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First digital transfer to The National Archives

On Wednesday 26 January 2022, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) began to transfer its first born-digital records to The National Archives (TNA).

Government departments are obliged under the Public Records Act to transfer historical public records selected for permanent preservation to The National Archives (TNA), by an agreed timescale.

From the 1990s, FCDO files were stored in both a digital and paper format. These particular digital records were created on the FCDO’s original IT system in 1992, and are now available through TNA’s online catalogue on the Internet.

The Sensitivity Review Service

FCDO Services has been providing a records review service to the FCDO since 2017. The process includes selecting digital and paper files for permanent preservation and reviewing them for sensitivity, ready for transfer to TNA.

Our Sensitivity Reviewers examined all of the FCDO files before they were cleared. This involved analysing and redacting information as necessary to ensure documents were safe to publish.

The hybrid transfer

Hybrid records comprise both electronic and paper records, and the transfer in January this year included 286 paper files and their digital counterparts from the former FCO South Asia Department, known at TNA as FCO 37 1992. The material covered the UK’s political and economic relations with India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.

Following the usual post-transfer record keeping activity undertaken by TNA, the digital and paper documents have now been released to the public.

Future transfers

FCDO Services is supporting the FCDO and other government departments in meeting their statutory obligations. In addition to work on records review and transfer, the FCDO continues to face an increasing number of historical FOI requests which typically require us to support the FCDO in reviewing for sensitivity any records requested.

In the coming year, we expect to transfer three more hybrid series of files, and this number will rise sharply.

“We are pleased to be working closely with FCDO Services on their review of FCDO records, and to benefit from their extensive knowledge and expertise in sensitivity reviewing records and providing us with the technical capability to transfer digital records to The National Archives.”

Head of Archives, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office