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Not all records held at Archives are open to view. Some are restricted because of:

  • fragility

  • personal privacy

  • commercial sensitivity

  • national interest

  • legal privilege.

Find out if a record is restricted

To check if a record is restricted, find it in Collections search. Information about restrictions is in the Access status field.

Visit Collections search to find records

Types of access restriction

There are two types of access restriction – preservation and agency.

Preservation restrictions

A preservation restriction means the record is too fragile to be handled. The restriction helps keep the record safe.

Agency restrictions

An agency restriction means 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 to series of records

Restrictions can be applied to individual records or whole series. If a series is listed as restricted, you may still be able to view some items in it.

Contact us if you're not sure what a restriction statement means.

Ask an archivist about an access restriction.

Get access to a restricted record

The agency that controls access to a restricted record can give you permission to view it. To check which agency controls access:

  • find the record you want to view in Collections search

  • check the Access Contact on the record page

Visit Collections search to find records

Agency restrictions

To get access to a record with an agency restriction you need:

  • official written permission from the agency that controls the record, or

  • evidence that the record isn't subject to the restriction.

Applying for written permission to access a 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 write to an agency to get permission to access a record, it's a good idea to state:

  • why you're interested in the record

  • your relationship (if any) to the subject of the record

  • whether you plan to publish any information you find in the record

  • whether you need a copy of the record.

Records about people who have died

If the record you want to access is about someone who has died, include evidence of their death. This may address any concerns about their privacy.

Agency response times

The time it takes for agencies to respond to access requests can vary. Let the agency know if you need the records by a certain date.

How to send us your permission

Ask the agency to send your permission to Archives. You can't send us permission yourself – it must come from the agency or it won't be valid.

When we have the permission, we can arrange for you to access the record. We may be able to:

  • arrange a viewing in a reading room

  • send you a copy of the record.

Find out about visiting our reading rooms

Preservation restrictions

We control access to records with preservation restrictions. Contact us if you want to see one of these records. We may be able to let you view:

  • the record

  • a digital copy of the record.

Ask an archivist for permission to view a restricted record

View preservation-restricted records online

Many records with preservation restrictions have been digitised, so you can view them online. These include:

  • coroner's inquests from 1888 - 1938

  • military service records from World War One

  • National Film Unit newsreels.

See some records we've digitised

Search our collections for digitised records

Ask a question about restricted records

Use our Ask an archivist form if you need more information about a restricted record.

Ask an archivist about restricted records