The Brunel Institute is one of the few academic archives in the world to offer “access on demand”. This means that anyone with an interest in maritime history, the SS Great Britain or Isambard Kingdom Brunel can view the collections.
Institute staff and volunteers are available to advise and guide visitors. Whether you are writing an academic paper or researching family members who travelled on the SS Great Britain, or would just like to see a letter or drawing in Brunel’s hand, the Institute has something to delight you.
Please note, whilst we do accept donations to the Brunel Institute, we request that you get in contact with us before sending anything. Contact our Curator in advance online here
Planning your visit
As a result of Covid-19, at present the BI is only open to readers or researchers on Thursdays and Fridays only by appointment. Please book in with us at least two weeks in advance, please fill in this form to get in touch about visiting. Access to the Brunel Institute is free of charge.
To view the collection (excluding Archive in Five or Conservation in Action) or to use the library you will need to bring a form of identification which is less than three months old and shows your current address. This could be a driving licence or utility bill (but not a mobile phone bill).
As a researcher to the Brunel Institute at Brunel's SS Great Britain, you should:
- Pre-book your visit at least two weeks in advance, and not travel to our building without having received confirmation of your booking
- Order archive material in advance, wherever possible
- Cancel your visit if you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms
- Observe the safety measures put in place both
- Practice social distancing while on the SS Great Britain site and in the Brunel Institute
- Wear a face covering during your visit, unless you have a legitimate reason not to do so
- Wear gloves when handling archive material – gloves will be provided
- Please bring all materials you will need for your visit with you, such as pencils, paper etc. Staff will be unable to provide these for you.
- Wash your hands before and after visiting the Brunel Institute, and use the hand sanitiser provided on site regularly throughout your visit
- Notify us in advance, where possible, if you are delayed or unable to visit to enable us to offer appointments to other researchers
If you would like to view a particular object or section of the collections, please contact our Curator in advance online here.
Spotlight on the archive
Our Archive in Five sessions in the library are currently not running, however we are sharing Virtual Archive in Fives on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Visit this page to see our past Virtual Archive in Fives.
Unusual items from the collection are given special attention at regular ‘Archive in Five’ sessions. Curators choose objects that have special significance, relating perhaps to the time of year or topical events. These informal sessions are an ideal introduction to the collection and have even led to new donations being made. We also host special ‘Conservation in Action’ sessions where staff and volunteers show visitors how they care for objects - keep an eye on our What's On page for the next session.
‘Taster tours’ also provide a fascinating glimpse into the collection. These ad hoc events are offered to those interested in seeing the research and archive that goes on behind the scenes at the SS Great Britain Trust.
A large part of the archive is also available online.