The National Archives collecting policy – Fact sheet 218

Many people approach the National Archives wishing to deposit records into our collection. However, as the Archives is limited in the types of records it is able to collect we may not be able to accept your records. The Archives Act 1983 sets out the role and responsibilities of the Archives, which includes defining our collecting policy.

Our collecting policy

Most collecting institutions have a collecting policy that outlines the sorts of materials they are interested in acquiring. The National Archives collects official Commonwealth government records, and the personal records of governors-general, prime ministers, ministers, federal and High Court judges and some senior Commonwealth public servants, whose records complement the official record.

Commonwealth records are any records that a Commonwealth government department or agency has created or kept in the course of carrying out its business. They may include official files or correspondence, registers, manuals, maps, plans, photographs, or even electronic records. The Archives uses a system of appraisal to determine which records should be kept in archival custody and which can be retained by the agency that created them. To find out more about how we decide which records to keep in the national archival collection see, What we keep: Principles for selecting the Australian Government’s national archives.

Making sure records are where they belong

Former public servants often find, after they resign or retire, that they have some records relating to their work at home. These may be records that really should have remained with their employer, but for one reason or another have ended up in private hands. It is not usually appropriate for such records to remain outside the Commonwealth’s control.

If you have records in your possession you think might be Commonwealth records that should be in the custody of the Archives or a government agency, please contact the Agency Service Centre.

If the records are private records, or records from a non-Commonwealth institution (such as a state or local government agency or a private company), a number of other collecting institutions may be interested in acquiring them. The table below may help you to find an institution that is interested in your records.

Alternately, it may be more appropriate to retain significant private records (such as photographs, diaries, invitations or awards made to family members) in your family archives. See our advice on preserving physical records.

Other collecting institutions

Type of recordInstitutionContact details
State or territory government records, or records relating to state or territory identities, places or eventsState or territory government archives or librariesSee Addresses of other archival institutions
Local government records, or records relating to local identities, businesses or eventsLocal government archives, local libraries or museums, local history societiesCheck the local telephone directory
Non-Commonwealth records relating to national identities, events or issuesNational Library of AustraliaSee Addresses of other archival institutions
Records relating to Indigenous people or communitiesAustralian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander StudiesSee Addresses of other archival institutions
Records relating to women or women’s organisationsAustralian Women’s Archives ProjectThe University of Melbourne, VIC 3010
Private records relating to war or armed conflictAustralian War MemorialSee Addresses of other archival institutions
Company, business or union records, or records relating to business or union identitiesNoel Butlin Archives CentreSee Addresses of other archival institutions
University of Melbourne ArchivesUniversity of Melbourne Archives, PARKVILLE VIC 3010 Tel: (03) 8344 4122
Scientific recordsAustralian Science and Technology Heritage CentreThe University of Melbourne, PARKVILLE VIC 3010 Tel: (03) 8344 3304
School records or memorabiliaSchool archivesContact the relevant school
Non-Commonwealth audio-visual materialNational Film and Sound ArchiveSee Addresses of other archival institutions

In addition, many smaller archives collect in specific subject areas. Examples are the Estonian Archives in Australia, the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives and the Victorian Arts Centre Performing Arts Museum. Professional groups such as doctors and nurses associations often have their own archives. Museums may also be interested in records of specific people or subject areas. Most universities have archival collections, and their libraries often collect in particular subject areas. Many religious communities also keep their own archives.

The Australian Society of Archivists (ASA) compiles the Directory of Archives, which lists Australian organisations with archival holdings and provides information about their collecting interests.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019