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Research in the Archive

The object of The Sainsbury Archive is to advance education for the public benefit by collecting, maintaining and displaying items and documents relating to the history of Sainsbury's and the family of John James Sainsbury.

The Archive welcomes anyone who wishes to engage in research using its collection. The Archive encourages investigations of the collections from different angles, uncovering untold stories and giving fresh perspectives on society and culture.


Research priorities

The Archive has identified the following research topics which the archive is particularly strong in.

1.) The daily and longer-term challenges of food distribution on the “Home Front” during the Second World War and the post-war austerity era.

2.) Technological and organisational change in food retailing, including self-service; point of sale retailing; branch-level computerisation and communications

3.) Mergers and acquisitions, such as Homebase and Texas Homecare.

4.) Patterns of territorial expansion from 1869 to the present.

5.) Marketing, advertising, and sales, including market research reports and packaging and display materials


The Archive would also like to concentrate on research that addresses gaps in the collection, particularly regarding Equalities and Diversity.


The Sainsbury Archive encourages anyone who wants to collaborate with us in the development of research projects and networks. If you would like to discuss any potential collaborative research projects please get in touch with the Archivist, Allison Foster, on


Research Guides

The Archives and Records Association have created a useful guide on how to get started using archive collections. This can be found here.


The archive has created a number of research guides to help you research a specific topic or type of records.

JS Journal

Recipes in the Collection

Staff Employment Records


Using the catalogue

Is the whole of the collection catalogued?

Yes, while the archive continues to regularly receive new material, the vast majority of the collection is listed here in some form.

I found a ‘photograph’ in the catalogue but I can’t see an image. 

Not every entry in the archive catalogue has an image associated with it. This might be because we have not digitised a particular item or because we don’t have the right to display it on the website. Please get in touch with us – we may be able to provide you with an image or you can visit the Study Centre to consult the item itself. 

How can I browse the whole collection? 

There are two options for viewing the content of the whole archive at once: 

You can use the ‘explore’ view to see the different categories and subjects covered by the collection. Clicking on each of them will show you the contents. 

You can also see a clickable structured contents list (what we call a ‘tree structure’) by clicking on ‘Open Tree’ on the left-hand side of any catalogue entry. This will show you the context of the item you are looking at within the archive as a whole. You can use it to find other items in the same or similar categories. 

I am looking for old issues of JS Journal. 

We have digitised all issues of Sainsbury’s staff magazine ‘JS Journal (later called ‘The Journal’). You can browse them by year here or search specifically for 'JS Journal articles by selecting the option from the catalogue search bar. 

How can I combine multiple searches? 

The catalogue search works a little differently to other searches you might be used to. You cannot use operators such as ‘AND’ or a minus sign. Instead, click on the plus sign next to the search box to add additional search criteria. To exclude a term, select ‘None of the words’ from the drop-down menu. 

How can I find words that contain diacritics? 

Due to a technical problem it is currently not possible to search using diacritics. Please use the letters without accents, umlauts etc. For example, ‘cafe’ will find ‘café’, ‘Gewurztraminer’ will find ‘Gewürztraminer’. 

How can I narrow down the date range of my search results? 

The slider above the catalogue search bar shows the date range covered by the search. By moving the ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ sliders you can customise the dates to be shown. The results will update automatically. The vertical white bars on the slider represent the number of items in each year. The taller they are the more material can be found.  

How can I find addresses and dates of branches? 

The branches page allows you to search for branches by typing a name into the search bar or by clicking and zooming on the map. Clicking on a branch’s icon will bring up its address and opening and closing dates on the left-hand side of the screen. Clicking on ‘View Branch’ will then show you all related images we have of this branch.


In Person Research 

We welcome visitors to the archive to consult original material held in the collection. If you would like more information about this please see our how to visit page. 

Contact Us

The Sainsbury Archive
Museum of London Docklands
No. 1 Warehouse
West India Quay
London E14 4AL

tel: 020 7001 9852
twitter: @sainsburyarch
Instagram: sainsburyarchive

The Sainsbury Archive was formed as a company limited by guarantee on 8 November 2002. The company registration number is 4585197. The company was registered with the Charity Commission on 11 March 2003. The charity registration number is 1096454.
Registered Office: 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT.