Using cameras in the reading room – Fact sheet 230

The use of cameras, including digital or via a smart device, by researchers to make copies of archival records is permitted in National Archives reading rooms. Researchers who wish to use this service must register in the reading room and agree to observe the conditions of the service.

How do I register?

You will need to sign a request for permission to photograph records form and have this signed by the reference officer on duty in the reading room. You only need to register once. A camera label will be placed on your reader card to show you may use a camera and your name will be added to a register of researchers who have been given permission to use cameras.

Once you have registered you may use your camera in any National Archives reading room, but you should approach the reference officer on duty to confirm your registration. Staff may ask to sight your reader card to verify your registration for the service.

Which records may I copy and where?

You may photograph any records that are issued to you as a public researcher in the reading room unless it is likely to result in damage to the record. You may copy a record in the reading room as you are consulting it, in the area of the reading room designated for photography.

When photographing records, we require that you:

  • not use a tripod or photographic flash
  • limit disturbance to other researchers
  • not damage records or treat records in a way likely to result in damage
  • not open any sealed envelopes or masks on the file
  • not dismantle or remove any folios from the file pin
  • only use the camera in areas that are designated for photography
  • not use any device which comes into contact with the record, such as a flatbed or handheld scanner that moves across the face of folios
  • only photograph records for the purposes of research or study. If you intend on further reproducing or publishing material, please seek permission from the copyright owner.

If the format of a record makes it difficult to copy, for example a tightly bound volume obscures the edges of a page, or a file fastener covers part of a text, you must not attempt to flatten or dismantle the record. Please consult the reference officer who may be able to advise alternate strategies or arrange for a digital copy to be made by National Archives staff. Normal copying charges will apply.

Please do not ask (or expect) reference staff to assist you in photographing records by holding files or volumes open.

Can my permission to photograph be revoked?

Yes. The Archives will revoke your permission if we consider you are damaging records in the process of photographing them, or failing to comply with other conditions you have undertaken to meet by signing the permission to photograph records form.

What are my responsibilities under the Copyright Act 1968 when making my own copies?

Copying of archival records is subject to the Copyright Act 1968. Taking photographic or digital images of an archival record is defined as reproduction under the Act and as such may affect copyright.

The Commonwealth does not own copyright in all the material made available in the reading room. Some files contain published material, photographs, correspondence, reports and other documents in which the Commonwealth does not own copyright. In most cases, the National Archives can grant permission to reproduce records for which the Commonwealth owns copyright. The Archives cannot grant permission for the reproduction of records where the copyright is not owned by the Commonwealth.

It is your responsibility to ensure that you copy non-Commonwealth copyright material only if allowed under the Copyright Act, for example under the fair dealing provisions of the Copyright Act, or with permission of the copyright owner.

Can I publish the copies I make?

You may not make further reproductions or publish the photographs of archival records without seeking permission of the copyright owner. If you intend to publish any material you have photographed from the collection of the National Archives you should contact the Archives. Please provide the series and control symbol of the record containing material you wish to publish, as well as what you intend to do with the reproduction.

For records in which the Commonwealth owns copyright the Archives can, in most cases, give permission. For records in which the Commonwealth does not own copyright it is your responsibility to identify and obtain permission from the current copyright holder.

Noting the source of the documents you have photographed

It is important that you keep accurate records of the files in which you found the documents you have photographed. Citing archival records correctly allows others to look at the context of the documents.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019