Library and Archives

Our Library and Archives hold some of the most important ornithological collections in the UK. With material spanning the 19th Century to the present day, our fascinating and diverse collections are open to everyone.

The Chris Mead Library

BTO Library and Archives, The Nunnery (Thetford). Lift and wheelchair access and facilities are available.

Our library is situated in the chapel of the old Nunnery at BTO’s headquarters in Thetford.

We hold one of the finest collections of books on birds and the science of ornithology anywhere in the world.

There is something for everyone in the library, from popular science and natural history, to bird ID guides and ornithological scientific journals.

Our library is particularly renowned for its comprehensive sets of county and local materials, such as bird reports from local groups and bird observatories.

N.B. Please read our guidance if you’re considering donating a book to us.

More about the library

The Archives

Taken in Norfolk in 1911, this photo of a Bittern nestling by Emma Turner provided evidence for the rediscovery of the species as a breeding bird in the UK.

The Archives hold nationally important collections of notebooks and personal papers relating to key figures in ornithology, and photographic materials with an emphasis on early bird photography.

We are, for example, privileged to hold some of the photographic plates made by Emma Turner, the pioneering Edwardian ornithologist and bird photographer.

The Archives are also where we store the physical and electronic outputs from BTO studies, together with organisational records dating back to the Trust’s foundation in 1933.

Explore the archives

Volunteer at the Chris Mead Library

Are you interested in ornithology or history? Are you able to visit the Nunnery for a couple of hours on a regular basis? If so, we’d love to hear from you about volunteering in our Library and Archives. 

  • Join our friendly team working to make the valuable information in our collections accessible to others
  • Develop and learn new skills from our expert archivist
  • Learn more about ornithology and bird photography from the personal papers, photographic material and survey data in our archives
  • Explore one of the UK’s most significant collections of books and journals on birds and ornithology

If you’re interested in volunteering, please get in touch with the BTO Archivist Lesley Hindley for an informal chat. You can reach Lesley by email at archives [at] or by phone on 01842 750050.

Visit and contact information

The Chris Mead Library and the Archives are normally open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday–Friday.

Everyone with an interest in ornithology is welcome, but space is limited so please contact us first to arrange your visit.

A lift and wheelchair access and facilities are available, and there’s also a free car park for visitors.

By email:

  • library [at]
  • archives [at]

By phone:

Getting here

  • British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, IP24 2PU

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