexandra Hospital covers inpatient admissions for the years 1867-1895 The website also features articles on aspects of the hospital’s history, and short biographies of medical staff. Registration is necessary to access the full contents, but is free of charge.
Records of many other London hospitals whose records are not held by Barts Health Archives are held at London Metropolitan Archives. Their guide to the Hospital Records they hold, and how to access them, is available online.
Projects and Events
Bringing the collections closer at the Royal London Hospital
Thanks to generous funding from Barts Charity, we are delighted to be commencing a new project in 2023 to develop new digital displays for busy waiting areas in the Royal London Hospital. The new displays will provide new ways for patients and visitors to the hospital to explore material from the historic collections of the hospital, which span nearly three centuries.
We are currently looking for patients and local residents to join us as Community Curators. You will work with us on a new project to develop new interactive digital displays at the hospital. Help us discover new stories and bring new perspectives on the historic collections of the Royal London Hospital.
Community Curators will receive a £40 voucher as a thank-you for participating. To find out more and get involved, please contact us. You can also come and find us in the Stepney Way atrium at the Royal London from 10am-2pm on Tuesday 14 November and Wednesday 22 November to find out more about the project and how to get involved.
In 2023, we launched the Barts Health NHS Trust Archives newsletter, to share updates on recent activities and current projects. Contact us to join our mailing list.
You can view and download previous issues below.
You can also download issues of the Whipps Cross Voices project newsletter, which has provided regular updates on our project at Whipps Cross Hospital.