Temporary withdrawal of record series FCO 141

UPDATE – Tuesday 2 August

The additional tests referenced below have now been completed and while we are waiting for the results, the record series remains temporarily withdrawn. When we have been able to analyse the results and have handling processes in place to ensure the safety of our staff and researchers we will announce when the records can be accessed.

The record series FCO 141 – Foreign and Commonwealth Office and predecessors: Records of Former Colonial Administrations: Migrated Archives – has been temporarily withdrawn due to evidence of historical preservation treatment of these files indicating insecticide use.

Recently, we were in the process of digitising some of the files when a member of staff came across stickers on some items stating that an insecticide had been used in the historic preparation of the documents. Following some preliminary research, we withdrew the series for further investigation as a matter of caution.

Having had a number of records tested at three external laboratories, all show traces of historic insecticides. We are now working with specialist consultants to establish a risk assessment and safe handling guidance to create avenues for access to the collection. Until this is done, the series will remain temporarily withdrawn.

We do not believe there is a significant risk to those who have read or reviewed the documents; however, while we are carrying out detailed analysis and work with expert consultants to better understand the potential risks and mitigations we are taking this precautionary but necessary measure.

We are working with an occupational hygiene company to undertake additional tests. We hope to then be able to restore access with the appropriate mitigations in place.

We know this is frustrating for our users who rely on this record series for research, work or study. The National Archives exists to provide as much access as possible to the public record and finding ourselves in a position where we cannot do that is not the service we aspire to provide. Please bear with us. We are working really hard to make these records available as soon as possible.

More information can be found here.