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UK’s first Freedom of Information security archive opens at Salford

Thursday 3 November 2016

The first ever archive of intelligence and security documents released by government departments under the Freedom of Information Act is being created at the University of Salford.

The archive, which contains thousands of documents uncovered by researchers at the University through Freedom of Information legislation, is to be made available to academics and journalists by appointment.

The new FOI Intelligence and Security Archival Collection was the brainchild of Dr Chris Murphy and Dr Dan Lomas, who have both spent years using the Act to obtain information about British intelligence and security history.

Their material has been catalogued Ian Johnston, the University’s Archives and Special Collections Co-ordinator, and they hope the archive will grow over the next few years as other researchers across the country use it as a depository for information they have obtained but no longer require.

Dr Lomas, Lecturer in International History at the University, explained: “The US has the National Security Archive, but there’s nothing of its kind in the UK.

“We want to create something that will become the focal point for all kinds of researchers – from journalists to academics – to be able to search for this information.

“We know from our experience that once people are successful with FOI requests the material they have obtained will often just sit there doing nothing. We’re asking that they donate it to our archive where it can become publicly available.”

Dr Murphy and Dr Lomas will discuss the new archive, as well as their use of FOI legislation at the Unlocking Secret Archives event, being held next week as part of the Economic and Social Research Council Festival of Social Science.

Ian Johnston will answer questions about how to access the new archive, while the two academics will provide practical advice to those who want to make FOI requests.

Dr Murphy, who leads the University’s MA in Intelligence and Security Studies, said: “We’ll draw upon our years of experience of putting in these requests. For researchers, FOI can be an incredibly useful tool, but we’re also going to be restricted by the limitations and problems of the Act.”

The event is being held from 4-6pm on Wednesday November 9 at the University’s MediaCityUK campus. To register visit:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/freedom-of-information-unlocking-secret-archives-tickets-28528280856

Anyone who wants to gain access to the archive should contact Ian Johnston, the University's Archives & Special Collections Co-ordinator (i.johnston@salford.ac.uk).