Viewing records in the reading room – Fact sheet 11

Ordering a record using RecordSearch

To order and view records in a reading room you must be registered as a researcher. To register, go to Search the collection, then select ‘Register’ to enter your details. A login name and reader card number will be generated.

When you visit a reading room for the first time, you will need to show identification so we can verify your identity before issuing a reader card to you. Your reader card must be presented each time you visit a reading room, and each time original records are issued to you.

Once you have identified an item on RecordSearch, check the access status. If this is shown as Open or Open with exception select ‘Issue to reading room’. A ‘Request for Issue’ screen will appear showing your name and reader card number and the details of the record. Print this request and lodge it with the reference officer on duty.

When you submit your request, find out if the record is held onsite. If it is held offsite, or is in special storage (eg low temperature) there will likely be some delay, depending on the location and type of storage.

If you are using RecordSearch outside of a reading room, you can print and mail the ‘Request for Issue’ to us in advance of your visit, or submit an advance request to view records.

Applying for access

If a record you identify has an access status of Not yet examined or Closed, or the item is not listed on RecordSearch, you will need to apply for access.

Why do I need to apply for access?

Under the Archives Act, all records must be examined before they can be released to the public.

How do I know if I need to apply for access?

You need to apply for access if:

  • the record is listed on RecordSearch but has an access status of Not yet examined (meaning it has not yet been examined for sensitivities)

  • the record is listed on RecordSearch with an access status of Closed (which means that the record consisted entirely of exempt information or the information was not in the open access period), or

  • the record is not listed on RecordSearch.

How do I apply for access?

Provided you have the citation of the record (ie the series number and item control symbol) you can apply for access by:

  • submitting an access application through RecordSearch, by selecting ‘Request copy’ on the item details screen, or

  • contacting us with your request for access to a record. You must give an address in Australia where we can notify you when the record has been examined.

If you intend on submitting a number of applications, or are undertaking a major academic or publishing research project, please contact our Reference Service beforehand, to let us know when you wish to begin your research and which applications you would like processed first.

What if the records are Open with exception or Closed?

If you submit an application for access for a record that is Open with exception or Closed, we will re-examine the exempt material to see if it still requires exemption.

If the record is Open with exception, you might find it helpful to discuss the nature and extent of the exemptions with reference staff before you submit an application for access. Even if the record is Closed, discussing it with staff first will help you determine whether the exempt information is likely to be relevant to your field of interest and whether you would like us to re-examine it.

Note that the access status for many records may be Open with exception or Closed because at the time they were examined some or all of the papers on the record were not in the open access period. If they are now in the open access period, you can apply for access.

How long does the examination of records take?

While most examination is completed within a month, it may take up to 90 days and sometimes longer to examine some files. We will let you know if there are delays. If we have not given you a decision within 90 days we are deemed to have refused you access and you may appeal.

How will I know the results of my application?

We aim to notify applicants of our decision within 90 days, but the time this takes depends on the volume and type of records, the amount of exempt information they contain, and whether the records need to be referred to agencies.

If we withold access to information on a record, we will provide you with a written statement of reasons explaining why we refused access. In most cases the Act gives you the right to appeal against our decision.

Additional information

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017