General Research

Every citizen of South Africa as well as researchers from outside the borders of the country are more than welcome to visit the Reading Room of the National Archives Repository in order to do research on any topic relating to the history of South Africa. The research itself is free of charge, but once copies are requested a fee is required.

During the lockdown restrictions level 1, the Reading Room is open from Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 16:00. The Reading Room is closed on all public holidays. 

How to use the archives

The National Archives and Records Service of South Africa is a public archives service. Hence its archival holdings are available for use by all members of the public. This service to the public has to be managed efficiently, and every effort has to be made to prevent deterioration of, or damage to archival records that are consulted. Therefore regulations regarding the use of the archival records have been promulgated in terms of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act (Act No. 43 of 1996, as amended). Rules for governing visits to the repositories have been developed from these regulations.
Reading room rules:
The following rules are compulsory in the National Archives Repository (Please click on the Reading Room Rules document below for the complete set of rules):
  • All researchers have to be registered upon their first visit to the Archives Repository Reading Room. They are issued with an admission card. This card has to be produced at each visit to the Reading Room. It has to be renewed annually; 
  • Researchers have to sign a visitor’s book on each visit to the Reading Room; 
  • Researchers are required to place handbags, briefcases, carrier bags, packets, overcoats and the like in specially designated lockers in the foyer of the building. Keys for the lockers are provided at a reception desk;  
  • The Reading Room has photocopying and computer facilities; and 
  • The prices for photocopies are set at:

             R1.00 per A4 page; and

             R1.00 per microfilm copy.

            NB. Prices change from time to time.
Certain archival records may not be photocopied. If the physical integrity of an archival record is in danger of being compromised by photocopying, the Reading Room official is obliged to withhold it from being photocopied. An example would be the estate files of the Archives of the Master of the Supreme Court in the National Archives Repository that pre-date 1958 and which have been withdrawn from photocopying. Likewise 19th century letter books. No bound archival record or volume may be unbound for any reason, including for the purposes of photocopying, photographing or reading. This includes the removal of staples and the undoing of  split pins. 
Currently researchers are allowed to request up to a maximum of ten (10) archival records per day. However, this number may be less depending on the number of researchers in the Reading Room and the number of staff available to assist on that day, amongst other things. Requisitions forms for the archival records that you wish to consult are found in the Reading Room. Complete the forms by filling in the information pertaining to the archival records that you wish to consult. These are to be handed to the Reading Room official. In the National Archives Repository Reading Room, only one (1) box or three (3) bound volumes are permitted at a table at a time. Other requested volumes will be placed on the delivery table reserved for this purpose. Your table number is placed on your requested items on the delivery table. Once you have completed consulting the archival records, you are requested to return them to specially designated “return” tables. You may then fetch the further items that you have ordered.
In terms of the National Archives and Records Service of South Africa Act (Act No. 43 of 1996, as amended) archival records are not accessible before a period of twenty (20) years has elapsed from the creation of the record. This embargo does not apply to estate files and items documenting court cases. When you make a request for a particular archival record, the Reading Room official needs to check whether or not the item falls within the prescribed closed period. Should you wish to consult the document nonetheless, you are required to forward a completed Promotion of Access to Information Act Request Form to the National Archivist. If the latter is satisfied that consulting a document does not infringe on privacy rights or other criteria defined in the Promotion of Access to Information Act of 2000, approval for consultation may be granted. These forms are also available at the counter in the Reading Room.
Requested archival records may be reserved for the following day, but not for a period longer than 24 hours.
Please note that you may not use a fountain pen or a ball point pen when working with archival records. Eating and drinking are not allowed in the Reading Room, and you may not bring either food or drinks into the Reading Room. Smoking is forbidden inside all public premises. Cell phones are not allowed in the Reading Room. Please do not place boxes or archival records on the floor of the Reading Room.
The Reading Room officials are there to assist you at every step of your visit to the Reading Rooms. This also applies to inquiries in languages other than English. You may request to be assisted in any of our country’s eleven official languages. If the Reading Room official is not competent in the language of your choice, she or he will seek assistance from other members of staff. 
The Reading Room supervisor will guide you to archival finding aids which you could use to identify material that might be relevant to your needs. These finding aids include manual retrieval systems, such as inventories, guides, lists and indexes. The National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS) is also an efficient means of archival retrieval and is available in all reading rooms. NAAIRS does not however include references to the total archival holdings, as it is being developed continually, and should therefore be used in conjunction with the manual finding aids.
We trust that these rules governing your visit to our reading rooms will facilitate your optimal use of the resources of the National Archives.
For genealogical research please click on the Genealogical Research Button at the top right hand corner of the page.

Please study the documents below for more detailed information.



Description File Size
Reading Room Rules 97.94 KB
General Information for Visitors to the Reading Room bytes