South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

The National Archives guidance relating to the impact of Covid-19

The National Archives (TNA) has released an update for archive services and other interested parties, relating to the impact of the covid-19 virus.


The National Archives building is now closed to the public and all staff not required for essential security and maintenance are working from home. In the Archives Sector Development department, TNA intends as far as possible to continue to act as a point of contact for the archive sector and offer advice and information.


TNA has released guidance on maintaining the safety and security of collections as follows:



"The preservation of unique archive collections remains an important task... There are a number of precautions that can be taken:

  • Regular on-site checks should be maintained as far as possible if there is no continuous presence at the site. This should include outstores and digital storage if this is not hosted remotely. Archive services should, nevertheless, be mindful of government guidelines on travel, using public transport and essential work
  • Establish links and working arrangements with site security and facilities management teams, as well as IT providers where necessary
  • Ensure alarms are functioning and monitored (smoke/fire, intruder, leak), with appropriate response procedures. Continue to check that detection and alarm systems are working, remain connected with the right agency and elicit a response when necessary
  • Monitor the performance of Building Management Systems remotely if possible
  • Update the emergency response plan
  • Raise awareness within the parent organisation of risks and mitigation
  • Maintain contact with third party storage providers and assess the suitability of their procedures, including security and business continuity arrangements. Providers should also inform archive services of any changes in circumstances


We recognise that there may be limits on the ability of archive services and their staff to undertake these precautionary measures and suggest that other means of ensuring security are explored. For example, establishing whether the organisation’s provider of security services can make periodic checks on an unattended building, and informing the local police force if the archive facility has been locked and is unattended, passing on key-holder contact details. Restrictions may change over time and measures can be reviewed.

In this context, The National Archives does not support the removal of records from dedicated archive facilities for the purposes of homeworking. The principal purpose of an archive service is to preserve and protect the integrity of collections and maintain an unbroken custodial history in the public interest. There are numerous risks associated with the removal of records to unsuitable locations. In addition to the issue of security, risks include loss or damage due to fire, flood, pests, mis-handling, dissociation and environmental conditions. There are also implications for the security of sensitive information, and removal may be contrary to deposit or similar agreements, grant conditions and insurance provision.

Public records and documents subject to Manorial and Tithe Rules should not be removed from approved places of deposit without the approval of The National Archives or the Historical Manuscripts Commission Secretary."


The following statements have also been issued:


Archive Service Accreditation
"The Archive Service Accreditation partners and governing committee recognise that the current circumstances are exceptional, and want to reassure all award holders that reduced service due to the pandemic will not affect Accreditation status. The programme remains open for applications and scheduled reviews where services are in a position to submit these. For any enquiries, please get in touch via accreditation@nationalarchives.gov.uk "

Places of deposit
"Places of Deposit for public records are appointed to hold specific record classes in agreement with their parent authority under Section 4 (1) of the Public Records Act (1958). We recognise that places of deposit may need to close or reduce services for a period of time as a result of public health guidance or an individual organisation’s own risk management decisions. We wish to reassure archive services that this will not affect appointment as a place of deposit. Our concern is for the well-being of staff and users, and we would also ask that attention is given to ensuring the safety and security of collections during a period of closure. We would be grateful if places of deposit could inform us of a planned closure or amendments to operations in advance if this is possible, and we aim to maintain contact with archive services and provide advice as usual. For any enquiries, please contact us at asd@nationalarchives.gov.uk "

Archives Revealed/Collaborate and Innovate
"We understand that many projects funded as part of Archives Revealed or Collaborate and Innovate may be disrupted due to the COVID-19 outbreak, either by staff absences or temporary closure of archive services. We want to be as helpful as possible during this period of disruption. Therefore – if you are experiencing disruption to ongoing projects we would like to reassure you that we will be as flexible as possible. Please let us know if you need to extend your project completion date, delay the start of your project, or delay reporting on project progress for a period of time. For any enquiries, please contact us at archivesrevealed@nationalarchives.gov.uk or candi@nationalarchives.gov.uk "


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