Access Policy

The National Archives aims to provide access to anyone wishing to visit its public search areas and to respond promptly to enquires received by telephone, letter, fax and email. Any member of the public, irrespective of sex, ethnicity, religious or political affiliation, or any similar differentiation, has the right to use the facility and see the records and other resources within it.

The Access Policy of the National Archives is developed with consideration for

– the right to know
– confidentiality
– the safety of the record.

General Access to records

The National Archives strives at all times to provide intellectual access to the records it holds. This is done by continually producing and improving upon a wide range of finding aids designed to make its records more accessible.

The National Archives will make all records in its holdings available for public consultation unless access is

– prevented by statutory exemption
– liable to breach privacy or confidentiality
– against the wishes of a private depositor
– likely to risk loss to a depositor’s property
– likely to cause damage to the item
– provided for by an identical substitute copy.

The restrictions outlined above may be waived

– for depositors consulting their own records subject to adequate identification and preferably advanced notice
– for researchers authorized in writing by the depositor, preferably with advanced notice
– for government security or law enforcement agencies in the normal pursuit of their business
– in exceptional circumstances, only at the discretion of the Director of Archives on receipt of a letter of application outlining reasons for the request and subject to any restrictions required.

Fees for the reproduction of records and other services may be charged where authorized by policy, regulation or statute. Researchers requesting copies of records must abide by the Conditions for the Reproduction of Archives.


Few collections are permanently restricted. Some materials, however, may be sequestered from common viewing for a certain period of time. They will be made available in a scheduled manner in keeping with professionally appraised criteria.   Other obligations may arise as a result of contractual stipulations through Deeds of Gifts, wills or sales arrangements.

Public Records deposited at the National Archives by government departments and statutory bodies are subject to a 30 year closure period. Some records may be closed for longer periods on grounds of

a) national security
b) maintenance of public order
c) safeguarding revenue
d) protection of privacy of living individuals.

Public Records that are closed will only be available to authorized staff of the originating agency.

Collections from private sources may have restrictions of access based on the deposit agreement.

Uncatalogued records

The National Archives endeavours to provide access to as wide a range of its collections as possible.

In general, access is not permitted to unprocessed archival material. Access in such cases is at the discretion of the Director.

On-Site access

1. Access to the records held at the National Archives is free of charge
2. Researchers have the right of access during stated opening hours. It may on occasion be necessary to change these hours. Any temporary changes will be published in the media and on the website.
3. The National Archives may close without notice in the event of an incident in or around the building, which may cause risk to the public, staff or records.
4. The National Archives will ensure access to all regardless of the visitor’s physical challenges.
5. Any member of the public visiting the National Archives under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or whose actions may reasonably be held to be distracting or dangerous to other members of the public or staff will be asked to leave the premises.
6. Any member of the public who deliberately damages any record, who refuses to abide by the rules of the National Archives, or whose conduct is openly offensive to other members of the public or staff, will be asked to leave.
7. The research area is limited in space. Priority will be given to persons who have made appointments in advance.
8. Any person wishing to conduct searches at the National Archives must produce a valid form of identification showing name, address and signature.
9. The National Archives has the right to refuse public access to any record which is, in the opinion of the staff, in a fragile state.   The decision of the staff on duty is final.
10. Children under the age of 16, who wish to consult records, must be accompanied by an adult.
11. Archives are for reference only and the borrowing of records is not allowed.
12. Persons using the facility must abide by the Search Room Regulations as laid down by the National Archives.

Remote access

1. the National Archives will respond to all enquiries by telephone, letter, fax or email. .
2. The National Archives will provide information and advice on its holdings free of charge.
3. The National Archives may undertake limited research for a person who cannot visit the repository. A limit of 30 minutes of research per request applies in such cases. For more substantial searches, a researcher will have to arrange for privately contracted services.
4. All enquires will be answered within a reasonable time.

Roles and responsibilities

The Director of Archives will ensure that

1. Archives staff are aware of their responsibilities under this policy
2. Access restrictions are included in the descriptions of collections held by the National Archives

Archives staff will explain access regulations to researchers and implement all approved procedures without discrimination.