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What do we do?

Background info on an archive at the heart of Britain's political history.

A paper trail over 500 years long...

For hundreds of years the Parliamentary Archives has gathered evidence of our democratic processes.

The Archives Today

How have the Archives made the transition to modern times?

Meet an Archivist

Mari Takayanagi works at the Archives. Find out more about her role and career path here.

Access the Archive

How to visit the Archive online and in the real world.

Ask an Archivist...

David Prior, Assistant Clerk of the Records, answers questions relating to the Parliamentary Archives.

Westminster Hall Exhibition

Documents on this site and much more featured in an exhibition at Westminster Hall that is now closed.

Have Your Say

We want to hear from you. Here's one way to send us Your Voice material for publication.

Parliamentary Archives

About the Archives

What do we do?

black and white photo of a man working at at a desk in a room with a large bookshelf along one wall

Maurice Bond (Clerk of the Records 1946-1981) at his desk, 1954

Discover more about Maurice Bond (Clerk of the Records 1946-1981) at his desk, 1954

The 1807 Act to abolish the slave trade is just one of the important documents looked after by the Parliamentary Archives. Some of the others include the Death Warrant of King Charles I and the 1689 Bill of Rights. You might be surprised to know that stranger items include a gravestone submitted as evidence in a peerage claim, and a specimen from an oil slick which was collected by a House of Commons Committee. 

All in all, the Archives has custody of more than three million records relating to the history and workings of Parliament, with the oldest dating back to 1497.

All these official records of activities in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, such as original Acts of Parliament, committee papers and much more are accessible to the public.

Among the other collections significant to Parliament that the Archives has are the private papers of Lloyd George, for example, and plans produced by Sir Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin for the new Palace of Westminster.

So making these records available and answering questions about them is an important part of our job, but it's not all of it. For instance, we also have to take steps to make sure that the documents in our care remain in good condition, and sometimes we have to repair them - to do this we have a special team of people who have these skills.   There is also a constant stream of new deposits that have to be dealt with and catalogued. Then there is what we call outreach - telling people about the records we have, and making them available on websites like this one.

The archives of Parliament are different from the archives of Government - the latter are held at the National Archives , Kew. Go to the Parliamentary Archives website for a full rundown of the collections.

Architects Barry and Pugin were employed after the old Palace of Westminster burned down in 1834. For this reason only a few records from the House of Commons have survived from before this date, as they were destroyed in the fire. However, the new Palace, opened in 1852 by Queen Victoria, included the Victoria Tower, specifically designed to store the records of both Houses.