Brighton & Hove
To preserve the history of Brighton and beyond and keep archives accessible to all members of the public, The Keep uses state-of-the-art technology to protect their vast collection of resources from their partners, the Royal Pavilion Museums, the University of Sussex, and the East Sussex Record Office.
The archives hold local, regional, and academic history in the form of film, photographs, maps, and oral histories. The passion for ensuring legacies last for endless lifetimes is only matched by the commitment to public engagement.
Whether you’re dipping your toes into history for the first time or studying for a PhD in history, you will always be made to feel welcome at The Keep, which frequently holds workshops, exhibitions and talks for all ages. Research support services are always available by request, or you can explore the archives via digital access at your leisure.
History and Significance
Before The Keep flung open its doors in 2013, accessing East Sussex archival material was infinitely more complicated; the documents and artefacts were strewn between various libraries and record offices, including the East Sussex Record Office and the Brighton History Centre.
As the collections in various locations grew, the archivists and historians in East Sussex saw the necessity of a sophisticated and centralised storage facility, which would double up as a research centre. The development and opening of The Keep were facilitated by the University of Sussex, Brighton & Hove City Council, and the East Sussex County Council.
Collections and Resources
The collection of archives in the Keep covers a selection of themes, most notably, the themes comprise landscape & architecture, performance art & literature, and the Monks House Papers.
Academics, researchers, and students can also explore themes of war & defence, politics & popular protest, and the LGBTQ+ archives. Special collections also celebrate the legacy of Leonard Woolf, Rudyard Kipling, and Bloomsbury Press.
Naturally, there is no shortage of rare and valuable items, including ancient land charters, the personal diaries of iconic Brighton figureheads, first-edition copies of classic books and artefacts from significant events in the region’s history.
Research and Services
In the world-class archive centre, visitors can access documents from the East Sussex Record Office, the internationally superlative University of Sussex special collections and archived literature about the legacy of the Royal Pavilion and associated museums. In the reference room, you will find a heady collection of parish registers, street directories, and reference books relating to the Keep’s partners.
The Keep is heavily frequented by academics and historians looking to source archives and documents exclusively held by the institute, and by residents wanting to research their ancestry and the history of their family homes or other buildings in Brighton & Hove. Visitors can access My Observation Online, Find My Past and Ancestry for free on any of the Keep’s computers.
If you are looking for something specific in the vast collection of archives, email The Keep and a member of the research team will be happy to respond to your enquiry. Alternatively, you can use the research service, which will help with transcribing documents and accessing material not available in the reading room. The research service costs £35 an hour, or for a quick ‘look up‘, the fee is £20.
As you won’t be able to take the historical archives home with you, the Keep provides a Reprographics service, which can provide you with a digital copy.
The public visiting hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays. The building is closed to the public on Mondays and Sundays.
There is no fee to attend the Keep or view the documents; however, you may want to bring your debit or credit card to pay for parking, a camera pass, and drinks or snacks from the vending machines – cash is not accepted.
If you are planning on using the Reading Room, you will first need to register as a reader, which can be done online, or by visiting the reception desk on your first visit.
Becoming a member is completely free; if you want to support the work of the Keep you can volunteer your skills, knowledge and passion for history, or you can become a friend of the East Sussex Record Office to enable the acquisition of new material and the preservation of the institute’s archival heritage.
Educational Programs and Events
The Keep regularly hosts tours of the facility, talks to narrate the fascinating local history of Brighton & Hove, and workshops to showcase their archives.
Each week, the institute welcomes members of the public via their Welcome Wednesdays tours, which include a hands-on guide to using the resources, a tour of the conservation studio, digitisation suite and document repositories.
Consult the Events Page for current information, including details of conservation events and film screenings.
Plan Your Visit
All public areas on the ground floor are wheelchair-friendly, and there are several wheelchair-friendly desks available in the reading room.
The Keep has 57 on-site parking spaces, ten additional parking spaces for blue badge holders, and space to accommodate one coach. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the car park is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and costs £4 a visit. On Thursdays and Saturdays, the car park is open from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and costs £2.
The institution lies on the edge of Brighton in Moulsecoomb, just off the A27, and a ten-minute walk from Falmer train station. Visitors travelling by bus can hop onto the 23, 25, 28, or 5B buses.
To book a group visit or a research appointment, email The Keep. If your school or community outreach group is interested in attending, email the Education and Outreach officer instead.