Information for Places of Deposit

Places of deposit for public records are appointed to hold specific record classes in agreement with their parent authority under Section 4 (1) of the Public Records Act (1958). We recognise that places of deposit may need to close or reduce services for a period of time as a result of public health guidance or an individual organisation’s own risk management decisions. We wish to reassure archive services that this will not affect appointment as a place of deposit.  Our concern is for the well-being of staff and users, and we would also ask that attention is given to ensuring the safety and security of collections during a period of closure.  We would be grateful if places of deposit could inform us of a planned closure or amendments to operations in advance if this is possible, and we aim to maintain contact with archive services and provide advice as usual. For any enquiries, please contact us at asd@nationalarchives.gov.uk

Transfer of paper records

The transfer of paper records to The National Archives has been suspended until further notice.  Transferring bodies are not expected to send deposits to archives until this situation changes, and places of deposit are not expected to accept them.

Temporary return of public records

Access can be provided for urgent requests if it is safe to do so.  However, we recognise that it may not be possible to meet the requirement of s.4(6) of the Public Records Act to return records temporarily to a transferring body. If a place of deposit experiences difficulty with a request, this should be brought to the attention of The National Archives and an attempt will be made to find a resolution.

Loans of public records

Places of deposit that have records on loan with other institutions for purposes such as an exhibition or in support of statutory inquiries should maintain contact with the borrowing institution. Lenders should seek assurances on security measures and environmental conditions, and ask for information about any actions taken. Ideally, in the case of loans for exhibition, records should be de-installed and placed in secure storage. If this is not possible documents can be left in display cabinets, provided that this is secure and light levels are managed.  Retrieval should not be attempted until both institutions are fully operational and appropriate transport is available; however, arrangements for the return of records can be planned and loan agreements amended.

Treatment of paper records

The National Archives is not advising transferring bodies to undertake special treatment of records, such as deep-cleaning prior to transfer.  Records held on deposit can continue to be managed in the usual way. However, we will consider any specific treatment concerns raised by places of deposit.

Re-opening Places of Deposit

The closure of places of deposit due to the pandemic has not affected appointment under the Public Records Act, and we are very grateful for the steps taken by staff and parent organisations to ensure the safety and security of records and to maintain a variety of services where possible.

Organisations that are preparing to re-open places of deposit to the public should note that the requirements for preservation and on-site access have not changed. However, we recognise that places of deposit will not be able to return immediately to the level of operational activity undertaken before closure and temporary transition measures will be necessary. We appreciate that this transition will be a gradual process with continuing restrictions on access and limited availability of services: each organisation will have unique circumstances to manage and consequently its own timetable.

We would be grateful if places of deposit could keep us informed of their plans for re-opening to the public and resuming core services and functions. These updates should include information on the particular constraints being faced, how these are to be managed and any temporary alternative ways of working adopted to deliver services. In addition, an indication of any ongoing interim security and preservation measures that are in operation, pending a resumption of standard operating procedures, would be valuable. We would also ask that consideration is given to a place of deposit’s relationship with transferring organisations, and in particular access to records by them and other bodies for official, legal or judicial purposes.

Plans should be kept under review to enable an effective response to changes in government guidelines and the evolving strategies of parent organisations. We will continue to monitor the situation affecting the archive sector and its response to the easing of restrictions which may lead to further advice.  If you have any specific questions about the way in which your organisation is planning to manage Place of Deposit arrangements in the coming months, please contact us at asd@nationalarchives.gov.uk.

Our ‘making plans for re-opening‘ webpage has more information about re-opening principles and areas for consideration.

Coronavirus updates for government departments

The National Archives has produced advice and guidance for government departments, arms-length bodies other organisations covered by the Public Records Act. Taking the form of Frequently Asked Questions, this advice and guidance will be kept up to date and may be of interest to places of deposit and other archives.