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 continue to manage operations in accordance with relevant regulations.
We wish to reassure archive services that this does not affect appointment as a place of deposit. Our concern is 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 and to maintain a variety of services where possible.
We are also grateful to places of deposit for keeping us informed of changes to public access and other service operations, and for providing details of arrangements for collections care. We are maintaining contact with archive services and continue to provide advice. 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 in March 2020. Temporary arrangements for a limited resumption of transfers were introduced in August 2020. Places of deposit may wish to 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, although we recognise that this may not always be possible. 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. 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 take any specific precautions with respect to records, and asks that they continue to care for records in the usual way. Specific treatment concerns 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 quarantine periods and other information 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
Organisations that are preparing to re-open places of deposit to the public or implementing re-opening plans 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 about the particular constraints being faced, how these are to be managed and any temporary alternative ways of working adopted to deliver services. In addition, it would be valuable to have an indication of any ongoing interim security and preservation measures that are in operation, pending a resumption of standard operating procedures. 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.
Our ‘making plans for re-opening’ webpage has more information about the principles and other factors that should be taken into consideration.