Collecting and cataloguing the Parliamentary Archives

One of the key tasks of the Parliamentary Archives is to collect records created by both Houses of Parliament and other bodies or individuals which relate to Parliament's work and the Parliamentary Estate.

To achieve this, the Information and Records Management Service which is based in the Archives, works closely with offices and departments, providing information management advice, helping them manage their records and agreeing and implementing rules on which records are of historic value and should be transferred to the Archives for long term preservation. This enables the internal transfer of records, in all formats – paper and digital.

For records created by bodies or individuals external to Parliament, we have also developed a Collection and Acquisition Policy (PDF PDF 1.34 MB) which is managed and updated by Archivists and informs what we collect. Examples of external acquisitions include this notebook of MPs’ portraits organised in order of facial hair and some important papers and drawings created by the architect Sir Charles Barry which had previously been in private hands.

Once we've acquired records for the Archives, we catalogue them, giving them titles, dates, descriptions and unique reference numbers which enable their identification and locate them on shelves in the Victoria Tower. We catalogue according to the international standard for Archives, ISAD(G). We also package the records in appropriate archive boxes, to enable their long term protection and preservation.

The purpose of cataloguing is so we can manage the records, both physically and intellectually - to make sure we know what we have, what it is about and so we and the public can find it and use it. We have around 4 million records, stored on over 8km of shelving, in 13 store rooms, on 12 floors of the Victoria Tower, so this is no small task!

Soon, we’ll be cataloguing more and more digital records, like these snapshots of Parliament’s web pages available on the UK Parliament Web Archive. Digital records are stored in our Digital Repository, not the Victoria Tower though.

The online catalogue and our other searchable online resources (Map Search) are managed by our two Archivists, but several staff across the office do cataloguing work.

We plan to develop and improve our online services and add new functionality to them, such as creation of user accounts, online document ordering, search room booking and we will also be gradually making more images of our collections available online to view via the catalogue, as we progress with our digitisation work.

If you would like to know more about our collecting policies, cataloguing or have any feedback on our systems, do contact us.