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Archives In Brief 10 - Citing State archives

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When you reproduce or refer to State archives in a publication or paper, you should cite them accurately. This will help other researchers to use them in the future.

An archives citation is different from a reference to a publication like a book. Archives are maintained in the order in which they were created and kept. An individual record item is catalogued as part of a record series that was created and maintained by an agency in the conduct of its business, reflecting its recordkeeping systems at the time.

The method of citation described here results from recent changes to State Records' cataloguing practice and is the same as the method suggested by the National Archives of Australia. This advice supersedes previous State Records' advice on this topic. Please note in particular that the former 'stroke' reference numbers are no longer used.

An archives citation identifies:

  • the archives institution holding the record (State Records, in the case of NSW State archives)
  • (optional) the agency that created the record
  • the record series of which the record is part
  • the record item itself, and
  • (optional) a copy reference, such as a microfilm reel number, when you viewed the record using such a copy.

Please contact us if you need more information about citing State archives.

Finding the information for a citation

To make it easier to locate a series number we have compiled a list of some of the most frequently used record series in the reading room. If the series you have used is not listed you can ask us to provide the number for you.

You can find the details you need for a citation in Archives Investigator, our online archives information and access system, if the record item is listed there. Alternatively use the details available in our published guides and the item lists in our reading room. Please ask one of the archivists for help if you are unfamiliar with these sources or if you need to consult another finding aid.

Abbreviated and expanded citations

An abbreviated citation provides the essential details for identifying a record item and is generally all that is required. Sometimes, however, it is helpful to give an expanded citation, for example in a full biography, or if you are using only footnotes and no bibliography, the first time you cite an item or an item from a particular series (see below).


SRNSW: NRS 3829, [5/17427.2]

State Records NSW: Department of Education; NRS 3829, School files, 1876-1979; [5/17427.2] Randwick Public School, 1893-1908

Using the elements in a citation

Please note the standard punctuation used to separate the elements.

Element Abbreviated citation Expanded citation
Archives institution SRNSW: State Records NSW:
Note: 'SRNSW' may be used after a first citation or where it appears in a list of abbreviations used
Creating agency Not used Colonial Secretary;
Note: where the record series was created by more than one agency, cite the agency whose date range corresponds to the date of the record item being cited
Record series Use series number only
NRS 4354,
NRS 897,
Use series number, title and date range
NRS 4354, Health building files [H files], 1935-91;
NRS 897, Main series of letters received, 1788-1825;
Note: a series number can have an NRS (New South Wales Records Series) prefix.
Record item Use item number or control symbol only
Use item number or control symbol, item title or description, and item date or date range
Bloomfield Hospital, Orange, water supply (Mins. 1-128), 1957-59
[4/1823 No 146], [4/1836B No 212], Memorial re Thomas Connell, 7 August 1824;
Note: square brackets indicate that there is no original number or control symbol, so we have had to impose one (in this case using its former 'stroke' reference number)
Copy reference Fiche 3083 Fiche 3083

Multiple items from the same series in an expanded citation

If you are citing several record items from the same series it is not necessary to repeat all the elements of an expanded citation. The following format is appropriate in these circumstances:

State Records NSW: Colonial Secretary; NRS 897, Main series of letters received, 1788-1825; items

  • [4/1850 p.65], Petition for mitigation of sentence, 1817; Fiche 3175
  • [4/1836B No 212], Memorial re Thomas Connell, 7 August 1824; Fiche 3083

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2003.
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