Kenya National Archives and Documentation Services


The Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service was established in 1965 under the Public Service Act Cap.19 of the laws of Kenya. The main responsibility of this department is care and preservation of all public records and archives. Its mandate is to advise public offices on the creation, care, control and use of public records, acquire and preserve public and private records and archives and make records and archives accessible to users. It is one of the six departments in the Office of the Vice President and Ministry of State for National Heritage and Culture.

Historical background

Archives service in Kenya is a relatively recent development. Throughout the colonial era, which lasted from 1895 – 1963, there was no major effort on the part of colonial administration to preserve public records in Kenya. Acquisition, arrangement, and description of archives in the Kenya National Archives during the colonial period was often somewhat primitive.(Musila M,1994) In many cases, the archives were not satisfactorily arranged. Proper finding aids were lacking for most of those materials which had been brought into the National Archives.

As it was found out in early 1960′s when Kenya became independent, large accumulations of important public records were extremely poorly managed in Government departments. Even more significantly, no appraisal of those documents which had been brought into the National Archives seemed to have been done, the colonial administration authorised the destruction of valuable documents, for example, records pertaining to Mau Mau.


Excel as an archives and records service in view of all Kenyans and the world and serve as the memory of the nation


To offer consultative records management services to the public service; acquire and preserve valuable public as well as private records as part of the national documentary heritage; and ensure timely accessibility of records and archives to users.


KNADS is charged with the formulating, implementing, coordinating and overseeing the execution of records and archives management services and programs within the public sector. Archival institutions select, preserve, and make their records accessible for a number of reasons, including legal, financial, and administrative purposes. KNADS maintain records as evidence of the government’s policies and operations.




Circular No. 1 of 1956 on the implementation of the archival services was issued together with the Rules and Regulations under which the Archivist was to operate. Paragraph 10 of these rules and regulations provided that the government departments should prepare schedules for the disposal of”.. files and documents existing or accruing in the department which are considered to be valueless..” in the same circular, the departments were asked to proceed with the scheduling of their records for the preservation and destruction with adherence to the general principles set out in the Archives Rules and Regulations.

Cap 19

The Kenya National Archives was established by an act of parliament. The Public archives Act of 1965, took effect on January 25, 1966. in part it says “There shall be established, constituted, and maintained a public Archives Service for which there shall be appointed a Director, and such other staff as may be necessary for the purposes of this Act.

The act was later revised in 1990 to become The Public Archives and Documentation Service Act, Chapter 19 of the Laws of Kenya.


Circular No. 2 paragraph 6 “disposal of Records” Section (I) stated that:

“In order to deal quickly with the accumulated backlog of non-current records, the Cabinet authorized the immediate transfer to the Archives of Records dated earlier than 31st December 1945”

This was later developed into The Records Disposal Act in 1962 to take control of the haphazard destruction of public records, in addition to giving guidelines on the kind of records that are to be destroyed in the courts.


The department has seven divisions:

  • Records Management Services
  • Archives Management Service
  • National Documentation Service
  • The Audiovisual Archives Section
  • The Microfilming Section
  • General Administration

The Records Management Service

This service is decentralized with five provisional record centres:

  • Nairobi records Centre: Established in 1980 and serves four provinces, i.e. Nairobi, Eastern, North Eastern, and Central.
  • Nakuru Records Centre: Established also in 1980 serve Rift Valley Province, right from the South to the North Rift.
  • Mombasa Records Centre: Established in 1981 to serve Coast Province.
  • Kakamega Records Centre: Set up in 1982 to serve Western Province.
  • Kisumu Records Centre: inaugurated in 1989 to serve Nyanza Province.

The main purpose of this service is to provide guidelines to public offices on proper records management practices. This is implemented through developing file classification schemes as well as file retention and disposal schedules. A provincial Archivist is in charge of each of the activities.

Archives Management Service

The Archives management Service is centralized at the department’s headquarters in Nairobi. Its main purpose is to provide preservation of public archives (microfilming, storage, audiovisual and conservation) and access facilities (search room) of the same materials. Efforts have been made to computerize archival lists and catalogs. Users are able to access both manual and online catalogs on archival holdings. The department has embarked on a digitization project with the purpose of long-term preservation of archives as well as increase accessibility of archival holdings.

National Documentation Service (NDS)

The NDS supplements archival materials with publications. In addition, it facilitates establishments of information resource centers/documentation link centers in public offices. The NDS has six distinct sections:

NB:  Include a brief description of the contents

  • The Government \publications Section.
  • The Murumbi Africana Collection.
  • The Staff Library.
  • The Legal Deposit Library.
  • The General Publications Sections.
  • The Periodicals Section.

The Conservation Section

The conservation section has state-of-art equipment for conservation purposes. The    major role of the section is to restore damaged specimens. In order for information to be available, it has to be preserved and conserved. The section also offers advisory services on the best practices for preservation and conservation of information resources across formats-print, digital, microfilm, etc.

The Audiovisual Archives Section

The audiovisual archives section houses a rich collection of still photographs on Kenya’s heritage; it also houses audiotapes, films, VHS cassettes, Maps and reel to reel tapes about Kenya. All these have information about the rich Kenyan heritage.

The Microfilming Section

The microfilming section concentrates on converting print documents to digital formats. Notable are the Kenyan Dailies-the Nation, the Standard, the Kenya Times, and the people among other newspapers and magazines. The section has started digitizing the Murumbi Africana Collection, the rich collection of the late Joseph Murumbi, onetime Kenyan Vice President.

General Administration

The section co-ordinates all the general Administrative and support sections like the accounts, secretarial, procurement, registry, switch board, transport, cleanliness and security among other duties of the section.

Archival Management

The management of archival materials can be roughly categorized into the following functions: appraisal, accessioning, arrangement, description, preservation, access, outreach, and advocacy, in practice they overlap, since the decisions that are made at each stage necessarily affect management of the materials in other stages.