Balliol College Policy on Accessing Historic Collections

This policy applies to the use of archival records for research purposes. Where information is required for administrative purposes, access will be given to records of any age to persons acting on behalf of the College department or section which created them, or its successor; if appropriate, records may be returned temporarily to that department or section.

Anyone is welcome to access Balliol College’s unique Historic Collections, including the institutional archives dating from the 12th century to the present day, our unrivalled collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books, and our modern literary and political personal papers. On occasion, however, it may not be possible to view archival material, but we will let you know if this is the case when you make your enquiry. Archives and manuscripts may be restricted for a few reasons, outlined below.

Data Protection

Balliol College Archives is obliged to meet the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 2018. Access to information in the Archives is provided in accordance with these Acts and related guidance issued by the Information Commissioner and other appropriate authorities.

All requests for access to material covered by the Data Protection Act (DPA) will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Archivist in conjunction with the Data Protection Officer and other relevant parties where appropriate.

Here are some examples of how materials may be restricted under data protection:

  • Most records more than 75 years old are open to public access, except for any records containing personal information, which are closed for the life of the subject or 100 years after creation, whichever is later.
  • Records less than 75 but more than 30 years old are open to public access, subject to the conditions and exceptions provided for under the Freedom of Information and Data Protection Acts
  • Access to administrative archival records which are less than 30 years old will require the permission of the College department or section which created them or its successor.
  • In general, material deemed personal or sensitive is closed.

Material deemed of commercial significance to the College’s interests is closed. For the College’s Publication Scheme, enquiry contact details and further explanation of the Freedom of Information legislation, please see the College Freedom of Information pages.

If you have been granted access to more recent material covered by the Data Protection Act 2018, we will ask you to sign a form confirming that you will abide by the terms of the DPA. You must agree to comply with the relevant conditions of access under the DPA: that any information you obtain from the collections will not be used to support measures or decisions with respect to living individuals, and that it will not cause or be likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress to any individual data subject who is still alive, or likely to be alive.

Depositor restrictions and copyright

Balliol College does not own all the collections in its care. Occasionally people who entrust us with their documents ask us to temporarily restrict access to all or part of a collection or require us to consult them prior to granting access. This will normally be indicated in the catalogue. Similarly, you may require permission from the copyright holder to photograph or otherwise copy material in the collections. See our Reprographics Policy for more information.

Physical condition

Some documents and manuscripts are not in a fit state to be handled or may be receiving conservation treatment. This will normally be indicated in the catalogue. Do get in touch, as it may be possible to supply surrogates or prioritise conservation.

Uncatalogued materials

If a collection is uncatalogued, this means that it can be difficult and time consuming to find the material you need. It will also need to be reviewed by the Archivist to determine if it contains material effected by data protection or is too fragile to be consulted. We will grant access on a case-by-case basis; please note that we require at least a month’s notice.

Loans and exhibitions

Occasionally, an item you wish to see may feature in one of our own exhibitions or be on loan to another institution. It may be possible to temporarily remove it from display or provide a surrogate.