Making the Historic England Archive more accessible to everyone

Historic England looks after over 12 million photographs, drawings, reports and publications from the 1850s to the present day, covering the whole country.

A conservator examining a glass plate negative.
Historic England Archive staff member Saya Miles conserving a glass plate negative. Historic England Archive, Swindon. © Historic England DP164905

The archive tells a fascinating story of England’s landscape, architecture, people and heritage. It helps us to understand how past generations designed, built, and used some of England’s most important and iconic places, as well as the everyday buildings that surround us.

How the Historic England archive is used

The archive is of interest to academics and the public alike. Objects in our care are used to:

  • chronicle how England’s architecture and landscape changes over time
  • discover and protect historic sites
  • educate school pupils through local heritage packs
  • inspire everyone with the power of heritage, accessed in person and online

However, with limited funding to conserve, catalogue and digitise them, access to these significant collections is constrained, and we rely on additional funding to enable more of the archive to be available to everyone, everywhere.

Case Study: Breaking New Ground

Breaking New Ground was a 21-month project supported by the John Laing Charitable Trust to make available online 10,000 images from the John Laing Photographic Collection, offering a unique insight into the building of post-war Britain. The project conserved, catalogued and digitised the images and made them freely available in the Historic England Archive online.

Over the course of the project, the skills needed for this work were passed on to a new generation via the Breaking New Ground Trainee Programme. The project funding from the John Laing Charitable Trust and Historic England paid for three trainee positions: a Cataloguer Trainee, a Conservator Trainee and an Imaging Technician Trainee.

A man on a chair being lifted out of a skip filled with water.
A Laing director in a dunking chair, being raised from a water-filled skip, as part of the 'dunk-a-director' game during Gala Day at Laing's Elstree Sports Club. © Historic England Archive. John Laing Photographic Collection JLP01/09/841341

Trainee Programme

We created an archive trainee programme as part of the Breaking New Ground project, which gave early career archivists essential skills and experience, whilst helping to catalogue, digitise and conserve over 10,000 images in the John Laing Photographic Collection.

Support the Archives

To continue digitising their collections, the archives rely on kind donations.  

If you have an item that you would like to donate to the archives, you can find out more information on the archives page.