An aerial photograph of a Roman fort seen as earthworks.
Whitley Castle Roman fort and vicus, Northumberland, featured in a report from 2009. © Historic England Archive. Image reference NMR\20677\043.
Whitley Castle Roman fort and vicus, Northumberland, featured in a report from 2009. © Historic England Archive. Image reference NMR\20677\043.

The Historic England Research Reports Database: Introducing an Important Resource for Researchers

The Historic England Research Report Series (RRS) includes thousands of reports from over 60 years of research and our online database makes them available to you at a keystroke.

Content

From a single-page type-written table on archaeological finds of charcoal to multi-volume reports on post-war schools, the RRS database contains a wealth of information on buildings, archaeological sites, scientific dating, identifying, scanning, surveying and reviewing elements of the historic environment.

Until 2005, the database consisted of the Ancient Monument Laboratory reports and the Centre for Archaeology series, but these were subsequently joined by reports from Archaeological Survey, Aerial Survey and Architectural Survey, together with work from contractors commissioned by Historic England to carry out targeted applied research.

Recent reports are now full-colour, high-quality publications available to download free from our database and accessible to researchers all over the world.

In 2012 we ran a project to digitise all the research reports that had previously only been available in paper form, uploading them to our online database and creating an invaluable resource for students and academics interested in not only our current work but the past catalogue of our research.

There are now over 7,000 reports available and every year we add more than 100 new reports

2021 brought such diverse subjects as a geophysical survey on works on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, a topographic analysis of a medieval town and the identification of grain excavated in York.

Outreach

We are always looking for ways to increase access to our reports and bring new audiences to our work. For example, in 2014, we took our promotional material to a major Science Fiction convention in London, an unlikely venue, perhaps, but one which allowed us both to connect with people eager to see the science behind the fiction and to publicise the value of our research material to LARPs (Live Action Role Players) and historical re-enactors, keen to bring authenticity to their work.

In the future, we are hoping to continue our promotion of the RRS at professional conferences, such as those held by conservators, conservationists, environmentalists and more, while also reaching out to historical interest and local study groups.

We continue to identify specific places and events that can showcase our work, for example Wordsworth’s Dove’s Cottage and the Capability Brown tri-centennial.

Online Access

We are also keen to provide improved access to our material online and are implementing changes to make it easier to find and use our wealth of reports. We have therefore integrated the search facility into our main Historic England website.

It is important to us that as many people can benefit from and use the decades of knowledge they have at their fingertips.

The database is now supported by an online map, which uses a GIS application to pin down all RRS reports that have a specific location. Users can, virtually, roam the country seeking places of interest and related research. This is a great way to find out what is in your own area, or any others of particular interest.

Research Reports Map

Explore our research reports with this map, which is an on-going project, showing a selection of research reports for place-based projects published after 2006.

We have begun with non-invasive surveys, we will add details of scientific analysis, such as tree ring dating and archaeobotany. Over time we aim to show all reports for place-based projects here.

Research Reports Map

From major sites, such as Stonehenge, to Cold War bunkers, to tiny fragments of grain and seeds, the Research Report Series will continue to provide knowledge and inspiration to future researchers all over the world, and provide a place for world-class research to be published and easily accessed by our growing and enthusiastic audience.

About the Author

Kirsty Stonell Walker

Research Reports Manager at Historic England

Kirsty has worked for English Heritage and Historic England at Fort Cumberland for 20 years, managing the Research Report Series and its associated database, together with the legacy series that preceded it.

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