Orkney Archive holds a wide range of research material


Orkney Archive


Orkney Archive promotes understanding of the history of the Orkney Islands by selecting, preserving and providing access to the archives of Orkney Islands Council and its predecessors, local individuals, estates, businesses and organisations, as well as published material.



Orkney Archive is situated on the upper floor of the building and holds a wealth of historical records about Orkney which everyone can use to find out more about the past.


Please note that Orkney Archive is closed on Wednesdays. Our full opening hours can be viewed by visiting our opening hours page.


Download a guide to the records held by the archive (updated 31 October 2016).


We hold papers of Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown which have been placed on long term loan with the Archive. This collection will grow as more of his papers are catalogued but a list of what we currently hold can be downloaded here...


Family historians and fishing boat enthusiasts can download a list of fishing boats registered in Orkney between 1852 and 1968, held in collection CE55/11: Orkney Customs and Excise: Shipping Registers. The list has been compiled by our volunteers and provides the names of vessels, their date and port of registration, their owner and their master.


The Gunnie Moberg Archive


An award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has enabled Orkney Library and Archive to purchase the archive of the Swedish photographer, painter and designer Gunnie Moberg (1941-2007). Her work records the historical, social and geographic landscapes of the islands of northern Scotland and beyond, including collaborations with the Orcadian writer and poet George Mackay Brown, with whom she produced a number of books.


The award will fund a two-year project involving the cataloguing, conservation and digitization of the archive and as part of this a blog has been set up to provide information about Gunnie Moberg and the project. Visit the Gunnie Moberg Archive blog.


Visit our Blog


Family history

If you're tracing your Orcadian family roots we can provide access to records which may help you to find out more. These include:

  • Valuation rolls, electoral rolls and census schedules
  • Old Parish registers and newspapers on microfilm
  • School records and photographs


Local history

We hold a wide range of records which will aid research into almost any aspect of the history of Orkney and its people, including the Orkney Room which contains thousands of publications relating to these islands plus Caithness and Shetland, dating from the 17th century onwards.


Photographic Archive

The Photographic Archive contains a large collection of Orkney images from the 1860s onwards, and prints can be purchased.


Sound and film

We hold an extensive collection of oral history recordings and audio visual materials dating from the 1950s onwards. Copies of recordings can be purchased.


Our Collection and Disposal Policy

Under sections 53 and 54 of the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Act 1994, Orkney Islands Council is empowered to make proper arrangements for the preservation and management of any records which have been transferred to them, created or acquired by them in the exercise of any of their functions or otherwise placed in their custody by way of gift, purchase, temporary or long term deposit.


Orkney Library & Archive provides the archival service for Orkney Islands Council and for the area served by that Council. It is approved by the Keeper of the Records of Scotland as a place of deposit for records under his charge and superintendence.


Download our full Collection & Disposal Policy




Books and a lot more...