Requesting Access to Restricted Records

Contents

Introduction

Not all records held at Archives are open to view, many are restricted to protect the following:

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Who controls access to restricted records?

Access to restricted records is controlled by Archives or the agency responsible for creating the record. We control access if the restrictions are due to the preservation needs of the record. If a record is restricted because of its content, access is controlled by the agency who created the record. This type of restriction is decided by the agency when the records are transferred to us. This is called an ‘Access Authority’. We do not set these restrictions.

If you want to access restricted records, you will need to contact the ‘Access Contact’ listed on the record’s Archway listing.

An expanded access statement showing the access contact

The access contact details in an expanded restriction statement.

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What different types of restrictions are there?

There are two types of restrictions – agency and preservation.

A preservation restriction means that the record is too fragile to be handled. This helps preserve the physical safety of the record.

An agency restriction means that the record may contain information or content that can only be accessed with permission from the agency responsible for the creation of the record.

Restrictions can be applied to both individual records, and to series of records that are either physically fragile or contain restricted information. As such, some records can be listed as restricted but are able to be accessed freely.

If you are not sure about what a restriction statement means, please contact us.

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How do I know if a record is restricted?

When you find a listing for a record on Archway, there will be a coloured stripe on the far right of the listing. This stripe will be either green, orange, or red.

Showing the green, orange, and red stripes that show the access of an item.

The three stripes that define how each record is restricted.

Green stripes mean that the record is not restricted and can be accessed by anyone.

Orange stripes mean that the record may be restricted. To check whether the record is restricted you’ll need to check the restriction statement on Archway.

Red stripes mean that the record is restricted. To find out how to access the record you’ll need to check the restriction statement on Archway.

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How to find out why a record is restricted

On the Archway record listing click ‘Order Details’. Under ‘Further details of this record’ will be a note about the restriction.

An unexpanded access statement

An unexpanded restriction statement.

Click on ‘More details’ next to this note. The expanded information is the restriction statement. It sets out why the record is restricted, how long it is restricted for, and who can grant you access to the record within the restriction period.

Showing an expanded restriction statement

An expanded restriction statement.

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How do I get access to restricted records?

For agency restrictions:

To gain access to restricted records you need to have official written permission from the access contact listed in the restriction statement. You can also provide evidence that the record is not subject to the restriction.

Gain written official permission from the access contact listed in the restriction statement

This generally involves contacting the department listed in the restriction statement as the access contact.

If you apply for access to a record we recommend that you:

If the record is about a deceased person supplying evidence of their death would remove any potential privacy concerns.

The time it takes for agencies to respond to access requests vary. Let the agency know if you have any required or preferred dates for accessing the record(s).

Unless Archives is listed as the access contact, we cannot provide specific advice on permission requests.

Provide evidence that the record is not subject to the restriction.

Not all restrictions require applying to another government agency. For example, if you can provide evidence that the subject of a post-WWII rehabilitation file was born more than 100 years ago or died more than 40 years ago, you can access the file.

For preservation restrictions:

If you are interested in seeing a record that is restricted for preservation reasons, please contact us. We can let you know whether the record or a copy of the record can be made available for you to view.

Many records that have a preservation restriction will have a digital copy available to view. This includes coroner’s inquests from 1888 – 1938, military personnel files from WW1, and newsreels from the National Film Unit.

Photographic negatives are restricted and are kept in cold storage. Records in cold storage need to readjust to room temperature for 24 – 48 hours before they can be viewed by appointment.

Many photographic prints have an ‘orange’ restriction because they are fragile. this means that the prints need to be handled extra carefully, using gloves.

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What do I do once I have permission to access a restricted record?

Once you have been given permission ask the agency to send this to Archives. This must come from the agency or it won't be considered valid.

We’ll then be able to arrange for you to access the record, whether in person at a reading room or by providing you with a copy.

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