The Richard Burton Archives are located in Swansea University’s library. You can visit their website, or see our page on contacting the Archives.
When visiting the archive you will be asked to put your things in a locker. Paper, laptops, books and pencils only are fine to be taken into the reading room. If you’re unsure whether you can bring something in, ask the archivist, they’re all friendly and very willing to answer your questions.
On your first visit you’ll need proof of ID and address, and you’ll be given a card which you will then use every time you visit the Archives. This is an Archive Wales card, so if you have visited another archive in Wales you may well already have one. If you are completing a long-term piece of research using the archives, it is a good idea to get an A4 folder and place a notebook, a pencil, and your card in this, and then you can easily file your notes in this place and know whenever you visit the s you will have everything you need, and all your notes from previous visits, as well as any from other archives.
In the archives the first thing you’ll need to do is consult the catalogue for any sources you wish to explore, and identify the catalogue number. Most archives and most collections will use an alpha-numerical system, breaking down the collection to a hierarchy with letters and numbers. These may seem confusing at first, but they break down fairly simply, and you can always ask the archivists to explain a catalogue system if it looks unfamiliar.
A typical St David’s Priory collection reference would be LAC/99/J1, which is the “Register of school admissions, progress and withdrawals”. This breaks down as LAC (meaning Local Archive Collection), 99 which is the St David’s Priory collection specifically J represents the School Records section, and 1 is the individual item that in this case is a register.
Due to the way the catalogue works in this case, for St David’s Priory records the first part of the reference will always be LAC/99, but it is important you write down the entire number, since this is what lets you find the exact document you had before. Don’t worry if you forget or lose the reference, all is not lost! You can look through the catalogue and see how much you can narrow it down, for example, if you were looking for the document above, the Register of school admissions, and you couldn’t remember it’s catalogue number, you would still know it related to the school, so it must be LAC/99/J. A quick glance through the catalogue might help you locate the individual item, but if you are looking for something more general, like an entry in a church service record and you don’t know which one it was it’s worth talking to the archivists. They have often read through these documents, and may well remember which item contains the information you are looking for.
Working in the archives is relatively straight forward, though it may initially feel a little daunting. You will put the reference number you have identified on a request slip (which you can find on the archivists desk); you may fill out as many of these as you desire at one time, and then the documents will be brought to you.
A helpful tip is to email these requests to the archivists before you come to the archives, so they are already available for you, otherwise you may have to wait for your documents to be fetched.
Don’t worry about handling the documents! It can seem quite scary if it’s your first time working with a very old document, but remember, these documents have survived this long, treat them gently and carefully and if anything at all feels wrong ask the archivists. They won’t mind at all if it’s a false alarm, and it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Treat the documents with care, and minimal touching. It might seem tempting, especially after you relax, to treat them how you might a book you own, but remember, these are often unique records of the past and any damage at all could spoil them. Weights can be used to hold a book open, and there are cushions for resting books on to protect their spine. The archivists will provide you with these when they give you the document, or you may ask for them if you feel you need them.
The most important thing is to use your common sense, if something feels wrong, stop and talk to the archivist in the room with you. You will never be left alone with the documents, so there will always be someone there to help you.