Archives and documentation

Public and private archives represent unique and authentic knowledge about society, history and culture in the past and present. They document the interests and rights of individuals and various population groups, and are important for research and the recording of history. Therefore, archives are also important for democracy and the rule of law.

Public bodies must comply with the Archives Act. This means that they have a duty to register and preserve documents that are created as part of their activity. This duty applies to all types of documents in the public sector, including those in, for example, computer systems, databases and interactive solutions. The National Archives of Norway (Arkivverket) is responsible for preserving state enterprises’ historical documents and for public access to these documents. Local and county authorities have their own preservation institutions for historical archives.

Private companies, organisations and individuals are not subject to the duty to register and preserve documents under the Archives Act, or to the duty to store their archives long term. When these entities create archives, it is because they themselves need the documents or because they are subject to other laws. Many archives in the private sector may have significant societal value and represent a source of cultural history. Such documents are preserved by public and private archive institutions in specialist libraries, research libraries, museums and special documentation and knowledge centres.

The Ministry of Culture and Equality has the national responsibility for overseeing the archives policy. This primarily involves grants for the National Archives. The Ministry also allocates grants for managing the Norwegian Labour Movement Archives and Library (Arbeiderbevegelsens arkiv og bibliotek) and for the maintenance and development of the archive information tool Asta and the search service Arkivportalen.

The National Archives of Norway

The National Archives of Norway is the government authority and specialist body for archives. Its work is anchored in the Archives Act.

The National Archives aims to ensure effective documentation management in public enterprises. It guides and supervises the archive activities of national and local authorities, and is responsible for the development of archive standards and guidelines. In addition, it is the government’s archive repository, and protects, preserves and provides access to the government archives. It is also guardian of certain prioritised private archives.

Furthermore, The National Archives implements the national archive policy, and contributes to the strengthening of institutions and specialist communities in the archive sector. It also administers developing funds aimed for documentation management and archive related initiatives.

The Sámi Archives (Sámi arkiiva) in Kautokeino and the Norwegian Health Archives (Norsk helsearkiv) at Tynset in Norway are also part of The National Archives. The Sámi Archives has the national responsibility for preserving Sámi documentation, including the archives of politicians, researchers, Sámi institutions and associations, reindeer herding districts and other businesses. Public institutions such as the Beaivváš Sámi Theatre (Beaivváš Sámi Našunálateáhter), the Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Gáldu) and the Sámi Parliament (Sámediggi) store their archives in the Sámi Archives. The purpose of the Norwegian Health Archives is to ensure that important older patient records from the specialist health service are preserved and accessible.

Digital Archives (Digitalarkivet) is a common component managed and operated by the National Archives. The common component aims to ensure efficient and safe digital preservation and access to historical archives and data. Local authorities, municipal and inter-municipal archive institutions, public enterprises and private cultural heritage institutions can use the Digital Archies. This makes it possible to find and use digital archives and data – both for the enterprises themselves and for the public.

The Archives Act

The Ministry of Culture and Equality administers the Archives Act. A legislative paper for a new Archives Act was issued for public hearing in autumn 2021 with a consultation deadline of January 2022. Prior to this, in 2019, the Archive Law Committee submitted its report on social documentation and archives (Fra kalveskinn til datasjø). The report described the main challenges and trends relating to documentation and archives. The Ministry of Culture and Equality is now working on a law proposal for the parliament (Stortinget).