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Collections acquisition and management policy

Date updated: 12/04/2023


London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) exists to collect records of London’s rich past history and to find and collect records of London’s vibrant and diverse present, which are selected, catalogued, stored and permanently preserved for the use and benefit of present and future generations. 

The Greater London Record Office was formed in 1965, when the Greater London Council (GLC) was set up, by uniting the record offices of the London County Council (LCC) and the Middlesex County Council (MCC). Its Library was formerly a reference library for members of the LCC. The Common Council of the City of London Corporation assumed responsibility for the service on 1 April 1986, upon the abolition of the GLC, and the service changed its name to London Metropolitan Archives in 1995. The Corporation of London Records Office (CLRO) was the archive responsible for holding the departmental and organisational records of the City of London Corporation. It became part of LMA in 2003. Guildhall Library Manuscripts began as a collection of individual manuscripts and small collections of City of London interest in 1828 when Guildhall Library was refounded. Since 1945 it has acted as the local record office for the City of London, the “Square Mile”, excluding the records of the City of London Corporation. It merged with LMA in 2007.

LMA offers a professional and courteous service to depositors, donors and all enquirers. We seek to maintain contact with all our stakeholders and involve them in the development of our service.

LMA operates under the following statutory authorities:

  • Law of Property Acts 1922-25
  • Public Records Act 1958 and 1967
  • Parochial Registers and Records Measures 1929, 1978 and 1992
  • London Government Act 1963
  • Local Government Acts 1972 and 1985
  • Education Reform Act 1988
  • Manorial Documents Rules 1960
  • Tithe Act 1936

Specifically, and most pertinently, as a local authority archive service LMA operates under section 224 of the Local Government Act 1972 which requires principal councils to ‘make proper arrangements with respect to any documents that belong to or are in the custody of the council or any of their officers’; LMA has custody of archives other than those produced by its own administration under the Local Government (Records) Act 1962 which gives councils discretionary powers to carry out various activities in relation to the records of other individuals and organisations, including official private and voluntary sector bodies.

LMA has been appointed by the Lord Chancellor to hold various central government and court records of local origin under the Public Records Act 1958.

The archives and records held by LMA are also affected by a wide variety of other legislation either relating to specific types of records (see above), or of general application such as the Data Protection Act 2018, Freedom of Information Act, 2000, Environmental Information Regulations, 2004, and the Public Sector Information Reuse Regulations, 2005.

  • To take in and look after the records of London Local Government, including the City of London Corporation, the GLC and its predecessors.
  • To receive by gift, deposit or purchase collections of original records (in all formats including electronic records), relating to the Greater London area (excluding the City of Westminster) or to the City of London, and to administer them under the relevant statutory authorities. Deposits and gifts are subject to formal legally binding agreements drawn up with the depositor or donor of the records.
  • To maintain a specialist library relating to the collections of archival source material in the office and to the history of the Greater London area. To acquire by gift or purchase books suitable for the library.
  • To acquire by gift, deposit or purchase graphic and audio visual materials in any appropriate format, which are of topographical or social significance to the Greater London area.
  • To catalogue and store all the collections under our care, and to make them available in our modern reading rooms in original or surrogate form for the benefit of everyone. To present the collections through a comprehensive electronic catalogue, and to make popular sources available in digital format.
  • To develop, maintain and apply a comprehensive preservation and conservation philosophy in keeping with best current practice nationally and internationally. To provide a fully equipped conservation studio for the conservation of archives, maps, prints and books and audio-visual material.
  • To maintain a flexible and extensive service to users, including the compilation, editing and publishing, in hard copy and electronically, of catalogues of collections and maps and prints, information leaflets, facsimiles and guides to holdings and to the use of the collections.
  • To operate a reprographic service producing high quality reproductions of documents in hard copy and/or electronic form.
  • To continue to meet national archival standards at the highest level.  London Metropolitan Archives met “The National Archives' Standard for Record Repositories” and achieved a top star rating in the self-assessment of local authority archive services under the auspices of the inspection service of The National Archives (TNA) in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010.  Self-assessment was replaced from 1 July 2013 by Archive Accreditation, which LMA achieved in May 2014 and which was retained in November 2017. The History of London Collection at London Metropolitan Archives is also designated as an outstanding collection by the Arts Council England (originally awarded by Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, 2005).
  • To maintain an accessions register and issue a receipt for all accessions. Personal or sensitive information from the accessions register is unavailable for general access, but summary information is sent to The National Archives as part of its annual “Accessions to Repositories” exercise.
  • To catalogue all records as soon as possible, prioritised in accordance with agreed criteria to ensure that cataloguing capacity is directed to collections identified as a priority, reflected in LMA’s annual cataloguing plan. The prioritisation process also identifies cataloguing projects which may be suitable for external funding applications.
  • To catalogue all records in accordance with in-house cataloguing conventions and standards, which can be seen on request and are in accordance with ISAD(G), the agreed general international standard for archive description. We will endeavour to avoid the use of jargon wherever possible, but will use archival terminology in accordance with the International Council on Archives’ ‘Multilingual Archival Terminology’ database.
  • To share catalogue information with local and national web portals as appropriate, such as:
  • To make catalogued records available to the public free of charge, within our usual opening hours. However, access to some records may be restricted owing to their state of repair or because they contain confidential information under the General Data Protection Regulation 2018, or at depositors’ request. Where surrogates are available for items these will be produced in lieu of the originals. Access to uncatalogued records will be offered, at our discretion (See Collections Access Policy).
  1. To acquire by transfer or deposit, the records of the City of London Corporation and of official London-wide bodies.
  2. To acquire by gift, deposit or purchase original records relating to a) the City of London or b) the Greater London area which are London-wide in significance, particularly those of:
    • Anglican dioceses and parishes falling within the City of London or former counties of London and Middlesex, except those of the pre-1965 City of Westminster
    • Non-Anglican religious bodies including non-conformist, Jewish and Sikh institutions
    • Private institutions including clubs, schools, societies, charities, professional associations, pressure groups and other organisations
    • Individuals and institutions connected with or under the charge of the City of London Corporation or otherwise closely associated with the City of London “Square Mile” including the City of London livery companies and related organisations for which LMA is the primary place of deposit
    • Businesses which originated or spent most of their history based in London including companies with UK-wide and global reach
    • Families, estates and notable individuals, excluding single or small collections of title deeds
    • National institutions whose headquarters are based in London and which complement existing holdings
    • Records of ethnic and other minority communities which reflect the diversity of modern London, including collections from the Afro-Caribbean, Chinese, Asian and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered communities
  3. To collect and preserve, according to statutory provision, and in agreement with TNA, the records of public bodies of London relevance, especially records of courts, health authorities, hospitals and coroners courts.
  4. To acquire by gift, deposit or purchase:
    • Maps, prints, drawings, watercolours, photographs, posters and other graphic items
    • Audio visual materials including film, video and audio in analogue and digital formats, which are of topographical or social significance to the Greater London area
  5. To collect books, monographs, periodicals and ‘grey’ literature relating to the archival holdings and to the history of the Greater London area.

We will add to our holdings by responding to offers of archives from institutions, businesses and individuals, including additional deposits/gifts from existing depositors and donors, and by actively seeking out archives which are at risk of loss, destruction or damage. We will also identify gaps in our collections and priorities for future collecting and actively pursue these in line with the policy outlined above. This will be done in close liaison with outside bodies including TNA, London borough archives and other relevant repositories, as well as our wider stakeholders when appropriate.

Copies and transcripts are usually only acquired where the originals are not available; artefacts are not usually acquired. Both categories are only acquired if the copies or objects further our aims.

Where items are received as a gift, a gift agreement will be signed by the donor.  If LMA is unable to obtain a signed gift agreement from the donor it will assume ownership of the items.

We shall, in agreement with owners and depositors, evaluate and select material worthy of permanent preservation. This will be done before deposit wherever possible and will follow the office’s own Appraisal Policy, or other guidelines such as the Church of England Record Centre’s “Keep or Bin? - The Care of Your Parish Records”, as appropriate (see our Appraisal Policy).

We undertake to preserve information which may be relevant to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and will retain any and all documents which contain or may contain content pertaining directly or indirectly to the sexual abuse of children or to child protection and care for the foreseeable future. See our Appraisal Policy for further details.

When evaluation takes place after deposit or as part of the cataloguing process rejected material will be returned, or destroyed in a confidential manner, as the donor or depositor prefers. We shall advise the depositor if a more appropriate record repository is available for their material as necessary. We will not dispose of any records in our ownership by sale.

LMA reserves the right to review its holdings to assess their ongoing relevance and where appropriate to explore disposal or accessioning options in accordance with the principles set out in its Appraisal policy and with reference to The National Archives Deaccessioning and Disposal: Guidance for archive services. We will consult depositors (but not donors) in advance of any review and will offer depositors and donors (if up-to-date contact details are available) the chance to receive back unwanted material.

If depositors request a closure period on their records, we need an ongoing high-level contact to consider users’ applications to view such records. We are not able to consider closure periods requested by donors, due to Freedom of Information legislation.

We do not usually acquire material which will remain closed for a significant period of time unless it is immediately at risk and worthy of permanent preservation. Such material is typically bulky and often semi-current. For reasons of confidentiality and access, it is recommended that depositors retain such material until the closure period has expired. At this point, we shall evaluate and select material worthy of permanent preservation.

If storage space is an issue, there are many external commercial storage options available. Church of England bodies may contact the Church of England Records Centre to discuss the possibility of using their charged-for accommodation.

LMA is committed to making the collections it holds freely available to users. It is unusual for open material to be subsequently reclosed, but LMA recognises that there are legitimate circumstances when this may be necessary. If it is considered that open records should be closed then this will be considered by LMA’s Reclosure and Takedown Panel and, if confirmed, the new closure period added to the catalogue. Please check our Reclosure and Takedown Policy for further details.

If owners of deposits on long term loan wish to withdraw their records a fee will be levied which will reflect archive management costs over the period of the loan, along with an administration fee in accordance with LMA’s current Fees and Charges.

Some classes of records are subject to specific deposit criteria, as follows: 

  1. Hospitals: we do not routinely take case files
  2. Schools: we will take in log books and admission and discharge registers for former LCC schools. Other records of former LCC schools are not routinely taken, nor are any records of non-LCC schools unless we already have substantial holdings for the school or it is/was run by an organisation for which we hold material
  3. Diocesan/parish records: we do not routinely take in material less than 15 years old
  4. Coroners’ and Magistrates’ Courts: we do not routinely take in material less than two years old. A charge will be levied for storage of material less than 20 years old

We endeavour to remain in contact with owners and depositors in a variety of ways both formal and informal, and which may include a formal approach to extend a period of loan or refresh the terms and conditions set out in the deposit agreement, or periodically to keep contact details up to date.

We prefer to accept collections as gifts, although deposits are taken. When a deposit is accepted, a charge will normally be made for packaging and cataloguing of the collection. Records presented as gifts will normally be maintained at our expense. However, if records require considerable expenditure on reconditioning, rebinding and repair, further negotiations about conservation costs may occur. 


Please complete a comment form or contact the LMA Enquiry team if you wish to give feedback on this policy.

This policy will be reviewed at least every two years to make sure it remains timely and relevant.

The policy was last reviewed in January 2020.