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Cataloguing

Personal data

Community archives may hold two types of personal data.

The first is personal data that is part of a collection, for example letters including correspondents’ addresses, or photographs of living people.

The second is personal data that is collected in the course of running your group, such as donors’ contact details on an accession form, oral history permission forms or email addresses on a newsletter mailing list.

Personal data may not necessarily be an issue with the material you collect, but it is nevertheless important that you are aware of it.

Personal data includes:

  • Any information that could identify someone, such as a name, address, telephone number or email address.
  • Any information that could be combined to identify a person, for example a job title or health history.

Laws around personal data only apply to people who are currently alive.

You do not need to destroy or return archives that contain personal data BUT, records containing personal data should have a closure period, which is marked in the catalogue record, unless you have explicit written permission from the person concerned (not always the donor!) to open them.

The National Archives advises a closure period that assumes a lifetime of 100 years, but this can be graduated down from the age or assumed age of the individual in the record. For example, you have a twenty-year old photograph of a named person who is about 70 years old, meaning if still alive they would be about 90 years old currently. This may therefore have to be closed to public access for a further ten years.

If you make sensitive material available this could cause distress or damage to the subject of the record. Take professional advice or post on the Norfolk Archives Network Forum if you're unsure:

Read Archives and data protection law in the UK on the National Archives website for more information.

 

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