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 closed or greatly reduced their services in March 2020 as a result of public health guidance or an individual organisation’s own risk management decisions, and continued to manage operations in accordance with relevant guidelines.
We reassured archive services at the time that this would not affect appointment as a place of deposit. Our concern was for the well-being of staff and users, and we are very grateful for the steps taken by staff and parent organisations to ensure the safety and security of records, maintain a variety of services where possible, and keep us informed.
We are also grateful for the care taken by places of deposit to re-start onsite public access safely. We continue to provide advice so for any enquiries, or to inform us of any changes, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transfer of paper records
The transfer of paper records to The National Archives was suspended temporarily in March 2020. Transfers are now accepted once the necessary documentation has been completed. Places of deposit should consider their own arrangements for managing deposits safely and discuss them with transferring bodies.
Temporary return of public records
Depositors may need access to records for official or business reasons and Section 4 (6) of the Public Records Act allows them to request a temporary return of records. We ask that places of deposit give consideration to arrangements for meeting these requests safely. If a place of deposit experiences difficulty with a request, this should be brought to the attention of The National Archives.
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. As institutions become fully operational, you should consider how to arrange for the safe return of records.
Treatment of paper records
The National Archives is advising transferring bodies to continue to care for records in the usual way. However, if there are any specific treatment concerns, these can be considered by The National Archives on a case-by-case basis. Records held on deposit should also continue to be managed in the usual way with reference to advice on resuming operations safely. Nevertheless, we will consider any specific treatment concerns raised by places of deposit.
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.
Re-opening places of deposit
Most places of deposit have re-opened to the public and, while the requirements for preservation and onsite access have not changed, we recognise that archive services may not be able to resume the level of access and operational activity that existed prior to closure in March 2020 and a period of transition may 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 continue to keep us informed of their plans for re-opening to the public and resuming core services and functions. It is helpful for us to be aware of the particular constraints being faced, how these are to be managed and any temporary alternative ways of working adopted to deliver services. In addition, we would ask that you consider the needs and expectations of users and other stakeholders when planning access arrangement in the longer term.
Plans and arrangements should be kept under review to enable an effective response to changes in government guidelines and the evolving strategies of parent organisations.
Our ‘making plans for re-opening’ webpage has more information about the principles and other factors that should be taken into consideration.