USING THE MIDLAND RAILWAY STUDY CENTRE
Even the most precious historical document is effectively worthless if no-one ever sees it. Granted, saving anything for future generations is important, but the information a document or artefact contains must be made available in the here-and-now. That is what the Midland Railway Study Centre aims to achieve with its stunning collection of paperwork and ephemera focussed upon the pre-grouping railway company, the Midland Railway. We facilitate access to the information and very often that can only be achieved by using the original document itself. The safety and preservation of the document is always paramount though, and for that reason we have to place reasonable restrictions on how they are used and handled. Visiting us shouldn't be an exercise in red tape and we strive to make the inevitable bureaucracy as straightforward as possible, as will be explained here.
In many cases it is quite possible that we are able to provide you with some or even all the information you seek without having to visit us here in Derby. In any event, a first step in any enquiry is for you to search our on-line catalogue for the subject or person you are interested in. Shorter, less-specific searches are best to start with, drilling-down into more specific questions if you find you get lots of results initially. You may well find there is something there which you can download that answers your question immediately.
The next step in using the Study Centre is — obviously — in making contact. An email conversation will allow you to explain what you're looking for and what you hope to achieve from your visit. It will also be helpful for us to discuss what you have already established and where you have already looked. It may be we can help you without visiting us, especially if you are located a long way from Derby. There is no substitute for visiting in person and being 'hands on' with the documents if you can though. It is amazing what comes out of an in-depth conversation about your given topic.
Having established that we can indeed help you we will have arranged an appointment with you. These are generally on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays, but we can usually be flexible on that if necessary. Sometimes our volunteers have some distance to travel themselves, so we generally arrange appointments for after 10:30 and ending in time for the Museum staff to lock up when the building closes. There is no car parking on site unless you hold a blue badge, but we will discuss parking, directions and access to the building with you as part of the appointment process. One piece of bureaucracy we do insist on is that all our visitors bring photo-ID with them to show on arrival.
When you arrive at the Study Centre you'll be shown to the Reading Room. We prefer that your bags and coats are kept away from the area where documents will be brought out to you and we have somewhere for them to be kept for you. You're welcome to bring your laptop or tablet and the workspaces are equipped with power points, WiFi and good lighting. When it comes to note taking we have a positive aversion to ink, so it's pencils only in the Reading Room — we're sue you'll understand that one! Other than asking you to respect our volunteers' reasonable requests when it comes to handling the documents to keep them safe, that's pretty much it when it comes to Rules & Regs.
Oh, I forgot another fairly standard rule of all libraries and archives; no eating or drinking in the Reading Room. The Museum of Making has an excellent cafe and we would invite you to use that area for your breaks.
One of the fundamental objectives of the new Museum of Making is to have all the objects in its collections accessible to visitors. Consequently, there may be some item(s) in our collections which you want to see (and perhaps measure or photograph in detail). We should be able to facilitate that but we will of course need lots of notice in order to retrieve the object from wherever it may be on display. Again, this is something we will discuss when making your appointment.