Reading Room guide

Your responsibilities when using our facilities and how to handle original (uncopied) State archives. Our reading room staff are also on hand to provide expert and professional advice to help you get the most out of your visit.

Reader's Ticket

Before you can access original State archives you must have a reader's ticket. Reader's tickets are issued in our reading room and are valid indefinitely. You may use your ticket to access records in the reading room and at our Regional Archives Centres.

A reader's ticket requires that you have read and agree to the reading room rules and procedures described here. When using State archives we also ask that you respect the privacy of, and not cause distress, to living persons

See more information and apply for a reader's ticket »

Reading room rules

Our reading room rules and procedures are designed to help preserve and protect the States' archives. NSW State Archives is responsible for preserving and making records of continuing value accessible as State archives. One way that we can all help preserve these unique and irreplaceable records, now and for future generations, is through ensuring proper security, care and handling.

When using our reading facilities you agree to follow our reading room rules by:

  • Not bringing bags (including handbags) into the reading room. Lockers are available
  • Turning off your mobile phones
  • Keeping all noise to a minimum while working in the reading room
  • Not eating or drinking in the reading room (there is a designated lounge area and outdoor seating)
  • Not entering the 'Staff Only' areas.

When using original records you agree to:

  • Follow the care and handling of archives guidelines listed below
  • Complete all requests for original records and/or copy orders 30 minutes before closing time
  • Not remove records from the designated area
  • Not transfer records to another researcher
  • Return records to the designated collection points after use.

Care and handling guidelines for archives

Handling original records

  • Handle all original items with care at all times
  • Turn folios carefully one at a time, ideally from the top right hand corner
  • Ensure that volumes are fully supported at all times.
    • Reading room staff can supply equipment to support volumes or weights to assist in keeping a record 'open'
  • Do not place objects on the records.

Clean hands

  • If you are not wearing gloves, ensure that your hands are clean, dry and free from lotions that may stain and add to the deterioration of the records.

Wear gloves when requested by reading room staff

You may be requested to wear gloves when accessing:

  • all photographic material (including paper prints, negatives, glass negatives, aperture cards and cinematic or reel-to-reel film)
  • maps and plans that are not fragile
  • original material that is not fragile, and
  • items from our 'safe store' that are not fragile.

Keep records in original order

  • Do not disturb the order of papers within a bundle (if documents appear to be out of order, please notify reading room staff)
  • Do not remove documents from bundles or remove pins from bundles

When taking notes

  • Use pencils for writing or note taking, except when completing designated forms
  • Do not lean on archival records when writing
  • Do not mark any record (do not trace, highlight or underline archival material).

Marking places in the records

  • Do not use items such as 'post-it' notes, cardboard, pens, pencils or memo pads to mark places in archival records. Paper flags are available.

Damaged records

  • Report any damage such as loose or torn folios, so that they can be referred for preservation treatment.

Access to fragile or easily damaged material

If an original (uncopied) record is fragile or in an unstable condition you may be asked to view the item under the supervision of NSW State Archives staff. You may also be requested to wash and dry your hands thoroughly prior to handling the record. When an item is severely degraded and at risk of further damage, staff may have to withhold access completely. In these cases, which occur only occasionally, we will explain the reasons why access cannot be granted.

Digital copying services

Self serve copying

We have several digital cameras and a self-service copier for you to copy original material. Images can be saved to a USB stick. Instructions for using the cameras are available in the reading room.

If you intend to use your own scanner please see the information below.

Copying from microform onto USB

Reading room visitors have the option of downloading copies of records from microfilm, microfiche and aperture card on to a memory stick, rather than requesting photocopies.

The machines are free to access and use; you will need to supply the USB memory stick or purchase one in the reading room.

Using your own equipment

You can bring your laptop and camera into the reading room for your research. If you are considering bringing a scanner please see the section below.

When using electronic equipment, such as laptops and scanners, we recommend you use batteries as our reading room is not protected against power surges. We suggest that you always backup up your work regularly to ensure minimal loss.

We do not accept responsibility for any loss or damage to equipment.

Using your digital camera

We also permit the use of your own digital cameras in most situations. A digital camera may be a benefit when it is not possible to photocopy a record, for example a large volume, or a plan.

Flash photography

Flash photography is generally not permitted. Please talk to reading room staff.

Using your own scanner

In some situations we permit the use of scanners to copy records. Please contact us at prior to bringing a scanner to the reading room.

What type of scanner can be used

A flat-bed or overhead scanner is usually acceptable. Other types of scanners, for example hand-held scanners which contact the page are not permitted.

Handling documents when using a scanner

Do not place the document being scanned under too much pressure. It is best to leave a small gap between the scanner cover and the document - for example placing your fingertip under the scanner cover. This prevents small areas of damage in documents from worsening.

What can be scanned?

You can scan individual items such as flat cards, flat documents from unpinned bundles and loose photographs.

What can't be scanned?

To prevent damage to original records, you are not permitted to scan documents that:

  • must be straightened to be copied,
  • are taken from a file containing pinned documents,
  • would need to be bent or folded in any way,
  • are larger than the glass plate on your scanner, or
  • any bound volumes.
  • Fees for Reading Room services
  • Services for which no charges apply. There is no charge for:
    • entry to our reading room
    • inspection of original & copied records
    • applications for readers' tickets
    • the use of finding aids, PCs, databases, and
    • assistance by staff.

We also supply certified copies of records at no additional charge to that of copying. Kindly note that certification may add to the time taken to despatch the copies.