About The Keep


The Keep is a world-class centre for archives that opens up access to all the collections of the East Sussex Record Office (ESRO), the Royal Pavilion & Museums Local History Collections and the internationally significant University of Sussex Special Collections. It is also a centre of excellence for conservation and preservation and represents the new generation of archive buildings in the UK.

The combined collections have synergies and have been brought together to provide, under one roof, an unrivalled, detailed record of the region’s history, dating back over 900 years. These archives document the lives of individuals, places and events from across the county and beyond, and they include written records, maps and plans, prints and drawings, photographs and films, oral histories, and digital and electronic records.

Find out more about the partners at The Keep by clicking on the links below

The University of Sussex Special Collections comprise important 20th and 21st-century literary, political and social history archives. The Keep also houses the library of the Sussex Family History Group, and the Historic Environment Record database, which records sites and finds from early prehistory to 20th-century monuments. The staff of The Keep bring together a remarkable breadth of skills and experience, and are pioneering new, collaborative ways of working that also involve the wider community and new audiences.

The Keep has been designed for different people to use in different ways. It gives access to historical material for scholars and specialist researchers, universities, colleges and schools, the adult and community sectors and businesses such as solicitors, architects and developers. The Keep staff are also working with under-represented groups and people with disabilities, including people with impaired hearing and vision.

There is free public access to all the collections, with a drop-in service, and efficient systems for ordering, even when not in the building. The new electronic archive catalogue, with a full on-line search facility, gives remote access to the wealth of material in the collections.

The construction of The Keep separates architecturally the area for document storage (Repository Block) from the places where up to 270 visitors, as well as staff, can study and work (People Block).

The Repository Block houses over six miles of archives in three storeys, with space for future expansion: the temperature and humidity are carefully controlled to preserve the archives in the best possible manner. The public search rooms on the ground floor of the people block include a Reference Room, with library and access to computer terminals and microform readers. The research area for groups, the oral history room where staff can record memories of individuals, and the library of the Sussex Family History Group are discrete, sound-proofed facilities.  The Reading Room, where readers can work with original documents, adjoins the Reference Room.

The Keep is a community hub with state-of-the-art spaces for education and outreach projects.  Three linked learning and multifunction rooms are available for school classes, student groups and adult learners to engage with archives. These rooms can also open out into one large space to host a wide range of activities including lectures, workshops, events and receptions.

The staff facilities are on the first floor, and include a conservation studio and digitisation suite. There is also space for volunteers, students and community groups to work with staff and learn new skills to help preserve the archives.

‘Inclusion’ is reflected in the operation of The Keep and its programme of activities. All public facilities are on the ground floor with level access; all staffed desks are fitted with induction loops; orientation directions and information are in a choice of formats including large print, Braille and audio.