How can I see the records described in the catalogue?
Please visit the library and archives in person to consult the collections during our opening times. If possible, please bring the reference number/s of the items you wish to see with you, and don’t forget to bring proof of address, which is necessary to register as a user.

If you are unable to visit in person, please email or phone and we may be able to send you photocopies or scans, for a small charge. This will be dependent on (a) the material is in a fit condition to be copied and (b) the extent of the material required.

Is it possible to see digital copies of items from the collections?
A selection of digitised collections are available. See our Collections and Digital Resources section of our website.

How do the records at Tower Hamlets Local History Library Archives relate to those at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA)?
The archives held here are unique and are not replicated at LMA. Broadly speaking, the LMA holds records of organisations that operated across London (Metropolitan Board of Works, London County Council, etc) while we hold records purely local to Tower Hamlets (those of Poplar Borough Council, for example). The LMA holds Church of England records for the area as well as most school and poor law records.

I am getting too many results. How can I narrow my search?
The Collections that you will find described in the catalogue fall into three distinct divisions (described as “Repositories” in the catalogue), so you can try limiting your search to the type of collection you want to consult.

  • The Local History Library Collections (printed books, pamphlets and periodicals) which is organised according to the Library’s own Subject Classification Scheme.
  • The Archive Collections. These are divided up into “Management Groups”: Local Authority Records, Business Records, Records of Institutions, Records of Societies and Associations, Records of Places of Worship, Personal and Estate Papers, Central Records of Local Government, and Oral History Records
  • The Image Collection. This consists mainly of photographs but also sketches, paintings and engravings. Note that such materials can also be found within the Archive Collections where they form an integral part of a collection.
Why does the catalogue not display properly?
Check your web browser. Our catalogue is best viewed using browsers such as Chrome or Microsoft Edge. It is best viewed in landscape if using a mobile device.

Why can't I open a PDF from an archive catalogue record?
Check your web browser. Our catalogue is best viewed using browsers such as Chrome or Microsoft Edge. Only the first page of our catalogue PDFs appear on mobile phone devices. Please use a computer to view the whole PDF.

Please click on How to Search the Catalogue for more information, or on Navigating the Archives for tips on exploring the Archives catalogue.

Collection highlights

Highlights from across our collections about London’s East End