Researching the archives

All archival records at the Northern Territory Archives Service (NTAS) relate to the Northern Territory (NT).

The NTAS holds NT Government archives that have been created since the government's establishment in 1978.

The NTAS has also inherited records from the periods of administration by the South Australian Government (1863 to 1910) and the Commonwealth Government (1911 to 1978). These records relate to the functions transferred to the NT Government with the granting of self-government.

The NTAS is responsible for the preservation of non-government archives, which it collects from the wider Territory community.

These community archives include personal papers and photographs from a large range of individuals as well as the archives of organisations. Some non-government archives date back to the middle of the 19th century.

A large collection of oral history archives is also available.

How to research the archives

Before accessing the archives you should do the following:

  • look at potentially relevant published sources and get as much background information as possible
  • identify any government agencies, non-government agencies or individuals whose activities have related to the topic of research - archives are generally listed under the name of the creating agency or individual
  • go to Archives Navigator to search through the archives
  • as archives are continually being added to the system, check the list of holdings PDF (901.6 KB) for a complete list of series held by the NTAS, including inherited Commonwealth series
  • to search for oral history interviews go to the online index
  • complement your research by using other tools such as the online index of oral history interviews, subject guides and information leaflets.

You can do your own research of the archives collection in the Reading Room.

You should contact the NTAS before visiting to make sure you can access the records you need.

Access conditions that apply

There are access conditions for government and non-government archives.

For more information read the conditions of access to archives information leaflet.

Government archives

Government records are available according to the access agreement between the creating or controlling agency and the NTAS.

Records that are less than 30 years old are not available for public access unless prior approval has been granted by the creating or controlling agency.

This 30 year closed period is applied by the NTAS to make sure archives are available for continued administrative use if needed and/or to protect their confidentiality.

Government archives may be closed or in restricted access for longer periods because of specific legal needs or ongoing confidentiality issues.

If you want to access government archives from the restricted period, you can apply for access in writing through the NTAS.

The responsible government agency will then consider the granting of access on a case-by-case basis.

Non-government and personal archives

The conditions of access to non-government and personal archives are set by the depositors.

Access conditions for oral history archives are generally set by interviewees and, in some case, interviewers. Most of these archives are available with open access for research purposes.

Some archives may be withheld from access because of their fragility. In these cases, copies will be made available whenever possible.

Access to all archives will only be provided in the reading room.

Using the public Reading Room

To access archives in the Reading Room, you must get readers registration. You must follow the rules and conditions set down by the NTAS.

Computers and cameras can be used in the Reading Room, but only after approval from the NTAS staff.

Reading Room services

Staff can give you information and help with searching, using finding aids, possible access restrictions, equipment use such as microform reader printer and ordering reproductions.

Reference staff will not do detailed research for you.

If you have details of the records you want to see, you can order them before your visit by fax, post, telephone or email.

There is a 12 to 24 hour turnaround time for making records available in the Reading Room once you have placed your order.

You will be contacted if there is a delay due to access restrictions or physical condition of the records.

Staff will not tell third parties about the topic of your research or the records you have used without your permission.

You can use the Reading Room computer to access guides and finding aids as well as the internet, as long as these activities are related to your research.

Reproduction Services

You can use your camera or tablet to capture information from the archives. A copyright declaration will have to be filled in and signed first.

You can order photocopies from the archives. The condition of the original item may affect the quality of the copy being produced. Staff will provide the best reproduction within your order specifications.

Time taken to complete photocopying orders will vary according to the size of the order and the physical condition of the records.

Orders of up to 100 pages will be completed within 10 working days. Variations to this time frame based on the condition of the records or a larger volume of copies will be advised by reference staff.

If the condition of the original record prevents its handling for photocopying an alternative may be offered. Staff will discuss the options and costs with you.

For more information read the reproduction fees information leaflet.

For those unable to visit

Reference staff do not do detailed research for you. Staff can give you a list of research agents. Research agent fees may apply.

Research enquiries will be acknowledged on receipt. Staff will respond to your initial request for information within one month of receipt of query.

How you can help

The NTAS aims to provide a quality service so we appreciate any feedback about our services.

Feedback can be provided by email to or can be provided in the comments box at the NTAS.

How to cite archives

References to archives and records that have been used in research should always be included in finished works.

For more information read citing archives information leaflet.

Copyright in archives

The archive collections in the custody of the NTAS fall within the definition of literary works as defined by the Copyright Act 1968.

While the Northern Territory Government owns most of the archives collections in the custody of the NTAS, it does not necessarily own copyright in all of them.

For more information read the copyright information leaflet.

Applying for permission to publish

To get permission to publish copies of archival items held in our collection please submit an Application for permission to publish form DOCX (125.5 KB).

Last updated: 20 April 2016

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