Retrieving records from the Archives

Which records will the National Archives issue?

The National Archives will issue, through our Lending Service, any record that your agency controls, with the following exceptions:

  • fragile records – If the records are very fragile, the Archives may ask you to send a staff member to look at them on the Archives premises. If this does not suit you, we may be able to send you a copy. Our staff will consult with you about the best way to give you access to the fragile records.
  • records in the open access period – The Archives will not issue records that are in the open access period. These records are available for access by the public, so you will need to visit an Archives reading room to look at them, or request digitisation of a record.

Coordinating your agency's lending requests

Ideally only one person in an agency should be authorized to make lending requests - this will prevent duplicate requests. Please keep us informed about who is authorised to request records on behalf of your agency. Making batch lending requests will allow us to respond to them more efficiently.

Submitting a lending request

To request a record, you need to know the record’s series, consignment (or transfer job) and item or file numbers (control symbols). This information is on the consignment lists you sent to the National Archives when the record was transferred.

If you don't have copies of the consignment lists, or you don't know the consignment number, please contact the Archives.

You can submit a lending request by:

  • logging on to the National Archives RecordSearch system and filling out a lending request form. To do this you must be the authorised person in your agency and have a RecordSearch login. If you do not have a RecordSearch login, please contact us.
  • emailing or faxing us with a list of records you would like to borrow, including the following information:
    • agency name
    • name of the officer authorised to make lending requests
    • the branch or section you are calling from
    • your telephone number
    • the series and consignment number of the records you want
    • the item or file number, title or description
    • part numbers if applicable
    • how you intend to collect the items.

Turnaround times

The Archives aims to have normal requests for records ready within 24 hours. The location of records and timing of courier runs can affect the response time. You may wish to contact your nearest Archives office for details about their response times.

Digital records

Digital records can be retrieved via Lending Services. We will send you all the documents that make up the item on a transfer medium, like a CD or portable hard drive, or through other agreed methods.

Special format requests

The National Archives keeps some kinds of records in special low temperature storage, for example master microfilms, photographs and films. When they are removed from cold storage, these records require acclimatisation before they can be issued. There is a week turnaround for lending of these types of records.

Pick-up arrangements

Arrange to have your records collected by an authorized courier or person. If you are using a courier, you should give them specific information about the records they will be collecting, including your Commonwealth Agency number (CA).

Records will not be issued to anyone who does not have the required authorisation. It is your responsibility to make sure that the person collecting the records has appropriate security clearance.

For more information on security classifications and clearances, please see the Australian Government Security Policy Framework released by the Attorney-General's Department.

Withdrawing records for sentencing

If your agency has unsentenced records stored with the National Archives you may want to withdraw them to sentence them. The process of withdrawing for sentencing is different to the standard Lending Service procedure, you should contact the Archives for advice.

Returning records to the National Archives

Return records to the National Archives office that issued them within 90 days. Make sure that you securely pack or wrap the records to prevent damage in transit.

Make sure you return only the records that the Archives has issued to you so they can be returned to their series and consignment. Records issued through the Lending Service will have a label on the back with details of the request on it.

What if my agency needs to keep the records?

Contact the Archives Lending Service for advice.

Returning records after sentencing

After a sentencing project, you may find that some of the records you withdrew from the National Archives for sentencing need to be returned to the Archives. You should not return these records through the Lending Service. Instead, you will need to transfer them to the Archives as part of a new consignment.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017