You can help to preserve York’s archival heritage by:
- Donating archives to us
- Taking steps to preserve your own archives by reading our guidance for community groups
- Telling us about archives you think may be at risk
If you or an organisation you are involved in has archives relating to the history of the City of York and its inhabitants, then we would love to hear from you. We actively acquire new archives and local history materials on behalf of City of York Council, in line with our Collecting Policy.
For more information about the terms on which we accept new collections, as well as about the process for transferring items to us, please see our Frequently Asked Questions below, or arrange to speak to an archivist.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Explore York Libraries and Archives?
What do you collect?
Why can’t you accept everything you are offered?
What is the process for offering you my collection?
What format does my collection need to be in?
Do I have to give up ownership of my items?
What are Intellectual Property Rights?
Will you automatically make my items available to the public?
How long will it take to catalogue my collection?
Do I have to cover the costs of donating my collection to you?
What happens if I would like to keep consulting the material I have donated to you?
I don’t know if I want to donate my collection. Can you still offer me advice?
Explore York Libraries and Archives Mutual Ltd is an independent community benefit company providing Library and Archives services on behalf of City of York Council. We do not collect new archives and local history material in our own name – we collect on behalf of the Council, so material collected by us forms part of the city’s permanent archive and local history collections.
We collect archives and published materials from public and private sources which document the history, culture and identity of York’s communities, organisations and inhabitants. You can find out more detailed information about the types of records we collect in our Collecting Policy.
When we accept new material into the archive and local history collections we commit to its ongoing preservation and provide public access in the long term. This is expensive in terms of the space we need to house the archives and the money we need to provide a public service. So we have to carefully select what we take into the collections. To help us, we have a published Collecting Policy stating what we will keep and what we won’t.
In general, we collect records about the history, culture and identity of the City of York, its communities, organisations and residents. We also collect published material about the geography, environment, population, culture, economy and history of the City of York and its people. If your material falls outside of our collecting policy we can offer you some suggestions for other archives services who may be interested, however we cannot guarantee they will accept the items.
New deposits can be any age. We cannot accept material which falls into the collecting remit of another archive or local history service. There is more information about the specialisms of other local collecting archives in our Collecting Policy
Please do not bring your records into the library unless we have arranged an appointment to receive them. The best way to start is by emailing us with all the information you have about the material. We need a few pieces of information, including:
- What the records are
- The size of the collection
- What format the collection is in (see below)
- Who owns it and where it comes from
Once we have this information, we will let you know whether we need to see the material before we make a final decision, either where it is currently stored or at the archives service. If you leave material with us for a decision we will issue you with a temporary deposit receipt.
We will then make a decision about the items at our next monthly Collections Meeting and either return them to you or advise you on the process for taking them into the archive and local history collections.
We collect records for the information they tell us rather than the format they are in, so we will accept manuscripts, typescripts, computer files, maps, plans, drawings, photographs, databases and other electronic records, sound recordings and any other formats containing information. We ask all depositors to remove any plastic coverings (e.g. plastic pockets or plastic files) prior to deposit, as this material degrades very rapidly and poses a risk to the long-term preservation of the records.
We do not generally accept films, artefacts and art works, which we would instead direct to an appropriate specialist film archive, museum or art gallery. This is because we can’t provide suitable preservation and access conditions for these formats.
If we agree to accept material into the archive and local history collections we normally ask that donors complete and sign a Gift Agreement. This transfers ownership of the material to City of York Council, as our Collecting Policy explains.
In exceptional circumstances we may consider taking the material on a fixed term renewable Loan Agreement. The precise terms of these agreements would be negotiated with you. We may ask that you provide evidence that you have sufficient legal authority to sign the agreement, for example in the case of businesses, organisations or families we ask for a minuted decision. In the case of Loan Agreements we ask that you let us know if the ownership of the collection or contact information changes during the loan period.
There are a number of different types of Intellectual Property Rights, including copyright, patents and industrial design rights. When you are talking to us about depositing or donating your collection, we will ask you whether you own the copyright in the items you are offering to us and whether you are willing to donate the copyright to us as well.
If you donate the copyright of the material to us, we can then make copies to use in exhibitions, educational material and promotions) and allow people to make copies of the records for their own research and publications.
All archives and published material in our collections will be available for public access as soon as they are catalogued.
If the documents contain personal or sensitive data access will be restricted in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998. This allows for research exemptions in certain circumstances. More details about these exemptions are available on request.
The time it takes to catalogue a collection depends on its size and complexity. We receive many new deposits each year and are also continuing a long term programme of legacy cataloguing work.
We therefore plan a cataloguing programme to prioritise which collections are catalogued in which order. We take into account a number of factors to determine this. These factors include:
- informational density
- research interest and demand
- physical condition
- suitability for volunteer projects
Collections are therefore typically catalogued between 3 and 18 months from the point of accession. Large and complex collections often require us to design a project plan which may involve external funding bids, so the timescales for such major collections will be extended.
We will work with you prior to your donation to ensure that your collection is ready to be processed.
Processing an archive collection requires conservation standard packaging materials and cataloguing expertise. These are expensive. For example one standard archive box costs us around £7.00; a packet of 20 archival grade folders costs £20. Photographic material, especially film negatives, has additional needs. When Explore accepts a new archives’ collection we undertake to cover the basic costs of these in addition to ensuring the long term preservation of the material, including climate controlled storage.
Where donors are able to contribute to initial costs this ensures the best possible preservation, and allows us to make the collection available to the public more quickly. If you or your group can offer financial or other support for this work, do let us know. We are able to advise in each set of circumstances which forms of assistance would be most beneficial.
Once we have catalogued the collection and it is publicly available, you are welcome to come and access the material when our archives reading room is open.
If you would like to use our self-service facilities to make copies of your material for your own purposes we will not apply our standard reprographics charges.
Not all archive collections are held by archival institutions. We are here to support archives wherever they are found in our community. Regardless of whether you are interested in donating your collection to us one day, we are able to offer practical guidance on how to store, arrange, describe, preserve and make your records accessible.