Creating an accessions record is one of the first actions taken in gaining intellectual control of a new acquisition. In the absence of a catalogue description, sharing elements of an accessions description can be a simple but effective way to make information about holdings discoverable.

Each year The National Archives asks archive services in the UK and Ireland to send a list of new archival material they have accessioned during the previous 12 months.

The survey provides a vital knowledge base for The National Archives’ work with the wider sector. The information gathered allows us to:

  • extend Discovery’s coverage of other archives’ records
  • track documents and records identified as part of our Sales Monitoring Service
  • monitor public records and manorial document transfers
  • analyse collecting patterns and trends

The 2016 survey surfaced a number of interesting records and collections such as a letter to John Pigott, High Sheriff of Somerset, concerning the Rye House Plot in 1683, and correspondence between author Sir Terry Pratchett and writer Henye Meyer. Further highlights are publicised in our report, and the full dataset can be accessed through  To find out more about collections discovered through past surveys, read our blog.

Accessions to Repositories 2017

The Accessions to Repositories 2017 survey is now closed.

The deadline for submitting returns was 1 February 2018.

The template was adapted to support our data analysis work. We asked all participants to use the following updated template to send in their returns:

Template: Accessions template 2017 (XLS, 0.23MB)

We asked repositories submitting returns not to make changes to the format of the template as this affects our ability to analyse the information accurately. The methods we use to analyse the data rely on the format being as uniform as possible, which is why we introduced some new guidelines around filling in the template. We asked participants to read the appropriate guidance before submitting a return.

Guidance: Accessions to Repositories Guidance (general) 2017 (PDF, 0.22MB)

Guidance for local authority Places of Deposit: Accessions to Repositories Guidance (local authority places of deposit) 2017 (PDF, 0.25MB)

20-year rule and local authority Places of Deposit

We asked local authority places of deposit to complete the survey using the template above and mark up any public record accessions.

Without receipt of accessions returns by the 1 February 2018 deadline, payments of New Burdens funding to local authority places of deposit cannot be guaranteed.

Repositories that have accessioned records eligible for New Burdens funding need to respond to any request for confirmation of stated quantities and agreement to the terms by 27 February 2018 for payment to be authorised.

For more information on completing the return for local authority places of deposit, please see our specific guidance above. Further details about New Burdens and eligibility for local authority places of deposit are available on the 20 year rule web page.

Analysing UK collecting practice and trends: report and dataset

We have published a report analysing the accessions data we received from archives in 2016. This is the first time we have undertaken analysis of the full data received and we will extend this work for the 2017 survey.

So, please send us the details of all the archival material accessioned in 2017, without filtering the information. The analysis of this full dataset will enable us to examine important questions including:

  • Where are the collecting hubs in the country?
  • What are the emerging themes from the content of what is being collected?
  • What is the scale of collecting across the sector and what proportion is digital?

The results of this analysis will be shared with the archive sector as well as researchers.

We are seeking feedback, so please tell us what analysis and insight you would like to see from this reporting in future years. Please email your thoughts to the team.

For the first time, the complete Accessions dataset has been published on, complementing the edited information we publish on our website, in order to cultivate transparency and allow researchers access to the entire set of reported accessions.

More information

For further information about the Accessions programme or to discuss submitting a return after the deadline, please email us.