This policy governs access to, and description of, the materials in the archive and library of Britten Pears Arts (“the archive”). It does not govern the use of personal data relating to users of those materials: this is handled by the overall Data Protection Policy of Britten Pears Arts.

The Data Protection policy for the archive is governed by appropriate legislation, namely the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Acts. It is informed also by the guidance issued by the Information Commissioner, both specifically on data protection and more generally on the ethics and ethos of granting access to information.


Data protection legislation states that individuals have a general right to privacy. This applies particularly to certain specified themes (listed below) but is not confined to them. Individuals also have the right to know what use is being made of data relating to them. In particular, individuals have a right that information about them that has been gathered for one purpose should not be re-used for another (“repurposed”): once information has served its purpose it should normally be discarded. An exception to this can be made when it is in the public interest that the information should be retained: things of historical value are considered to be exceptions under this provision and the GDPR recognises the concept of archiving in the public interest.

Legislation covers information held in “filing systems”, which are designed to facilitate easy location of information on a given individual. It does not explicitly cover fleeting mentions of a given individual in an unexpected context. However, this archive’s materials, often concerning individuals whose lives are well documented, make it easy to locate relevant areas in which a specific individual might be found and for that reason, the entire holdings have been treated as a filing system subject to data protection legislation.

Data protection legislation applies to living individuals. However, the Information Commissioner has also issued guidance that personal information covered by legislation whilst an individual is alive should also be treated with caution and sensitivity for a reasonable length of time after that individual’s death, to avoid damage or distress to third parties. The archive acknowledges this guidance and abides by it.

Material considered to be particularly sensitive

Legislation highlights information on the following areas of an individual’s life to be particularly sensitive, and thus deserving of special care:

  1. Religious or spiritual beliefs
  2. Racial or ethnic background
  3. Political beliefs
  4. Trade union membership
  5. Health and illness
  6. Sexuality
  7. Criminal trials or convictions

Britten Pears Arts will treat as sensitive, and possibly meriting closure, material that includes personal data touching on these themes. It will also treat as sensitive any material for which it might reasonably be assumed that a presumption of confidentiality applied when the material was created: for example, job references or negotiation about wages or fees. This list is not exhaustive, and the archive will reserve the right to set appropriate closure periods to any material felt to be personal and sensitive.

Material already in the public domain need not be closed under Data Protection legislation: so, for instance, if a person’s conviction of an offence was reported in a newspaper, that information is no longer confidential (although background information not reported might well be).

Data Subject Access requests

Data protection legislation allows an individual to question an organisation about the information that may be held about them. The organisation is required to provide that information within a reasonable time; it may make a charge for this service. You can make a request to us in whatever way you find most convenient, using the contact details here.

Take-down policy

Britten Pears Arts operates a take-down policy. Anyone who feels that information relating to them is being made available in a manner that it should not – for example, in our online archive catalogue – should contact Britten Pears Arts, which will remove the information from the public domain whilst it investigates this. Britten Pears Arts will report back as swiftly as possible and explain its decision.

Freedom of Information

The Freedom of Information Act applies only to the records of central or local government bodies and is therefore not directly relevant to this archive. It is, however, relevant in setting an ethos: the Act creates a presumption of openness, stating that archives should be open unless this conflicts with Data Protection (which takes priority) or certain other issues such as national security. In a similar fashion, the Britten Pears Archive assumes openness unless there is definite reason to close material. All the archive’s holdings are held on the assumption that they will become public eventually and that nothing will be kept closed indefinitely.

Britten Pears Arts detailed procedures for historic documentation

  • Material for the archive is acquired with a presumption that it will be made available to researchers, either immediately or at an appropriate point in the future. No material will be acquired that is subject to indefinite or permanent closure. Where there is no legal reason to restrict access to material it will normally be made open to all readers.
  • Within this context, however, where a document, file of documents or larger collection of material includes information that is sensitive according to the criteria set out above, we will close the material for an appropriate period, as set out below. In general closure will take place at file level.
  • This will apply not merely when the individual is explicitly identified, but also when it is possible to identify them using information from elsewhere in the archive or outside it.
  • Closure periods will be set as follows:
    • When an individual is known to be dead and the date of their death is known, sensitive material will remain closed for 25 years after this.
    • When it is not known whether or not an individual is dead, but the date of their birth is known, sensitive material will be closed for 100 years from their date of birth
    • When an individual’s date of birth or death are both unknown, sensitive material will be closed for such a period that ensures that it will be at least 100 years after their birth before it is opened, namely
      • Adults (16 years and over): material closed for 84 years
      • Children (7-16 years old): material closed for 93 years
      • Infants (0-7 years old): material closed for 100 years
      • When it is not known precisely into which of these brackets an individual may fall, the more restrictive option will apply.
    • In all cases, when a closure period is set the material will be opened on 1st January of the year following the precise date at which the closure period would expire.
  • During the period for which an item or item is closed, the metadata describing it that is made available to the public will be framed in such a way that sensitive and/or identifying content cannot be deduced.
  • Users of archive material will also be asked to sign an undertaking in which they will agree to treat information with sensitivity: for example, if they are concerned that a fleeting mention of an individual in a file normally open might constitute a breach of that person’s privacy, they will alert the archive to discuss whether this material should actually be closed, and if the archive agrees that this should be so they will not divulge the information. This undertaking form will constitute personal data and be held in line with relevant data protection legislation.