While most of the archives that we hold are open, some items are not available for consultation in the reading room. These are flagged on the archives catalogue as ‘closed’ or 'unavailable'. Such closures generally fall into two categories:
1. Closed under data protection law
Some items may be closed because they contain personal information about named or identifiable individuals who are (or may be) still alive. In the past, a variety of different criteria have been used when making decisions about this type of closure, but we are currently governed by the Data Protection Act 1998.
We take a number of factors into consideration when deciding whether to close a file or a series of files, including:
the nature and sensitivity of the personal data, and the effect which disclosure might have on the data subject
the structure of the data - how easy it would be to locate particular information about a particular individual
the confidentiality of the data - whether the data subject reasonably assumes at the time the data are compiled that it should and will remain totally confidential
Further information on the Act can be found on the websites of the Information Commissioner and The National Archives.
2. Closed at the request of the depositor
Some items may be closed at the request of the depositor, if they feel that the material has ongoing sensitivity and do not wish it to be made publicly available until a period of time has elapsed.
Yes, you can. Requests for information held in closed files are treated as Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and are handled under LSE’s usual FOI procedures. Write or email describing the information you are looking for, and if the information is not subject to an exemption under the FOI Act, it will be made available to you.
You should send your request to the Records and Information Management team, based in LSE’s Planning and Corporate Policy Division
post: Records and Information Management, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE
It will help us answer your request if you can be as specific as possible about the information you are looking for, rather than simply requesting access to a file or files.
If your request is refused, we will identify which exemption(s) applies, and give you details of how to apply for an internal review of our decision to refuse. If, after an internal review, the School still refuses your request, you may ask the Information Commissioner to review that decision.