Archive Collection Information Policy

1.0 Policy Statement

1.1 The National Portrait Gallery Archive Collection Information Policy sets out what information is created when acquiring, accessioning and cataloguing archives; the standards and rules which are followed whilst doing this; and how information captured is made available. The policy applies to both analogue and digital records.

1.2 The policy is supported by the Archive and Library Department Annual Plan, which outlines how the policy will be met.

2.0 Background

2.1 The National Portrait Gallery has been creating and maintaining records since its foundation in 1856. The value of these records has been recognised by the institution historically and as a result an effort was made to maintain them centrally, with most departments sending their records to the Archive and Library (or previous incarnations) once they were no longer needed. In 2003 the Gallery appointed its first Records Manager and an integrated records management and archives programme was implemented. This formalised transfers to the archive and the creation of retention schedules managed the regular depositing of semi-current records which archive staff then appraised for records for permanent retention. Records for some accruing series are managed as ‘straight to archive’. These records are referred to in this policy as Gallery Records.

2.2 The Gallery has also collected archives of British portrait artists or research papers on British portraiture and portrait collections since at least 1868, these are referred to as Collected Archives.

2.3 Axiell’s Calm ALM and Calm Records were acquired in 2008 prior to this Gallery Records and Collected Archives had been listed in separate Microsoft Word hand lists which were not to ISAD(g) standard. From the establishment of the records management programme semi-current records transfers were recorded on a Filemaker Pro database, the contents of which were subsequently migrated to Calm Records following its acquisition.

2.4 In 2012 the I:/ Drive was established on the Gallery’s computer network which functions as a long term repository for records in electronic format.

3.0 Accessioning

3.1 All material received from an external source, whether Gallery Records or Collected Archives, will be accessioned into Calm ALM by the Archivist on its arrival into the archive. Guidance on what information is to be captured is laid out in the ‘National Portrait Gallery Archive Accessioning and Cataloguing Rules’ but the accession record includes information on the size and content of the accession, provenance information, details of access restrictions and information on intellectual property rights.

3.2 A paper accession register exists for Collected Archives acquired prior to Calm being purchased, it is thought this was first begun in the early 1980s and accessioning was done retrospectively. Retrospective accession records have been added to Calm by the Archivist for Collected Archives as catalogue records were created.

3.3 Acquisition documentation for material collected from external sources is permanently retained in the ‘MS Packet’ series of Gallery Records. Not all material in the archive received from an external source has acquisition documentation. Where this is the case details of acquisition are sought in other series of Gallery Records and when found the information is recorded in the Custodial History field of the accession and catalogue records.

3.4 Most Gallery Records are either transferred straight to archive or to semi current records where they are entered on Calm Records, the individual retention schedules of Gallery functions documents the procedure for different record types. The transfer source and history of the record series is recorded in the Custodial History field at the most appropriate catalogue level.

4.0 Cataloguing

4.1 Archive catalogues are created using Calm ALM.

4.2 The National Portrait Gallery employs qualified archivists to manage the cataloguing of collections. Current staffing consists of a full time Archivist; Project Archivist’s are employed on temporary contracts as funding allows. Volunteers, when trained and supervised by professional archive staff, can also undertake simple cataloguing projects.

4.3 All archive material is catalogued according to standards which comply with ISAD(G) and which are laid out in the ‘National Portrait Gallery Archive Accessioning and Cataloguing Rules’. In addition each collection or series of records has its own specific guidance created for it by the Archivist at the start of each cataloguing project.

4.4 Accruing records to existing Gallery Records series are catalogued as soon as possible after receipt into the archive.

4.5 Accruing material from Gallery Records series which are yet to be catalogued are added to the Microsoft Word hand list (referred to in section 2.3) which records uncatalogued material.

4.6 All Collected Archives have a Collection Level Description on Calm providing an overview of contents, this is the minimum level of cataloguing for Collected Archives. Any newly acquired Collected Archive has a description created for it shortly after it has been accessioned. Collected Archives will be fully catalogued as resources allow.

4.7 Certain information is recorded in Calm which is not covered by ISAD(G), this information represents core data needed to efficiently manage the archive, for example location information. Where digital images of archive material exist they are linked to the individual catalogue record.

4.8 Information on the conservation needs and the level of priority of treatment is also recorded in Calm as is any conservation treatment.

4.9 The Collections Development Policy covers De-accession policy and procedures.

5.0 Making collection information available

5.1 National Portrait Gallery Archive catalogues have been published online since 2010:

5.2 Summary overviews of some of the material found in the archive is also available online:

5.3 Not all information recorded in the catalogue record is made available via the online catalogue. Examples of data which is not published include location and donor information and any notes which are for National Portrait Gallery Archive staff only.

5.4 Catalogues of records closed to the public for data protection or business confidentiality are made available internally to National Portrait Gallery staff.

5.5 Catalogued records stored on the I:/ Drive are available to Gallery staff to access upon request through the Reading Room folder. Public access is currently only available through print to paper, electronic access for public is recognised as a development need.

5.5 Information on the archive holdings can also be found via Archives Hub, Archives Portal Europe and the National Archives Discovery catalogue.

6.0 Cataloguing backlog

6.1 There is a cataloguing backlog in both Gallery Records and Collected Archives. Both sets of archives have been assessed according to their cataloguing priority status and this is reviewed on a regular basis.

6.2 Approximately 64% of Gallery Records are catalogued including almost all records highlighted as high priority for cataloguing. In addition the archive also manages the following record series which is not classified in the backlog: Notes files, these are an accruing series of records stored separately from the rest of the archive and are not pro actively catalogued. Decisions on cataloguing priorities on the remaining uncatalogued material are based on Gallery staff research requirements and opportunities to save space in the archive store.

6.3 Approximately 25% of the Collected Archives are fully catalogued. The Collected archives have been allocated priority levels for cataloguing according to the following criteria: status of material (primary, secondary, copy); extent; format (loose material vs. single bound volumes and how this impacts on potential review and arrangement); potential cataloguing complexity (using categories from the Logjam Project); condition; significance (local/regional/national/international); legal status and access status. The remaining 75% have a Collection Level Description.

6.4 External funding has helped the archive reduce its cataloguing backlog and successfully gaining funding for future projects continues to be a priority.

7.0 Protecting Collections Information

7.1 The IT department of the National Portrait Gallery run a back up of Calm on a daily basis ensuring that collection information is protected against loss or compromise.

7.2 MS packets containing documentation on acquired archives are stored securely in the archive store with access restricted to approved Gallery staff.

7.3 Collections and acquisition information in digital format is stored in the Archive and Library folder of the Gallery N:/ drive and is backed up daily by the IT department.

7.4 Records stored on the I:/ drive are backed up daily by the IT department.


This policy will be reviewed every five years.

July 2021