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University Archive Policy

1. Introduction

1.1        The Queen’s University Belfast Archive (previously known as the ‘Reginalia’ collection and hereafter referred to as ‘the Archive’) is the central repository for the historical record of the University and its predecessor, Queen’s College Belfast.  Maintained and accumulated since its foundation in 1845, the collection contains a wide range of material that has been selected for permanent preservation because of its enduring evidential and historical value to the University as an institution.

1.2        Representing the corporate memory of Queen’s, the Archive provides a unique and valuable resource of information for staff, students and the wider community.  As such, and in accordance with the University’s Records Management Policy, it requires appropriate management and care to realise its full value.  The following policy has, therefore, been prepared to provide a framework for the administration, preservation and future development of the collection as a corporate resource to ensure this is achieved.

2. Scope of Policy

2.1        This policy applies to all records created, generated, received or maintained by Queen’s University Belfast and Queen’s College Belfast, which should be retained permanently for administrative, legal, financial, and historical reasons.

2.2        The policy applies to all members of staff and student representatives involved in activities and initiatives undertaken in the University’s name and which are deemed to be of significance to Queen’s as an institution.

2.3        In addition to the official record of the University, the policy also extends to material offered by private individuals or groups for possible inclusion in the Archive.

3. Aims and Objectives

3.1        This policy aims to maintain and develop the Queen’s University Belfast Archive and to ensure that this collection is positively managed and actively exploited to support the institutional objectives of Queen’s University Belfast, including education, research and community outreach.

3.2        The objectives of the policy are to:

    • Identify and collect records of permanent administrative, legal, financial and historical value to the University.
    • Take all necessary steps to preserve, protect and conserve material selected for permanent retention for posterity.
    • Sort and catalogue the Archive in order to maximise its value as an information and research resource using appropriate tools and adhering to recognised international standards.
    • Promote the Archive and to encourage use of the collection by staff, students, the academic research community and the general public.

4. Administrative Arrangements

4.1        The University Secretary exercises overall corporate responsibility, on behalf of Senate, for the management of all University records and this responsibility extends to records contained in the Archive.

4.2        The Archive is based in Special Collections and Archives in the University Library.

4.3        The contents of the Archive are stored in The McClay Library.

4.4        An Archive Service is provided by a qualified archivist, who is responsible for all aspects of the management of this service, ensuring that all necessary procedures and arrangements meet professional standards of best practice.

4.5        Appropriate training and instruction will be provided to all other staff involved, as appropriate, in the day-to-day operation/management of the Archive Service.

4.6        Responsibility for managing the archived student records which have not been transferred to the University Archive and deeds of property is done so under existing arrangements by the Student Records and Examinations Office and the Estates Directorate respectively.

4.7        Relevant contacts between the Archive Service and other University departments are actively sought and developed to ensure a comprehensive service can be provided to users.

5. Acquisition

5.1        The University seeks to collect all records of archival value, regardless of format, that document and reflect the history and development of Queen’s University Belfast, its staff and students, from 1908 onwards, and that of its predecessor, Queen’s College Belfast, from c. 1845-1908.

5.2        Deposits of new material are accepted on the basis of an internal transfer from a University department; a gift; a bequest or a purchase.  Formal transfer of title/legal ownership of material will be sought as a matter of course.

5.3        Certain classes of archival record will be automatically transferred from University departments to ensure their permanent preservation. These include:

    • All records created before 1908 in the course of Queen’s College business.
    • Original copies of all superseded versions of the University Charter, Statutes and Regulations, on amendment.
    • Signed minutes and papers of Senate, Academic Council and other committees falling within the core committee structure.
    • Copies of all official publications, at point of issue, including, inter alia:
      • University Prospectus
      • University Calendar
      • Vice-Chancellor’s Annual Report
      • Corporate Plan
      • Financial Statements
      • Alumni Magazine and Graduate Newsletter
      • Staff and student handbooks
      • Copies of published histories
    • Examination Papers
    • News clippings and official press releases maintained by the Communications Office.
    • Inaugural and other significant presentations, addresses, speeches and honorary degree citations.
    • Other records emanating from all University functions and activities, selected as worthy of permanent preservation, through retention scheduling procedures.

5.4          Other records to be considered for permanent retention will, for example, include:

    • Records of prominent and/or significant members of University staff including official, professional and personal correspondence, biographical material, photographs, tape recordings, class lecture notes and syllabi, research files, manuscripts of articles and books written, diaries, notebooks, and memorabilia.
    • Records of prominent and/or significant members of the student body including lecture notes, diaries, biographical material, photographs, personal correspondence whilst at University, memoirs of University days and memorabilia.
    • Records of University staff or student clubs and societies, particularly minute books, pamphlets, leaflets and membership rolls.
    • Records that relate to the University’s role within the local community.

5.5         The University Archive reserves the right to refuse material offered for deposit and which does not fall within the scope of this policy.  Another suitable repository will, as far as possible, be suggested as an alternative.  This will facilitate the inclusion of the material as a manuscript collection within Special Collections & Archives in the Library or referral to other departments within the University such as the University’s Art Collection which is based in the Naughton Gallery and/or external organisations, as appropriate.

5.6        The acceptance/transfer of all new material to the Archive is acknowledged and formally accepted by the Archive Service, the University Librarian, the University Secretary or the Vice-Chancellor, depending on the nature and significance of the deposit.

5.7        Details of all deposits are recorded on a central Accessions Register which is maintained by the Archive Service and retained indefinitely as a permanent record of the University.

5.8        Once selected and accessioned, all deposited records are normally preserved on a permanent basis by the University as part of the Archive.  Only in very exceptional cases will material be withdrawn from the collection.

6. Access

6.1        All records in the Archive are catalogued, in accordance with international archival standards, utilising appropriate tools and IT systems to ensure the collection is intellectually accessible to potential researchers.

6.2        The Archive is available for consultation to all interested members of the public, students, researchers and staff, subject to:

    • Any conditions that may subsequently be imposed e.g. terms of deposit.
    • Legislative requirements e.g. the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 2018.
    • Physical condition/fragility of the archive material.

6.3        The University reserves the right to refuse access to items which have not been added to the official catalogue until such time as the material can be described. 

6.4        Access to materials held in the Archive is by prior appointment only and under supervision.

6.5        All visitors/users are required to sign an application and undertaking form, which outlines their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act, 2018 and the Copyright, Design & Patents Act 1988.

6.6        All visitors/users are required to observe all rules/guidelines drawn up by the Archive Service, which are designed to protect the records.

7. Preservation/Conservation

7.1        The primary responsibility of the Archivist in charge is to ensure the records are safe and protected against physical deterioration and damage, in accordance with the requirements of BS EN 16893:2018 Conservation of Cultural Heritage. Specifications for location, construction and modification of buildings or rooms intended for the storage or use of heritage collections and other relevant professional standards of practice.  In particular, the Archivist and all other staff involved with the Archive must ensure that:

    • Records are always placed, handled, consulted and/or displayed in a way which minimizes the risk of damage and takes due account of the size, shape and physical condition of the record(s).
    • Records are always placed, handled, consulted and/or displayed in safe and secure locations.
    • Records are always moved with proper care between locations.
    • Records are always placed, handled, consulted and/or displayed under appropriate preservation conditions (e.g. by avoiding damp areas or areas directly affected by ultra violet light).
    • Proper account is kept, at all times, of the precise whereabouts of all records, regardless of whether they are being stored permanently, withdrawn temporarily or awaiting or undergoing cataloguing or conservation treatment.
    • Withdrawn records are returned to their permanent place of storage after consultation.
    • The Archivist (or other appropriate individuals) is alerted, and action taken, where serious damage or loss has occurred or is seen as a threat. This includes the possibility or evidence of physical misuse, maltreatment or theft of records.

7.2        The University will make sufficient space available for the safe and permanent storage of the Archive.

7.3        All storage areas will be kept clean and secure from unauthorised access to minimise the risk of theft or malicious damage to the Archive.

7.4        Environmental conditions in storage areas will be carefully controlled and regulated in a way which reduces the threat to records of atmospheric contamination and which helps keep them in the best physical condition possible.

7.5        Storage materials and packaging of archival quality will be used to protect against physical and chemical deterioration of items contained in the Archive.

7.6        On the receipt of a new deposit, all items will be properly prepared for long-term storage (e.g. the physical condition of records will be checked, metal clips and/or excessive dust/dirt removed) and put away with a view to their physical protection and ease of retrieval (e.g. large maps and plans will be kept flat in map cabinets, volumes stood correctly onto shelves and manuscript material kept in secure, properly-fitted, acid-free boxes). Preservation/potential conservation requirements will be recorded and, if necessary, copies of fragile material made for reference purposes.

7.7        The University does not employ a professional conservator nor has it the required facilities on-site. The advice and help of a professional conservator will be sought, if and when necessary.

7.8        A disaster reaction/recovery plan encompassing all areas where archive material is stored, handled, examined or displayed, will be developed, as part of an overall plan that is in place for Special Collections and Archives in the Library, to safeguard the Archive and to minimise risk to materials in the event of a disaster such as fire, flood, bomb attack, or theft.

7.9        Digital surrogates and born digital materials which hold long term archival value and are transferred to the University Archive will be maintained in a digital preservation system.

8. Loans

8.1        Original material will be loaned to other archive services or repositories in accordance with the ‘Exhibition Lending Policy for Library Special Collections and Archives’ and upon completion of all relevant forms prior to the loan occurring.

8.2        The borrower takes full responsibility for the care of the item(s) and covers the cost for transport, insurance and, if necessary, conservation of the item(s) on loan. Original material will be loaned for display purposes only if conditions are in accordance with BS EN 16893:2018 Conservation of Cultural Heritage otherwise the use of copies will be encouraged.

9. Promotional Activities and Dissemination

9.1        Information about the Archive and associated procedures will be made available to potential users on the University website.

9.2        All opportunities, as may arise, will be taken to promote the Archive as a corporate information/research resource for students, staff and other users, through presentations, exhibitions, contributions to University publications and events and published directories.

10. Related Policies

This policy should be read in conjunction with the University’s:

    • Digital & Information Services Library Donations Policy
    • Records Management Policy
    • Art Collection Acquisition and Disposal Policy
    • Digital & Information Services Resource Development and Management Policy
    • Digital and Information Services Digital Preservation Policy
    • Other related policies that may be developed by the University from time to time

11. Review and Amendment

This policy and all associated guidelines will be reviewed regularly and, if necessary, amended to maintain its relevance within the University.

12. Policy Adoption and Contact

The Queen’s University Belfast Archive Policy was adopted by Senate on 29 November 2006 with immediate effect.  

It was reviewed and approved by the University Operating Board on 30 May 2014.

Reviewed September 2023; next review due September 2026.

Please contact Ursula Mitchel, University Archivist, The McClay Library, (028) 9097 6237, for further information.