Our Aims and Policies

Our aims and objectives


The Devon Record Office is the record keeping arm of Devon County Council and the guardian of Devon's archives. The size and scope of its holdings reflect the history and geography of the county, with its large area and rich and diverse past, and they are a unique and irreplaceable source of information about Devon and its inhabitants. Our task is to ensure that Devon’s documentary heritage is appreciated to the widest extent by the current generation and passed on in the best possible condition and order to the next.

Statement of purpose

The Devon Record Office

  • collects and preserves historical records of all kinds relating to the county of Devon
  • makes these records available for research of all kinds by all interested individuals and groups, and
  • encourages and promotes awareness of the value and importance of our documentary heritage.


The Devon Record Office collects historical records

  • of organisations, communities, groups, and individuals within the historic county of Devon
  • of all kinds, in whatever medium, and from whatever period
  • by transfer, gift, purchase, or loan.

Semi-current records of Devon County Council are collected by the Modern Records Unit, where they are stored and appraised and a selection made for permanent preservation as part of the Devon Record Office's main collections.

Preservation and conservation

Risks to the long-term survival of archival sources do not disappear when they are deposited in a record office. We maximise their life expectancy by

  • storing them in physical and environmental conditions which will provide stability and prevent deterioration
  • keeping them in containers and packaging which will protect them from hazards
  • conserving collections and carrying out a programme of remedial treatment, and
  • making surrogates and copies of frequently handled documents.


Historical records do not always yield their secrets readily, and simply making them available to the public is not enough. We promote the widest possible use through

  • direct access - to documents or copies in the public searchrooms at Exeter and Barnstaple, which offer security, supervision, and comfort for visitors, and to copies at the seven service points in libraries and museums throughout Devon
  • finding aids - lists, indices, etc. in paper or electronic form, available both in the office and at the service points
  • education - by encouraging the use of archives in lifelong learning and within the school curriculum, both as a direct learning tool for family and local history and as part of a wider learning experience
  • outreach – publications, exhibitions, lectures, seminars, training sessions, and group visits, for the public at large and heritage groups, which advertise the service and provide information and guidance to support all users of the record office from casual enquirer to in-depth researcher
  • advice – helpful and informative responses to postal, telephone, and e-mail enquiries
  • ICT - developing computer systems to facilitate the above.

Partnership working

We recognise that we have an important role in supporting and encouraging the Heritage Community. The Devon Record Office works

  • in partnership to support organisations and groups which have an involvement or interest in historical records, including local museums, local history societies, and family history groups
  • as an advice and support centre to encourage the maximum public access to and public benefit from Devon's documentary heritage wherever it is held
  • to foster and develop within Devon’s communities a sense of their recorded past
  • with other Devon County Council services, particularly within the Lifelong Learning Branch, to ensure a co-ordinated approach across communities and sectors.

National Context

The Devon Record Office is part of a national network of local authority record offices. We work with colleagues in other authorities, with the Public Record Office, and with the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts to promote good practice in archive administration in accordance with national standards, in particular

  • the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts Standard for Record Repositories, which Devon County Council has adopted
  • BS 5454, the British standard for storage and exhibition of archival documents, and
  • Beyond the PRO: Public Records in Places of Deposit.

The custody of archives by local record offices is governed by legislation, the most important of which is the Local Government (Records) Act 1962; the Local Government Acts 1972 and 1992; the Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967; the Parochial Registers and Records Measure 1978, amended 1992; the Law of Property Act 1922, amended 1924; the Manorial Documents Rules 1959, amended 1963 and 1967; the Tithe Act 1936; and the Tithe (Copies of Instruments of Apportionment) Rules 1960, amended 1963.