The private archives constitute an important part of our national memory. Throughout history, societal development has resulted from interplay between public authorities and private parties. Without the private archives, the sources of our shared history are incomplete. Important private archives must be preserved for the use of researchers in the present and in the future.

When working with private archives, we have to make selections. A good selection depends on knowledge of societal development in various sectors, and of the trends and forces that have been in effect. In any age, there are certain individuals, organisations and enterprises that stand out among their contemporaries with a special influence on society. The archival institutions' most important task is to preserve the archives left behind by such powerful leaders. Second, it is our job to disseminate knowledge about such archives to those who will use them.

In order to use private archives, you must consult the catalogues for an overview of the preserved material. The private archives of the National Archives are thoroughly indexed at archive level, allowing users to find out which archives have been preserved. A large portion of the holdings is also indexed to folder level. In practice, the archive catalogues are accessible online through The Archive Portal (to date: The Joint Catalogue). Archives preserved in institutions outside the National Archives of Norway are indexed to the extent of the data provided by these institutions.